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Moving to Singapore

A comprehensive guide on relocating to Singapore

A true melting pot of different cultures and a long-time expat destination, this guide walks you through all the steps needed to move to Singapore. We’ll cover everything from visa requirements to the unwritten rules of social etiquette to make sure your relocation gets off to the perfect start.

Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats ourselves, we understand what you need, and offer the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us to jump start your move abroad!

Singapore is a city of contrasts. In just a few kilometers, you can go from eating a plate of steaming noodles at a hawker center to high-end luxury shopping on Orchard Road. Seeing this unique blend of cultures firsthand as well as enjoying the fact that English is one of the official languages are just some of the benefits of moving to Singapore.

As one of the world’s main expat hubs, you’ll find a thriving international scene with people from all over the world arriving every day. But how easy is it to move to Singapore? This guide explains in detail how to move to Singapore, covering key topics such as visas, housing, healthcare, personal finance, and education.

Across all aspects, one thing you’ll need to be prepared for is the high cost of living. While salaries are usually generous and taxes are relatively low, the cost of living is very high. Even outside of the city center, a three-bedroom condo can set you back $ 3,500 SGD (around $ 2,500 USD) a month! For many expats, Singapore is worth its price tag, and the ease with which you can become a permanent resident means many choose to make it a long-term home.

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Relocating

While adjusting to life in this international city may not be hard, the process of moving to Singapore can be more difficult — especially when it comes to getting through customs.

If you’ve visited Singapore before, you already know how strict the customs and immigration process can be. As well as the usually restricted items like weapons and endangered species, other restrictions include everything from copies of copyrighted material to chewing gum. Don’t be tempted to skip a few items on the customs form: failure to declare just a single packet of cigarettes will cost $ 200 SGD ($ 145 USD). Make sure you don’t get caught by checking our customs guide before packing.

Luckily, as one of the world’s most popular expat destinations, the process for shipping household goods to Singapore is more straightforward. We outline the documents needed and the process for getting your personal items to Singapore, as well as why you should hold off on that pre-departure shopping trip!

When you’re planning your relocation, keep in mind that you’ll need to ship your household goods within six months of moving. If you’re moving to Singapore with pets, you’ll also need to plan ahead and apply for an import license at least 30 days before arriving. There are different quarantine times depending on your country of origin.

One thing you’ll definitely want to leave at home is your car. As the government wants to encourage people to use public transportation, just the registration fees, road taxes, and import duties can be more than double the price of the car, and that’s before the congestion charges when you want to drive it.

This section also covers another essential part of your relocation planning: health. Our guide looks at the vaccinations required for Singapore, as well as potential health risks you may face after touching down in your new home.

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Visas & Work Permits

What’s the difference between an employment pass and a work permit? Who can become a permanent resident?

If you’re overwhelmed by all the different Singapore visa types, this is the section for you. We walk you through everything from how to get a visa for Singapore to which visa types allow you to bring your family.

One of the essential pieces of information you’ll need for the Singapore visa application process is your salary. You won’t be able to get an Employment Pass or work visa without a job offer, and the type of permit you get will depend on your salary. If you’re a highly skilled professional, you’ll need to earn at least $ 4,500 SGD ($ 3,200 USD) a month to get an Employment Pass (EP). Although work visas are aimed at mid-level earners, the minimum salary is still $ 2,200 SGD ($ 1,590 USD) a month. And that’s not the only thing you’ll need to disclose: Singaporean visa requirements state that applicants can be no more than 50 years old at the time of applying!

Despite the fact that it can be hard to get a visa or work permit initially, the good news is that it’s much easier to apply for permanent residency in Singapore than in many other expat destinations. There’s no minimum time requirement so you can apply to become a permanent resident on day one if you wish and make the most of lower education and healthcare fees, as well as gain access to social security and public housing.

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housing

Housing

Singapore is a vibrant, ultra-modern place, and, when it comes to accommodation here, most natives live in government-provided flats and apartments, from the Housing and Development Board (so-called HDBs).

