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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Foreigners in Singapore (Part 1): Types of Passes and Eligibility Criteria

Last updated: 2021-05-24 (originally published on 2018-02-07)   — by Alex Tanglao

This is Part 1 of The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Foreigners in Singapore. Read Part 2 here.

Hiring Foreigners in Singapore

Singapore is a popular location for setting up a business as it is consistently ranked highly for ease of doing business. In particular, Singapore was ranked top for talent in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report and Ranking 2017 by Startup Genome. As an entrepreneur in Singapore, the pool of talent that you have access to is not limited to just within Singapore. Even though the government has tightened immigration laws in recent years, the attractiveness of the city-state as a place to live and work means that it continues to attract top talent from the region.

If you’re thinking about hiring foreigners in singapore, this guide will help you simplify the requirements and procedures. In the first part of this guide, we outline the different types of work visas available to foreign employees and the relevant eligibility criteria. The second part of the guide will cover the application procedures for each type of work visa, including how to appeal against unsuccessful applications and how to renew work visas.

What are the different types of passes for Hiring Foreigners in Singapore?

Foreigners who intend to work in Singapore must have a valid pass, commonly known as a work visa, before they start work. There are different types of work passes depending on the category of foreign manpower you are looking to hire.

The types of work passes for foreign manpower include the following:

  • Employment Pass: for foreign professionals, managers, and executives;
  • S Pass: for mid-level skilled staff; and
  • Work Permit for foreign worker: for semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, or services sectors.

Related reading: 5 key legal considerations when hiring a new employee in Australia

Employment Pass

The Employment Pass is for foreign professionals with a job offer in Singapore who meet the eligibility for employment pass criteria. The duration of the pass is up to 2 years for first-time candidates. As of 1 July 2017, subsequent renewals of the pass are for a duration of up to 3 years.

There is no foreign worker levy or quota associated with the Employment Pass.

Who is eligible / eligibility for employment pass?

The criteria that foreign professionals have to meet in order to be eligible for the Employment Pass include the following:

  • have a job offer in Singapore;
  • work in a managerial, executive, or specialised job;
  • earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 3,600 (more experienced candidates need higher salaries); and
  • have acceptable qualifications, usually a good university degree, professional qualifications, or specialist skills.

While the minimum monthly salary is SGD 3,600, candidates who are older and more experienced will need higher salaries to qualify.

To assess whether the candidate you are looking to hire qualifies for a pass, use the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) provided by the Ministry of Manpower.

Who can apply?  

As an employer, either you or an authorised third party (usually an appointed employment agent) needs to apply on behalf of the candidate that you intend to hire as employee in singapour.

If you are an overseas employer without a registered office in Singapore, you need to get a Singapore-registered company to act as a local sponsor who will apply on your behalf. This application by the local sponsor has to be made manually.

How much does it cost for Singapore employment pass?

An application for a Singapore employment pass costs SGD 70. When the pass is issued, the cost for each pass is SGD 150.

Apply for an Employment Pass online.

Related reading: 5 Top Tips for Onboarding New Hires

S-Pass

The S-Pass is for mid-skilled technical staff who meet the eligibility criteria.

Who is eligible?

The S Pass is for mid-skilled foreign employees (e.g. technicians) who meet these criteria:

  • fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 2,200. The salary should reflect work experience. Older, more experienced applicants need higher salaries to qualify;
  • a degree or diploma. Technical certificates, such as courses for qualified technicians or specialists, will be considered. The certification should include at least 1 year of full-time study; and
  • years of relevant work experience.

Applications for an S Pass are open to all nationalities.

Who can apply?  

As an employer, either you or an authorised third party (usually an appointed employment agent) needs to apply on behalf of the candidate that you intend to hire.

If you are an overseas employer without a registered office in Singapore, you need to get a Singapore-registered company to act as a local sponsor who will apply on your behalf. This application by the local sponsor has to be made manually.

Is there s-pass quota and levy?

Employers in Singapore are limited by a quota and must pay the monthly foreign worker levy for each S Pass holder they employ.

The foreign worker levy is a pricing mechanism that moderates the demand for foreign workers and forms a part of the employers’ recurrent labour cost. Note that this is a separate cost from the administrative fees that you have to pay when you submit an application and receive a pass.

Under the quota, the number of S Pass holders a company can hire is capped at:

  • 15% of the company’s total workforce in the services sector.
  • 20% of the company’s total workforce in all other sectors.

Employers who exceed the quota will need to increase their local workforce or reduce the number of foreign workers.

The levy liability starts from the day the S Pass is issued and ends when the pass is cancelled or expires.

For the services sector, the levy rate is as follows:

Tier

Quota %

Monthly levy rate

Daily levy rate

Basic/Tier 1

Up to 10% of the total workforce

$330

$10.85

Tier 2

Above 10% to 15% of the total workforce

$650

$21.37

For all sectors (excluding services), the levy rate is as follows:

Tier

Quota %

Monthly levy rate

Daily levy rate

Basic/Tier 1

Up to 10% of the total workforce

$330

$10.85

Tier 2

Above 10% to 20% of the total workforce

$650

$21.37

Circumstances under which you may apply for a waiver of levy for S Pass holders include overseas leave and hospitalisation leave.

Learn more about the S Pass quota and levy requirements.

How much does it cost?

An application for a S Pass costs SGD 60 per pass. When the pass is issued, you need to pay SGD 80 for each pass.

Apply for an S Pass online.

Work Permit for foreign worker  

The Work Permit allows semi-skilled foreign workers from approved source countries to work in certain sectors. The Work Permit is valid for up to 2 years, depending on the validity of the worker’s passport, security bond, and employment period.

In order to determine the Work Permit requirements that are applicable to your sector, check the MOM website.

Who is eligible?

There is no minimum salary requirement for workers looking to apply for a Work Permit.  

Learn about the levy requirements by sector.

Is there a quota and levy?

Similar to the S Pass, employers in Singapore are limited by a quota for their industry and must pay the monthly foreign worker levy for each Work Permit holder they employ.

The levy you have to pay depends on the following two factors:

  • the worker’s qualifications; and
  • dependency ceiling or quota (for manufacturing and services sectors).

Circumstances under which you may apply for a waiver of levy for Work Permit holders include overseas leave and hospitalisation leave.

Learn more about the foreign worker levy for Work Permit holders.

Who can apply?  

As an employer, either you or an appointed employment agent needs to apply on behalf of the candidate that you intend to hire as employee in singapour.

How much does it cost?

An application for a Work Permit costs SGD 30 per pass. When the pass is issued, you need to pay SGD 30 for each pass.

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