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Which Visa is Required for Working in Singapore?

Lee October 5, 2015
Posted by Lee on October 05, 2015  /   Posted in Employment Pass, Investment Visa, Working Visa
Which visa is required to work in Singapore (1)Singapore is a great place to live, work and have families because it is safe, clean, low-crime, foreigner-tolerant, and business and professional oriented. A lot of talented employees from all over the world, which seek for a career boost, reasonably consider Singapore as an option. But it’s often difficult to sort out how the expat employment works in this country and which visa is required to work in Singapore. We would like to illuminate the issue for you to help you figure out which kind of work pass fits you the best.
Singaporean working visas are divided into categories based on the foreigner’s qualification, experience, and salary – from the top premium visa for pros and directors to the less-privileged for domestic and service workers: the Personalised Employment Pass, the Employment Pass, the S Pass, and the Work Permit.  The more professional the employee is, the more beneficial his/her visa package will be.
Absolutely all foreigners are allowed to work in Singapore only on appropriate working visas. Almost all of them require a sponsor (the employer), so it’s better to start your visa-hunting from job-hunting. Sponsored visas are attached to a specific employer (job position), so only an employer (or a visa agency that acts on the employer’s behalf) is allowed to process the work visa at the govt.
In the modern world integrated with advanced technologies, there is no need to arrive in the country for the job search. You can study the job market using the internet, apply for jobs and get offers. While job-hunting, it’s important to take the offered salary into account: it will greatly define your visa type and consequently the package of opportunities (your abilities in switching employers, extending the visa, taking family members along as dependants, starting a business, upgrading to the permanent resident’s status and so on). So before you accept the offer, it’s better to sort the Singapore work visas and their benefits out.

Employment Pass

Employment PassEP is a classic work visa for well-educated, experienced and high-paid professionals and directors. Although it isn’t the most “VIP”, it is still the most beneficial. Having 3 subclasses, it divides foreign talents based on their salaries and professional background. Young and the least experienced but perfectly educated foreigners qualify for the Q1 category if they are offered a job worth over 3,300 SGD a month. This is the lowest salary benchmark for the Employment Pass. The P2 is for more educated and older professionals earning at least 4,500 SGD, and the P1 category is for the highest paid and the most experienced foreigners earning over 8,000 SGD. Except the salary, education and experience, crucial requirements for the EP candidates are:

  • valuable skills requisite for the growing sectors of the local economy (you can check the list of skills in demand on the website of the Ministry of Manpower);
  • business performance of the hiring company (the paid-up capital, track record, active participation in local employment, job advertising during the last 2 weeks for the local talents and so on).
The latter requirement is seriously taken into consideration by the govt: the employer has to argue that the foreigner was chosen because there was no fit found among the local talents. The Employment Pass contains the richest suit of perks among all work visas:

  • It is renewable. The visa is initially given for 1-2 years, and before this term expires, it can be extended for another 3 years. It is possible to get this visa extended many times until the employee works for this employer; however, a lot of other renewal requirements are applied.
  • It allows taking a family along to Singapore. Nevertheless, not all holders of the Employment Pass are privileged to do so as the salary requirement for bringing family members as dependants is 5,000 SGD. For bringing parents, the salary must be 8,000 SGD.
  • It allows registering the personal company. An EP holder can act as a company’s director (however, the requirement says that the new company must also have at least one local director who is either a Singaporean or a Singapore Permanent resident) and a shareholder. Later, when the company becomes eligible, it can hire this founder as a director on a new EP based on general EP requirements.
  • EP holders have high chances for getting the status of permanent residents in due time. The higher the category of the EP is, the closer this due time is. P1 holders usually get PR after a year of working in SG, and P2 holders – after 2-3 years.
  If you get an offer with a salary that fits the EP salary scope, you can be eligible for the EP. Nevertheless, it is crucial to check your eligibility beforehand (you can use our proficient and free of charge assessment) as the MOM requirements are quite tricky. A lot of foreign talents get rejected by the govt because their employers had bad profiles and (or) failed to prove this employee’s importance for the certain job position. To avoid these issues and risks, it’s better to enlist a backup of competent visa agents who can polish the documentation and prepare a compelling application.  With the help of the experienced visa agency, it is possible to get the visa approved in 7 working days.  

