Podcast — 27 min
For employers looking to hire a foreign national in Singapore or relocate an existing employee to the country, ensuring the employee has the right work permit is essential.
Every country has its immigration laws and regulations to understand and navigate through. Employers need to organize and submit the correct paperwork while applying for employee work permits in Singapore to avoid delays and fines due to non-compliance with local immigration laws.
This can be a tricky process, especially if you have no prior knowledge of Singapore’s labor and immigration laws. Your best bet is to work with an employer of record who can set up a local entity in the country (if you don’t have a legal presence in Singapore). An EOR like Remote can also help you handle the processes around sorting our work permits efficiently.
In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of work permits and visas in Singapore, and show you the various steps you may need to take to acquire them (depending on your employee’s status). We’ll also discuss how you can use Remote’s Mobility services to hire or relocate your employees to Singapore or anywhere in the world.
With a strong economy, favorable tax rates, and a diverse workforce, Singapore is a great destination if you’re looking to find top talent.
However, the country’s work permit and visa requirements are stringent. If you and your employee fail to comply with them, you may receive fines, penalties, and reputational damage.
Due to the rise of remote work and globally distributed teams, there have been increasing risks to both employees and employers. For example, there are many instances of individuals on tourist visas overstaying in countries. This can create issues for themselves and the companies they work for, and authorities are cracking down.
Employers should always check with local authorities before sending an employee abroad to understand relevant eligibility criteria related to legal forms of residency like work permits or employment passes. Employers seeking larger talent pools overseas through remote work initiatives should look into what long-term visa and/or residency options are available.
The Singapore work visa is officially called a Work Permit (WP) which is required by all people who want to live and work in the country. Singaporean citizens are, by default, eligible to work in Singapore (even if they currently live abroad), as are permanent residents. If your employee is neither of these, they will need to obtain a work permit.
An employer of record like Remote can offer you a stress-free experience as you navigate the work permit process in Singapore. Our expert team of Mobility specialists can handle the paperwork, check each applicant’s credentials before granting authorization, and make sure the process meets all the regulations.
Before you can apply for a Singapore work visa, you need to show proof of employment. Your employer or an employment agency on their behalf will take charge of the application process through the Employment Pass Online (EP) portal on the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) website. An employment pass or EP is the most common type of WP (more on this below).
Applicants may be disqualified for a Singapore Work Permit if they possess any criminal records or have convictions over prior immigration offenses. Additionally, anyone who has failed to comply with their terms of stay on any previous visa issued under the purview and jurisdiction of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority may also be ineligible.
To live and work in Singapore, all foreigners are required to obtain a work permit from the MoM website. This permit also acts as a visa, giving the recipient permission to enter and re-enter the country. The application process and eligibility criteria depend upon the type of work permit, of which there are several.
Some of the most common types of work permits in Singapore are as follows:
The Employment Pass (EP) is for senior-level professionals, managers, and executives. To be eligible, your employee must earn a fixed base salary of at least S$5,000 ($3,700) per month, although this threshold increases in line with your employee’s age. The threshold is higher if your business operates in the financial services sector.
The employee must also pass a points-based assessment, which evaluates multiple factors including salary, qualifications, skills, and diversity. It is issued for two years and can be renewed for up to three additional years, although tech professionals may be able to renew for longer.
To obtain an EP, you must:
Obtain written consent from your employee to make the application on their behalf
Get your employee to fill out a candidate form
Submit your formal online application and pay the submission fee
The application should take around 10 business days to be processed. However, if your organization does not have a registered entity in Singapore, the processing time can take as long as eight weeks.
If successful, your employee will be granted a single-entry visa, giving them six months to enter Singapore and receive their EP. Note that EP holders may also be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Singapore.
You can find more information about EPs here.
The Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) is similar to the EP but is aimed specifically at very high-earning individuals, such as C-level executives. To be eligible, your employee must earn a fixed base salary of at least S$22,500 ($16,500) per month.
PEPs are issued for up to three years, and cannot be renewed.
The S Pass is one of the most common work permits in Singapore and is aimed at skilled workers who do not meet the eligibility requirements for an EP.
To be eligible, your employee must earn a fixed base salary of at least S$3,150 ($2,300) per month. As with EPs, this threshold increases with age and is higher for workers in the financial services sector.
It’s important to note that this permit comes with strict quota requirements. Currently, S Pass holders can make up only 10% of your total workforce (although this increases to 15% if your business is in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, or process industries).
You must also pay a monthly levy of between S$550 and S$650, depending on your industry.
The S Pass is issued for up to two years and can be renewed for up to three additional years.
To obtain an S Pass, you must follow the same application process as for the EP, using the same forms. The processing time is around 10 business days, although if your organization does not have a registered entity in Singapore, it can take around eight weeks.
If successful, your employee will receive a single-entry visa, allowing them 60 days to enter Singapore and receive their permit.
You can learn more about the S Pass — including the full eligibility requirements — here.
The MoM also offers other specialist work permits, including:
Work Permit for migrant workers. This is for skilled and “semi-skilled” workers in specific industries, including construction, manufacturing, and the service sector.
Training Employment Pass. This is for professionals who are undergoing vocational or practical training. Note that your employee must earn at least S$3,000 ($2,200) monthly.
You can see a full list of available work permits here.
Whichever permit you need, Remote can assist you throughout this entire process — from establishing your employee’s eligibility to assisting you with the application. To learn more, check out the relocation services offered by Remote's expert team of mobility specialists.
With the rise of remote work, more individuals are adopting the digital nomad lifestyle. In response, governments across the world are implementing new legislation and — in some cases — specialist visas to adapt to this trend.
Currently, the answer is no — there is no specialist digital nomad visa available in Singapore. It’s also forbidden to work remotely on a short-stay visa, such as a tourist visa.
However, your employee can potentially work for up to six months on a Work Holiday Pass if they are aged between 18 and 25, and graduated from (or are studying at) a recognized university in one of the following countries:
Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, or the US
Australian graduates (or students) can also apply for a special extended version of this visa, enabling them to work in Singapore for up to one year.
As outlined, the employee needs to be eligible to work in Singapore. However, please keep in mind that you must also be able to compliantly employ them there.
This generally means that you must either own a legal entity in Singapore or use an employer of record (EOR). This is the case regardless of whether you’re hiring a Singaporean citizen, a permanent resident, or a temporary resident on a work permit.
If your long-term recruitment strategy is to hire exclusively in Singapore, then the former may be worth your while. However, as a foreign business, this can be costly, time-consuming, and inefficient, especially if you later decide to start hiring in other countries too. This is why it’s generally advisable to use a trusted, reliable EOR instead. To learn more about what EORs are and when to use one, check out our in-depth guide below.
Sorting out work permits in Singapore for team members can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have a good grasp of immigration laws in the country.
If you’re planning to relocate an employee to Singapore or want to hire a foreign employee in the country, your best option is to partner with Remote. As well as helping you manage employees’ onboarding, taxes, and payroll, our expert team can handle the employee relocation process. Some ways in which Remote can support employees in immigration and right-to-work compliance are:
Offering expert advice tailored to employees’ specific needs which is compliant with the latest immigration laws and regulations
Managing paperwork and documentation involved during the application process
Making sure visas and work permits are renewed and extended as needed so that employees can continue working without stress
Reducing legal risks by maintaining ongoing compliance with immigration laws.
To learn more about how you can make the entire relocation process easier with Remote, download our Relocation Guide or book a consultation with one of our friendly mobility gurus — and get the process moving today.
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