Singapore is one of the world’s most expensive cities - but the vibrant culture, booming economy and range of opportunities for expats moving there looking to find a job or start a business, means it still holds huge appeal. The city consistently ranks highly for ease of living, with a wide range of conveniences in a safe and cosmopolitan setting.
A large number of global companies have a foothold in Singapore. Many use the city as an Asian base and draw in skills and knowledge from around the globe. If you’re thinking of a move to Singapore for work, you'll probably need to secure a visa first.
Make your life easy by checking out this simple guide to getting a Singapore work visa - and get ready to enjoy your new challenge.
All foreigners in Singapore are required to have a work permit to take up employment legally. They’re known as work passes in Singapore, and the details of the different available pass types can be found on the dedicated Singapore Government website.
The various different visa types available for Singapore are very clearly set out on the government website. They’re split according to your professional skill level and personal circumstances.
If you’re an experienced professional earning at least 3,600 SGD a month, then your employer can apply on your behalf for an Employment Pass. The eligibility criteria for this visa type are fairly restrictive, with the minimum salary level intended for new graduates. That means you may have to earn significantly higher than this amount to be considered. Aside from the salary requirement, you must also work in a professional or specialised field and have higher qualifications or an ‘exceptional’ work record. There’s a ‘Self Assessment Tool’ available to check whether you’re likely to be considered for this visa type.
Your employer must pay fees of just over 200 SGD when they apply for your pass, and the processing time is usually a week.
An alternative for ‘mid-skilled’ workers, earning at least 2,200 SGD a month, is the S Pass. If this is a suitable visa type for you, your employer will have to make an application on your behalf. Each employer has a cap on the number of S Passes it can sponsor, so you’ll have to fall within that limit. There are other eligibility criteria such as your education level and years of experience. It’s worth using the self assessment tool provided to get an idea if your skills and qualifications match up to the requirements for this visa type.
The S Pass is valid for one employer only, so if you change jobs you’ll need to renew your visa arrangements with your new boss.
As your visa application must be done through your employer, there’s no need to use an agency to deal with the authorities on your behalf.
If you’re applying for an Employment Pass or S Pass, your employer will have to submit some documents on your behalf. They’ll be asked to provide:
- A copy of your passport photo page (never hurts to bring along a few copies of your passport photo, too)
- Registration documents for the business
- Proof of your qualifications, such as a degree certificate.
There are some specific requirements for candidates from China and India which are detailed on the Singapore Government website. If documents are not originally in English, they must be translated by a notary or registered translation agency. In some cases you’ll be asked to sign the application in person in order to complete your submission.
In addition to the documents, your employer must be properly registered with the immigration authorities. And, in the case of the S Pass, your workplace will need to apply within the quota limits set out. The steps employers need to take are clearly set out on the Government website, and as many businesses import talent to Singapore, it’s likely that your company or their agents will be familiar with this process.
Most people coming to Singapore to work, even for a short period, should apply for a pass following the process outlined above. However, there are some exceptions for people entering Singapore for specific roles. The most common exceptions are listed below, and a full list of visa types is on the Singapore Government website.
For people under the age of 30, you may be able to come to Singapore on a Working Holiday Visa which is issued for up to 6 months. This visa is covered by a quota system, meaning that even if you fulfil the criteria, you’ll only be issued a visa if the cap hasn’t yet been reached.
If you’re traveling to Singapore in order to train or to do ‘on the job’ training like an internship, then you can apply for a specific short term training visa for up to three months. In this visa type, your employer must apply on your behalf and you’ll need to be paid at least 3000 SGD a month unless you’re studying in a registered institution. Alternatively, there’s a short term visa issued for unskilled trainee workers for up to six months.
If you’re coming to Singapore to start a business, you can apply for a pass known as an EntrePass. This type of visa is available to people who fulfil certain financial requirements, and have at least a 30% stake in a new business registered with the Singapore authorities within the last 6 months. If you haven’t yet registered your business, then you can apply for the pass first and register your business after you’ve received your visa.
It should be noted that some business types aren’t eligible for this pass, including bars and massage parlours.
All EntrePass application forms are online, and you can start your application by sending in scanned document copies. Visas are usually issued for a year at a time and might allow you to bring your family members to Singapore with you after a waiting period.
If you have an EntrePass, you can apply to bring family members to Singapore when you apply for your second visa. This usually means that there is a 12 month waiting period. There are criteria attached to this, including the success of your business, measured by the turnover and the number of jobs created. Full details are on the Singapore Government webpages dedicated to the EntrePass visa.
If you have an Employment Pass or S Pass and earn at least 5000 SGD a month, then you’re entitled to apply for dependant passes for your spouse and dependant children. The application is processed by your employer and can either be submitted at the same time as they apply for your Employment Pass or later. If you earn over 10,000 SGD then you can also apply to have your parents join you in Singapore.
Once you have your pass approved, you might also be required to register your fingerprints. Usually, first time applicants and anyone who first applied more than five years ago will have to do this. You’ll need to make a fingerprinting appointment and take along documentation when you go.
Once your pass is ready for you to collect (usually four days after all documents have been received and approved), you’ll receive your pass. You can expect to get an email or SMS message to let you know how the pass will be delivered or, if it’s easier, you can collect your pass directly as long as you bring along documents proving your identity.
To get the most of your money, you'll want to open a bank account in Singapore, which you can do before you arrive.
Once you send money either to or from Singapore, consider using a money conversion service like TransferWise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but TransferWise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees.
If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Singapore isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using an ATM. Just keep in mind it'll be more favourable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.
Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. The most important part is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.