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Which Singapore Work Pass Type Suits Me Best? Full Guide to Country’s Most Asked-for Work Visas

Lee October 2, 2015
Posted by Lee on October 02, 2015  /   Posted in About Singapore, Employment Pass, Working Visa
singapore-main Singapore is a powerful industrial and technological centre that relies on foreign expertise as well as on its own progressive manpower. The country is interested in talents who are able to fill up the gaps of the island’s developing niches. Work visas are divided into types based on such factors as salary and skills, and, in each type, the benefits are reasonably balanced with obligations and constraints that help the government to maintain a perfect equilibrium and high enviable employment rates. In this guide, we are going to outline the country’s work visa landscape and determine the main principles of relocating to Singapore on a work pass.


Employment Pass

Employment PassThe SG government is interested in attracting foreign talents who are able to import skills and knowledge crucial for the country’s growing industries. For this purpose, it has developed a work visa for professionals and directors and packed it with benefits that encourage talented foreigners settle in the country for a long time. On the other hand, the government sets picky demands for the candidates and meticulously screens both a hiring company and a foreigner which makes approvals possible only for the most advantageous hires. Prominent working experience (3-5 years) and advanced education are the main criteria for the Employment Pass: a successful candidate should showcase valuable expertise in the selected niche and hold a degree or (and) diploma from a respectable educational institution. The salary criterion is also important: the expected salary an employer is going to pay a foreigner shouldn’t be less than 3,300 SGD. Nevertheless, the Employment Pass is divided into 3 subclasses that have specific requirements. The higher the subclass is, the higher the salary must be:
  • Q1 (salary over 3,300 SGD) – for young and well-educated talents (graduates) who don’t possess significant work experience but still can contribute important skills to Singapore.
  • P2 (salary over 4,500 SGD) – for well-educated talents who boast remarkable working experience and valuable skills.
  • P1 (salary over 8,000 SGD) – for well-educated professionals who possess a massive expertise and a set of valuable skills.
The government watches over the salary’s correspondence with the job position and the skills declared. It also investigates into the salary’s veracity, so all attempts to swindle the authorities usually fail or lead to blacklisting. A company that hires a foreigner and that applies for the Employment Pass is also scrutinized by the government. Requirements to the hiring side are: company’s paid-up capital, a track record of business success, an absence of any prejudiced or discriminating attitude to the local manpower and the “advertisement requirement”. The job position offered to a foreigner must be advertised during 2 weeks for the local talents. Hiring a foreigner is acceptable only if there was no fit found among the locals. The Employment Pass is granted for 1-2 years; the exact duration is based on the MOM custom decision. After this period, the EP can be extended for 3 more years provided that the EP holder and the employer still meet the initial requirements and no violations occur. The renewal procedure isn’t automatic, and the visa extension isn’t guaranteed based merely on the fact of active employment. Employment Pass is the most beneficial work visa due to a number of perks it provides:
  • EP holder can take the family along to SG (if the salary starts from 5,000 SGD);
  • permanent residence is possible under certain conditions;
  • starting a personal business while working on EP is allowed in SG;
  • no quota, levy, and security bond requirements are applied to the employer.
The visa has one significant drawback that is common for all sponsored visas: it is attached to the specific job position (company). Every time a foreigner wishes to change the employer, he/she must get a new work visa for a new job. The good news is that the employee can work for his/her present employer and participate in a new EP application with a new employer simultaneously (no need to resign the job first). As mentioned above, the Employment Pass application can be initiated by the employer that hires a foreigner. Another option is to outsource this task to an accredited professional visa agency that possesses a massive expertise in getting approvals in the shortest possible time. The Ministry of Manpower usually processes the EP application in 7 working days if the employer (agency) submits the application using the EP Online service. In case of manual application, the authorities would need up to 5 weeks to process the visa request. Any issues with the submitted papers can cause a delay and in weak cases even rejection. The MOM is very demanding to the quality of the submitted documents and arguments that prove facts declared in the application. Skills, education, and experience, as well as the company’s performance, must be well-reasoned and persuasively documented in order to achieve the maximum approval chance. If you aren’t strong in paperwork and profile polishing, it’s better to entrust the visa agency that knows all ins and outs of the EP processing with this task. If the visa gets approval, the employee has 6 months to arrive in Singapore and get the pass issued.