Personalised Employment Pass

  Personalised Employment PassDespite the EP’s sufficiency, it has one significant drawback that upsets top-paid individuals who value freedom – it’s this pass’ affixment to a specific hiring company. The government has made a step forward to this category of “their own masters” and developed a special independent pass that would be attached to an employee only. It is the Personalised Employment Pass. This visa gives a remarkable freedom in employment:
  • foreigner can process this pass on his/her own (no employer is needed);
  • PEP holder can arrive in SG before landing a job and even starting the job-hunting;
  • on this pass, a foreigner can stay unemployed during 6 months which are usually enough for finding a job;
  • PEP holder can swap employers without a need in processing a new pass each time as this visa is tied to the employee personally.
  These perks are balanced with drawbacks:  
  • PEP holders aren’t allowed to renew this visa. It is granted for 3 years only after which it can be changed for any other suitable work visa or a permanent residency (PEP gives remarkably high chances for getting PR in the shortest possible time).
  • PEP holders aren’t allowed to register their own business in the country.
  Foreign professionals can apply for the PEP using the online service EP Online or with the help of a visa agency. Involving the latter is quite reasonable taking into consideration how picky the govt’s approach to the PEP candidates is. Except meeting the general requirements (which are similar to the requirements of the P1 Employment Pass), the candidate must substantiate his/her prominent working experience and persuade the government that Singapore is in need of their skills. A competent visa agent would help to fortify the applicant’s profile and help with paperwork (except common documents, the applicant must provide last bank and tax statements and salary slips for the last three months). The govt needs up to 5 weeks to process the PEP application.

S Pass

Singapore is an influential industrial hub with prospective oil and chemical sectors, engineering and manufacturing that need skilled hands. Technicians can arrive in Singapore on the special S Pass that is granted for 2 years. This working visa also fits other specialists that don’t qualify for the Employment Pass and get a job that is paid at no less than 2,200 SGD a month. The level of education and experience demands is lower than for the Employment Pass, but the government still gives approvals only for candidacies with the most beneficial skills. The MOM seeks for skilled and educated (diplomas, degrees, certificates of the full-time courses related to the job scope) employees with abundant working experience in the chosen niche whose salary corresponds with their age and expertise.
The S Pass differs from the Employment Pass not only with the salary scope but also with such criteria as a levy and a quota that are applied to an employer. The quota means an approved percentage of hired S Pass holders to the total staff. The government allows 15% of S Pass holders to be hired by the company that provides services and 20% for other niches. The levy means a monthly payment that must be done by the employer for every hired holder of the S Pass. The levy rate depends on the employee’s skills: for more skilled manpower, the employer pays less.
Other important features of the S Pass are:  
  • S Pass can be extended for another 3 years after the first term (if the S Pass holder’s passport validity is less than 36 months, the renewal duration will be calculated as the pass validity minus 1 month).
  • Holders of this visa can take families along if they earn more than 5,000 SGD monthly.
  • S Pass holders are allowed to apply for the permanent residence in their due time.
  • Expats working in Singapore on the S Pass are allowed to get married, but having children is regulated by the sponsorship eligibility (a salary of at least 5,000 SGD).
  • Employers have to pay for their foreign employees’ medical insurance.
  • S Pass holders aren’t eligible to register companies in Singapore. Their activity in the country is limited with the work pass’ destination.

Eligibility criteria described by the MOM are quite obscure, so, before lodging the S Pass application, it’s better to get your situation assessed by visa professionals who know the exact demands from years of experience in the immigration niche.
The application procedure can be done either by the employer or by the accredited visa agent. The visa is usually ready in 7 working days if no issues with documents arise. To improve the chance for the S Pass approval, the employer is advised to have a professional visa team do the paperwork and improve the employee’s representation of skills as well as the hiring company’s image.

Work Permit

Work PermitThe Singaporean government allows lower-skilled expats from certain Asian countries to land jobs in the construction, household (domestic work, babysitting), marine, service, manufacturing and other niches, but it still strictly controls these foreign low-skilled workers’ stay within the employment purpose of their arrival in Singapore. Work Permit was designed for work purpose only and it doesn’t provide traditional perks superior visas do. The same as the S Pass, the Work Permit is subject to paying the levy and meeting the quota (the percentage depends on the niche), but there is one additional requirement to the employer: a security bond worth 5,000 SGD must be paid for a foreigner hired on the WP.

Key features of the WP:
  • WP is given to foreigners from certain “approved” Asian countries such as Malaysia, China, Hong, Kong, India, Thailand, and so on. You can find out your nationality’s eligibility on the website of the MOM.
  • The visa is usually granted for 2 years, but the exact term will depend on the foreigner’s passport validity and the security bond paid. It can be renewed for another 2 years (or the term the passport validity allows).
  • The WP doesn’t allows its holder to register a company, pursue the permanent residence, get married with a Singaporean or SPR without a special approval from the govt, get pregnant (unless it happens in the “approved” marriage with a Singaporean/PR). The WP gets cancelled immediately after the “unapproved” pregnancy is disclosed.
  • Switching over to a new employer and obtaining a new WP is possible only after resigning from the present job. Only Malaysian WP holders can obtain new WPs while working for their old employers (the old WP must be cancelled before or on the day of issuance of the new WP).
The WP is usually processed very quickly – in 1 working day. As most of the requirements are directed towards the employer, it is crucial to ensure the hiring company gets a decent representation at the MOM: the submitted papers and the application must be compiled according to the latest MOM rules and reflect meeting of all criteria.   We believe there can be a lot of situations fitting the scopes of none of the described work visas. If you have doubts that you can get a work pass, please use our free assessment. Our expertise allows us to develop winning visa solutions for most of the weak cases.

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