Learning from Experience: How to Hire Interns in Singapore
By Patrick Colligan
Hiring trainees and students as interns or on a part-time basis is a practice used commonly around the world, often at mutual benefit to both employer and employee. However, ASEAN’s laws and regulations surrounding these types of engagements are often complex and misunderstood.
Singapore, in this respect, is no different. With its strong economy and low unemployment rate (just 1.8 percent in Q1 2015), the city-state is an attractive destination for internships, but hiring companies will have to be fully versed in the jurisdiction’s idiosyncratic regulatory framework. In this article, we detail the main ways corporations in Singapore can lawfully take on trainees and students.
Three main methods of employment exist for trainees and students wishing to work in Singapore:
- A Training Employment Pass;
- The Work Holiday Programme; and
- A Training Work Permit.
Training Employment Pass
Foreign students or trainees from foreign offices or subsidiaries may apply for a Training Employment Pass in Singapore. This pass allows eligible students and trainees to work in Singapore for up to three months, after which a new pass must be applied.
Foreign students applying for this pass must either be currently studying at an acceptable institution in Singapore or abroad, or earn a fixed monthly allowance of at least SGD 3,000. Companies hiring trainees from foreign offices must also ensure trainees’ salaries meet this minimum monthly requirement of SGD 3,000. For foreign students specifically, the training position must be a part of the academic program in which they are participating. A Singapore-registered company must apply for all Training Employment Passes on behalf of their intended student or trainee.
Work Holiday Programme
Foreign students who do not meet the above criteria can also apply for Singapore’s Work Holiday Programme. A Work Holiday Programme pass allows eligible undergraduates and graduates to live and work in Singapore for up to six months. Applicants must be between 18 and 25 years of age and be currently enrolled in a university in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or the United States.
While individuals enrolled in Singapore’s Work Holiday Programme are not restricted to certain types of work, they must obtain approval before taking up certain occupations. Also of note, a maximum of 2,000 applicants can be enrolled on this pass at any one time. In contrast, the Training Employment Pass has no such capacity in applicant number.
Training Work Permit
Singaporean employers can also apply for a Training Work Permit, valid for up to six months, on behalf of eligible students and employees from related overseas companies. Similar to the Training Employment Pass, any training undergone by foreign students under a Training Work Permit must be part of the students’ course requirements.
Employers providing this pass are not required to give a minimum qualifying salary to their permit holders, but are required to pay a foreign worker levy for employees coming from overseas. The foreign worker levy is a fee system used in Singapore to regulate the total number of foreign employees working in the city-state. Under the system, the amount owed per employee depends on the worker’s qualifications, the company’s current ratio of foreign to local workers, and a number of other factors including the company’s registered industry. Foreign worker levies are not paid for students employed under the Training Work Permit.
Of all three above employment passes, the Training Work Permit is most similar to full time employment. Under a Training Work Permit, employers are required to provide medical insurance and are also responsible for sending the trainee back to their home country once the training is complete. However, compared to full time employment in Singapore, all three above methods offer much more streamlined application timelines, procedures, and required documentation.
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