Personalised Employment Pass

High-paid talented individuals with impressive expertise and merits naturally don’t want to limit themselves with tough bonds of the classic Employment Pass that keeps them tied to a specific employer. For such personalities, the government has developed an independent work visa that would be attached to the holder, not to the holder’s employer. It is Personalised Employment Pass. This independent visa smoothes the drawback of the Employment Pass and retains almost all benefits of the latter. PEP requirements are the same as for the P1 subclass of the Employment Pass, but the salary benchmark is much higher – 18,000 SGD. Holders of the P1 employment visa have the privilege to upgrade to the personalised visa if their salary reaches 12,000 SGD. PEP’s Benefits and Features:
  • Independence and flexibility are the main benefits of the personalised pass. A foreigner can get the visa and arrive in the country prior to landing a job in SG. He/she is allowed to stay unemployed during up to 6 months; it gives an opportunity to study the local job market without haste and seek for the best suitable contract.
  • Swapping employers is possible without processing a new work pass each time.
  • The PEP embraces all benefits of the classic Employment Pass except the one: an ability to start a personal business. PEP holder cannot initiate company incorporation in Singapore and act as a shareholder. Taking relatives along is possible if the PEP holder is already employed and his/her salary is at least 5,000 SGD. PEP holders have the highest chances for permanent residence among all work visa holders, but the general condition is to provide salary slips for the last 6 months that the foreigner has worked in SG.
  • Personalised Employment Pass is granted for 3 years. Another drawback of the PEP is that this work visa cannot be extended. To stay in the country and continue working, a foreigner must either switch over to another work visa or to get the permanent residence before this 3-year term expires (please take into account that the PR visa is usually processed during 6 months, so the application must be submitted in good time).
  • As the personalised visa allows unemployment during 6 months, the pass must be cancelled if the foreigner exceeds this limit. The pass cancellation entails departure.
As the PEP is self-sponsored, its application can be submitted by the employee (visa agency). The MOM will assess the PEP application based on the foreigner’s achievements. Rejections still happen, and the main reason hides in poor representation of skills and professional background. The point here is to persuade the government that the applicant’s talent is unique, valuable and requisite in the certain niche of the Singaporean economy. The application and the submitted documentation must reflect how beneficial this employee is. Proving your expertise and achievements for the foreign government can be a tricky thing that requires knowledge of local mentality and job market. If you are not a pro in profile building, it’s better to enlist a visa professional that is skilled in arguing such sensitive stuff as professional value. The visa consultant will also help with paperwork and ensure the application is made in the most efficient manner.  The applicant will also be required to submit his/her latest bank and tax statements as well as salary slips for the last 3 months. The Ministry of Manpower needs 5 weeks to process the PEP application effectively. Any issues with documentation can cause a delay. If the application is successful, the approval letter allows the foreigner to arrive in SG and initiate the pass issuance.


S Pass

S-passSingapore needs skilled hands in its developing industries such as chemical and oil sectors, engineering and electronics, and, therefore, it grants S Pass visas to those foreigners (substantially technicians) who are able to fill up the expertise gap of the local job market. S Pass is intended for medium-skilled overseas employees whose salary is at least 2,200 SGD. To get qualified for this visa, the foreigner and his/her Singaporean employer must meet some demands:
  • Overseas worker must prove skills, working experience, and qualification in the selected niche (diplomas, degrees, certificates about finished full-time courses). Older foreigners should showcase richer expertise.
  • Employer isn’t allowed to hire on S Pass more foreigners than the certain percentage to the total staff (it is 15% for service niche and 20% for all other sectors of the economy).
  • Employer is required to pay a monthly levy for every hired S Pass holder.
  • Hiring company’s activity must show successful track record and be declared to the authorities if the S Pass is being processed for the first time.
If compared with the Employment Pass, holders of the S Pass are quite limited in their opportunities: due to a lower salary, they aren’t able to take family and relatives along (the salary benchmark for sponsors is 5,000 SGD) and they aren’t allowed to register their own companies. Although, the same as EP holders, foreigners working on the S Pass are allowed to get married, having children is regulated by the same sponsor salary benchmark (5,000 SGD). The remarkable benefit of the S Pass is that its holders can pursue the country’s permanent residence in due time. The S Pass is usually given for 2 years after which if the foreigner is still employed his/her employer can extend the visa for another 3 years if both the employer and the employee still meet the initial requirements. However, the duration of this extension will depend on the passport validity of the S Pass holder (it shouldn’t be less than 7 months). The extension period will be calculated as the passport validity minus 1 month. An expat working on the S Pass can change the employer only after obtaining a new S Pass for a new employer. There is no need to resign the present job to get the right to participate in a new work visa application; the present S Pass can be cancelled after a new work visa is approved. The employer can apply for this visa on his own using the online service EP Online (processing in within 7 days) or outsource this matter to a professional visa agency. To ensure quick visa processing and its approval, submitted supported documents and the application must promote and argue the employee’s skills and represent the hiring company in the most favourable light. Of course, documents must be skillfully compiled in English and according to the established rules. If you aren’t certain about your paperwork talent, it’s better to entrust the competent visa agent with preparing the S Pass application and polishing profiles of both the company and the potential employee.


