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.

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.



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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With millions of residents trying to find a home in a city-state that’s just 716 km², it’s no surprise that accommodation in Singapore is so competitive.

Although there are different types of housing available, most people live in towering apartment blocks, with over 80% of the population living in government-subsidized public housing, or HDBs as they’re known. However, these well-maintained government complexes are in high demand, and expats often find themselves turning to the private property market. While the average rent for an HDB is around $ 2,000 SGD ($ 1,450 USD) a month, a private two-bedroom flat can cost between $ 2,000 and $ 9,000 SGD ($ 6,500 USD) a month.

As well as covering average house prices and rent, this section also looks at how to rent a house in Singapore including the application process and how much to budget for additional fees and taxes. To get your house hunt off to a good start, we take you through popular expat areas, touching on which ones are close to schools for expat families. We also cover practicalities such as setting up your utilities in Singapore. For those thinking of making the city-state their long-term home, we also discuss how to buy a house in Singapore for foreigners and how much to budget in terms of taxes after you’ve found your dream home.

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Understanding the healthcare system and health insurance in Singapore is an important first step when relocating.

Although the Singapore healthcare system is very well regarded, expats are unfortunately not eligible for the subsidized public healthcare. That means getting to grips with the many different private health insurance options available. The number one thing you’ll need to take with you to the doctor or hospital is a credit card. Although some insurers will have direct payments set up, hospitals may require hefty deposits in case your insurance falls short. Many doctors also expect payment upfront.

If you’re expanding your expat family, you’ll need to budget around $ 8,000 SGD ($ 5,800 USD) for a two-night stay and delivery in a private hospital. Aside from providing information on giving birth in Singapore, this Relocation Guide also covers basics such as how to find a doctor, women’s health, the best hospitals, and emergency care. Make sure your insurance also covers dental care. With almost three dentists per square kilometer, your teeth will be well taken care of in Singapore!

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Banks & Taxes

When you’re making one of the world’s most expensive cities your new home, personal finance becomes a top priority. In this section, we cover the fundamentals of managing your money, from opening a bank account in Singapore to the best banks for expats.

Getting a bank account might not be as straightforward as you’d think. You’ll need to provide a lot of paperwork and as well as the normal ID documents, such as passport, visa, and proof of address, and you may be asked for letters from your employer or home bank. Once you have an account, there are many different payment methods, including several cashless payment methods like NETS. Whichever account you choose, a credit card is a Singaporean essential. This section also covers Singaporean tax rates and the tax system.

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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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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

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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InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
11 February 2019