The Guide to Employment Permits for Foreign Workers in Singapore
- The Ministry of Manpower issues employment permits based on the professional skills and monthly salaries of the candidates.
- Applicants must note that most work permits are applied through the employer or employment agency.
The Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues a wide range of employment permits to expatriates planning to work in Singapore. Each employment permit differs across various categories of employees and is based on their professional skills and monthly salaries.
It is important for applicants to note that most work permits are applied through the employer or an employment agent, via the MoM’s online platform. Therefore, it is mandatory for skilled professionals to first obtain a job offer in the country before applying.
The Employment Pass (EP) is issued to expatriates employed as foreign managers, executives, and skilled professionals in Singapore. First-time candidates can obtain an EP for an initial two years which can then be renewed for up to three years at a time.
The EP is issued to individuals with a job offer that includes a minimum monthly salary of SG$3,600 (US$2.629). More experienced candidates are required to be offered a higher salary to qualify for this work permit.
Candidates that are offered a monthly salary of SG$6,000 (US$4,383) or more, are eligible to apply for a dependent’s pass for their legally married spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age to join them in Singapore.
Applicants looking to bring their parents, common-law spouse, or stepchildren must apply for the Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP). The requirements are the same as for the dependent’s pass, however, only those having a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000 (US$8,768) can bring their parents into the country.
There is no foreign worker levy or quota for this specific work permit. Moreover, the processing time for EP applications is up to five weeks, and, if submitted online, the application may be processed within three weeks.
Documents for EP Applications
Employers need to submit the following documents for EP applications:
- Personal information of the applicant’s passport;
- Company’s latest business profile or information registered with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA); and
- Details of the applicant’s academic certificates. Applicants from India and China are required to produce additional documents.
- Additional documents for Indian and Chinese nationals:
- Indian applicants – transcripts and marksheets.
- Chinese applicants – certificate of graduation and verification proof in English from sources recommended by the MoM.
Further, documents in languages other than English must be submitted along with a translated copy of each. Also, it is important to note that the MoM may ask for more documents to be submitted at the time of processing the application.
Personalized Employment Pass
The Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) is designed for high-earning EP holders and overseas foreign professionals. The minimum salary required to obtain a PEP is SG$12,000 (US$8,767) per month for existing EP holders and SG$18,000 (US$13,151) per month for overseas foreign professionals. Candidates can apply for a PEP themselves. The application takes around eight weeks to process.
One key advantage for PEP holders is the flexibility to switch jobs without re-applying for another employment permit. They can also stay in the country for up to six months before securing the next job. Another important advantage is that PEP holders can apply for any job in any sector including medicine, law, pharmacy, and dentistry.
There is also no foreign worker levy or quota for this type of work permit, and PEP holders can apply for a dependent’s pass or an LTVP for their family members. However, the PEP can only be issued once for a period of three years. Thereafter, applicants need to either apply for an EP or S Pass to continue their employment in Singapore.
The Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) is for foreign business professionals and entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business in Singapore.
The initial EntrePass is valid for one year and two years for every subsequent renewal. Business owners must, however, meet the renewal criteria set by the MoM which includes aspects such as the number of hired local employees as well as the total amount of annual business spending. The full list can be found on the MoM website.
As per the eligibility criteria stated by the MoM, the applicant’s company must have either:
- Funding from an accredited source;
- Hold intellectual property (IP) registered with a recognized national IP institution;
- Research collaboration with a recognized institution; or
- Be an incubatee at a Singapore government-supported incubator or accelerator.
According to the MoM, businesses such as coffee shops, hawker centers, food courts, bars, night clubs, karaoke lounges, massage parlors, and employment agencies are not eligible under the EntrePass scheme.
The documents required for the EntrePass are:
- Copy of the personal information page of the applicant’s passport;
- Past employment testimonials in English; and
- A business plan in English.
For businesses registered with the ACRA:
- Company’s latest business profile
The S Pass is similar to EP except that it is designed for mid-level skilled employees with a job offer that includes a minimum monthly salary of SG$2,300 (US$1,680) or more.
As with the EP, S Passes are valid for up to two years and can be renewed for up to three years at a time. S Pass holders that earn a monthly salary of SG$6,000 (US$4,383) or more, are eligible to ask their employer to apply for a dependent’s pass on their family’s behalf.
The government has also placed a quota on the number of S Pass applicants. From January 2020, Singaporean businesses are forbidden to have more than 10 percent of their total workforce as S Pass holders. This is capped at 13 percent for businesses in the services sector.
Semi-skilled foreign workers applying for jobs in construction, manufacturing, or the services sector in Singapore are required to apply for a Work Permit (WP).
There are three kinds of WPs issued by the government, depending on the sector of the applicant’s job. These are WP for foreign domestic workers; WP for confinement nannies; and WP for performing artists.
Only workers from approved countries are eligible for work permits provided the employer pays a levy and the security bond, meet the quota criterion, and provide the worker with healthcare insurance.
The WP is usually valid for up to two years and is subject to the foreign workers’ contract with the associated employer. Additionally, employees entering Singapore on a WP visa are not permitted to apply for a dependent’s pass for their family members.
WPs can only be applied by the employer on the worker’s behalf. The processing time for a WP is one to seven working days.
Other short duration employment visas available are:
- Training Employment Pass (TEP) – A TEP is issued to foreigners engaged in practical training for jobs of a professional, managerial, executive, or specialist nature in Singapore. The candidates must earn at least SG$3,000 (US$2,191) a month. The TEP is valid for a maximum period of three months and is not renewable; and
- Training Work Permit (TWP) – A TWP is issued to unskilled or semi-skilled foreign trainees or students on practical training in Singapore for up to 6 months. The number of TWP holders a local company can hire is capped based on the sector the business operates in.
The article was originally published on August 8, 2017, and was updated on December 02, 2019