Work Permit

work-permitSingapore stands out against the background of its neighbouring Asian countries: it offers jobs and decent working conditions, and, therefore, lures lots of lower-skilled foreign manpower. To enable foreigners to work for Singaporean companies and households in such spheres as construction, babysitting, service, manufacturing, and so on, the government developed a special working visa – Work Permit. Its employment opportunity is balanced with constraints aimed at both a worker and his/her employer in order to hold back the inrush of overseas underskilled manpower. The WP is designed only for expatriates from a limited list of Asian countries: China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, India – just to name a few. The SG government gives foreigners jobs but wants to ensure that their activity will remain within the limits of certain jobs and these foreigners won’t squeeze the locals from their jobs. Requirements for the WP are strict, and they are mostly directed towards the hiring company:
  • Employer can hire foreigners on WP until the total number of them remains no more than 15-20% of the total staff (15% for service niche / 20% for other niches).
  • Employer is obliged to pay a monthly levy for every hired WP holder (this amount of money depends on the worker’s qualification; for a less qualified employee a higher levy is paid).
  • Employer is obliged to buy a health care insurance for every WP holder and bear expenses if the need in treatment arises.
  • Employer must pay a security bond (worth 5,000 SGD) for every WP holder he/she hires.
This visa is given on temporary basis only for employment purpose, and, therefore, it doesn’t imply some conventional benefits of other work visas. It doesn’t allow its holder to start a personal business, get married with Singaporean citizens and Singaporean PR (SPR) without a special approval from the govt, get pregnant (unless it happens in the “approved” marriage with the Singaporean/SPR), take a family along, be involved in any activity that wasn’t pre-determined by the WP, and get the status of the permanent resident. Only Malaysian WP holders are allowed to obtain a new WP while being still employed under the old WP; other nationalities have to resign jobs in order to be allowed to participate in a new WP application. The WP is usually granted for 2 years, and then it can be extended for another 2 years. But in both cases, the duration of the visa (or its extension) will depend on the WP holder’s passport validity. To get the maximum permit for 2 years, the passport validity should be no less than 25 months. Such factors as the employment term and the validity of the security bond also determine the WP’s duration. Only the Singaporean employers and their assigned visa agencies are authorized to submit the WP applications for the foreign staff. This can be done online using the electronic service WP Online; the procedure takes 1 working day. As the requirements for the employees are minimal, the responsibility for the success of the WP application lies mostly on the employer. First of all, the employer’s business activity must be declared to the authorities if the hiring company hasn’t dealt with the MOM before. The employer is required to submit documents that reflect the company’s meeting the quota criterion and successful track record of the business. If the employer isn’t certain he/she would manage the electronic submission or has issues with paperwork, enlisting a competent visa agent is a right solution.   Summary: Singaporean work visas are given to foreigners who are able to prove they possess asked-for skills and experience in their niches on their levels of qualification. The reason for work visa rejections usually hides in a weak argumentation of the employee’s skills and irreplaceability as well as in a poor representation of the hiring company’s activity for the govt. Enlisting a competent visa agency helps to stamp out these issues and achieve approval.  

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