Updates to Employment Permits for Professional Foreign Workers in Singapore
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) provides a range of employment permits for professional expatriates planning to work in the country. Each employment permit differs across various categories of employees and is based on their professional skills and monthly salaries.
Human resource management policies and strategies at Singapore’s national level were developed with the goal of maximizing human capital to support significant transformation. The Singaporean government has long supported a centralized system for managing its human resources, and foreign investment continues to have an impact.
In this article, we discuss the type of employment permits for professional foreign workers and the requirements to obtain them.
The Employment Pass 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.
As of September 2022, the qualifying minimum salary for new EP applicants will be raised to S$5,000 (US$3,474). This will apply to renewal applicants from September 2023.
Foreign applicants in the financial services sector must now receive a qualifying salary of S$5,000 (US$3,474). Also from September 2022, the minimum qualifying wage will be increased to S$5,500 (US$3,823).
Candidates that are offered a monthly salary of S$6,000 (US$4,171) 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.
For 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 with a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000 (US$8,342) 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; if submitted online, the application may be processed in as little as three weeks.
The Complementarity Assessment Framework
Singapore will introduce a new points system for EP applicants from 2023, called the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), in addition to higher qualifying salary thresholds.
The government hopes that the new system will improve the capacity of Singaporean businesses to select high-quality foreign professionals and ensure workforce diversity.
Future EP applicants must score at least 40 points under the COMPASS system, awarded based on four attributes and two bonus criteria. COMPASS will come into effect for new applicants from September 2023 and for renewal applicants from September 2024.
How COMPASS works
The COMPASS framework evaluates EP applications on individual and firm-related attributes. These are based on four foundational criteria where the applicant earns points on whether they meet or exceed expectations.
Singapore COMPASS Point System
Points for each foundational criterion
Does not meet expectations
Applicants can also earn additional points on two bonus criteria – one for candidates in jobs where there is a skills shortage, and second, for firms that engage in innovation and internationalization activities.
40 points are required to pass COMPASS.
The scoring system is highlighted in the following table.
PMET: Professionals, managers, executives, and technicians.
The skills bonus is reduced to +10 if the share of the candidate’s nationality is one-third or higher among the firm’s PMETs.
Small firms with fewer than 25 PMET employees score 10 points on C3 and C4 by default.
Who is exempted from COMPASS?
The candidate is exempted from COMPASS if they fulfill the following conditions:
- Earning a fixed salary of at least S$20,000 (US$14,667) per month;
- Filling a role on a short-term basis, one month or less; or
- Applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement or a free trade agreement to Singapore is a party.
Documents for EP application
Employers need to submit the following documents for the EP application:
- 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 mark sheets.
- Chinese applicants – certificate of graduation and verification proof in English from sources recommended by the MoM.
The new 5-year Employment Pass
The government will offer a new five-year EP to experienced professionals filling tech occupations as listed on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List from September 1, 2023. The duration is longer than the average EP of between two to three years.
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 S$12,000 (US$8,850) per month for existing EP holders and S$18,000 (US$12,513) per month for overseas foreign professionals. Candidates can apply for a PEP themselves. The application takes around eight weeks to process.
However, the PEP can only be issued once for a period of three years. Thereafter, applicants will need to either apply for an EP or S Pass to continue their employment in Singapore. In addition, PEP holders cannot be unemployed for more than six months and must continue to earn a minimum salary of S$144,000 (US$106,197) per calendar year to keep holding the pass for the full duration.
From September 1, 2023, the fixed monthly salary criteria for both existing PEP holders and new PEP holders will be raised to S$22,500 (US$15,645).
One key advantage for PEP holders is the flexibility to switch jobs without re-applying for another employment permit. They can also stay in the country for up to six months before securing the next job. Another important advantage is that PEP holders can apply for any job in any sector, including medicine, law, pharmacy, and dentistry, although the candidates will still need to comply with the standard registration requirements to practice in these fields.
There is also no foreign worker levy or quota for this type of work permit, and PEP holders can apply for a dependent’s pass for their legally married spouse and children under the age of 21 and LTVPs for a common-law spouse, unmarried disabled children above the age of 21, unmarried stepchildren under the age of 21, and parents.
Documents for PEP application
Applicants need to submit the following documents for the PEP application:
- A saved copy of the completed application form;
- A screenshot of the banking page and a copy of the travel document;
- Travel document information page;
- Educational certificates;
- Employment contracts for new and previous employment (if any);
- Employment history, including company name, occupation, fixed monthly salary in S$, country, and period of employment (if not currently an EP holder);
- Latest tax statement; and
- Payslips and bank account statements for the past 3 months.
The following categories are not eligible for a PEP:
- An EP holder under a sponsorship scheme;
- Journalists, editors, sub-editors, or producers;
- Freelancers; and
- A sole proprietor, partner, or where director is also a shareholder in an ACRA-registered company.
The Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) is for foreign business professionals and entrepreneurs who wish to start their own businesses in Singapore.
The initial EntrePass is valid for one year, with another two years granted for every subsequent renewal. Business owners must, however, meet the renewal criteria set by the MoM, which includes aspects such as a minimum number of hired local employees as well as a minimum 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 incubator at a Singapore government-supported incubator or accelerator.
According to the MoM, businesses such as coffee shops, hawker centers, food courts, bars, nightclubs, karaoke lounges, massage parlors, and employment agencies are not eligible under the EntrePass scheme.
There is no foreign worker quota or levy for EntrePasses. EntrePass holders whose annual business spending and local employment meet minimum eligibility requirements can apply for dependents passes and LTVPs for certain family members.
Documents for EntrePass application
Applicants must submit the following documents for the EntrePass application:
- 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.
Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass
The Overseas Network & Expertise Pass allows high-earners and achievers to live in Singapore without the need to secure employment first. Applications will open from January 1, 2023, and is applicable to top talent in all sectors.
Applicants for the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass will need to earn at least S$30,000 (US$21,300) per month although individuals with outstanding achievements in the field of research and academia, science and technology, sports, and arts and culture, can also qualify even if they do not meet the qualifying salary.
Duration and work criteria
The Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass allows the holder to concurrently work, start, and operate multiple companies in Singapore at any one time. Moreover, their spouse will also be able to work through a Letter of Consent with the MOM.
Applicants with no recent history of working in Singapore will need to prove that they have worked or will be working for a company with a market capitalization of at least US$500 million or with annual revenue of at least US$200 million.
Not subject to the Fair Consideration Framework requirement
The pass holder will also not be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework job advertising requirement in addition to the upcoming COMPASS. Under the FCF, employers who want to submit EP applications must first advertise the job position on MyCareersFuture.sg to promote labor market transparency and fair employment practices.
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