When you think of government-provided housing, you may have an image of dark, imposing blocks of flats, with small, uninspiring living quarters. This is not the sort of housing you will find in Singapore. HDB properties are loved by many and highly sought-after. However, you will not be able to rent or buy an HDB flat until you become a Permanent Resident. The only chance to do so before you become a Singapore citizen is buying a re-sale HDBs.

As well as the common HDBs, you can find other types of houses. Still, keep in mind that detached properties tend to be very expensive, as there is not a vast amount of free space in Singapore.

In this section, we explain more about how to rent a house in Singapore and the types of properties in which you can live. There is detailed information on the average house and rent prices in all the different planning areas of Singapore.

You may be surprised at how much prices vary. Top prices in wealthy areas can be painfully high. However, there are affordable options as well.

We also explain how foreigners can buy a house in Singapore, as well as how to connect utilities once you get there.

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healthcare

Healthcare

They say if you do not have your health you do not have anything. Health is a critical aspect of our lives, and you have probably already thought about how to keep you and your loved ones healthy in your new home. In this guide, we give a detailed overview of the healthcare system and health insurance in Singapore, so you know where you stand, and you can decide on your best options.

The Singapore healthcare system offers excellent care and facilities. However, you should know that until you become a Permanent Resident in the city-state, you cannot be part of the Central Provident Fund, and, therefore, you will not enjoy the financial subsidies that Permanent Residents and Singapore citizens do.

Health insurance in Singapore is split into different packages, depending on factors such as your age, your ability to pay medical fees, and the severity of your medical conditions.

This section tells you all about how to find a doctor, giving birth in Singapore, and much more.

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Banks & Taxes

Opening a bank account in Singapore should be fairly simple. There are several international banks operating in the city-state that you could join or there is a chance that maybe your current bank is already there. Either way, this section tells you about the best banks in Singapore, deposit insurance schemes, and all of the required documents for opening a non-resident bank account in Singapore.

In addition to that, it explains the differences between merchant, local, and foreign banks and indicates the common bank fees and minimum deposits. There is also information about some of the popular savings accounts and their related interest rates, as well as how much tax is in Singapore.

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education

Education

The school system in Singapore tops global rankings, particularly when it comes to math. While children can start kindergarten from as young as two months, they don’t start formal schooling until the age of seven.

As English is one of the official languages, it’s possible for expat kids to join the public education system. Although it’s free for Singaporeans, foreign residents have to pay fees so many expats turn to one of the many prestigious international schools in Singapore. French, Dutch, Swiss, Japanese, Australian — these are just some of the national curricula available at the top international schools. As well as the best schools, we also cover childcare options and how much to budget.

If you’re thinking of going back to school for higher education, this Relocation Guide also walks you through the universities in Singapore and language teaching. With four official languages to pick from, you’re spoilt for choice!

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working

Working

What should you never do to someone’s business card? Why shouldn’t you make plans for Saturday mornings? This section covers all aspects of working in Singapore, from the average salary to the business culture.

While many expats relocate with an intra-company transfer from their employer, those moving on their own will need to figure out how to get a job in Singapore. As well as tips for the application process and how to tailor your CV to Singaporean standards, we look at the best places to find job opportunities, including a list of recruitment companies and headhunting firms in Singapore.

For entrepreneurial expats, we also cover self-employment in Singapore, as well as an overview of Singapore’s social security system and who’s eligible for support.

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country-facts

Country Facts

Singapore is a truly international city — over half of the workforce is now foreign!

The result is a real melting pot of cultures. As well as the four official languages, you’ll see Singapore’s unique blend in everything from the public holidays to the noodles at the hawker stalls. All this variety comes at a price. The cost of living in Singapore is one of the highest in the world. Outside the city center, rent is around SGD 3,500 ($ 2,500 USD) for a three-bedroom condo, but you need to multiply that by five if you want to live in the Central Business District.

As well as giving you an idea about how it is to live in Singapore, we also look at how to get around the city-state, including why you’ll want to avoid driving in Singapore and why loose change won’t be any good if you want to use public transportation in Singapore.

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Updated on: February 11, 2019
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