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Relocating to Singapore

All you need to know about relocating your household goods and pets

Transporting your household goods, getting your vaccinations, getting through Singaporean customs: there are lots of things to think about when you’re planning to relocate to Singapore. Our guide covers everything you need to think about to make sure that your expat life in Singapore gets off to a great 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!

When figuring out how to relocate to Singapore, the key is to be well prepared. This relocation guide is all about the steps you need to take when planning your relocation to make sure the move goes smoothly.

Our guide looks at some of the notoriously strict Singaporean customs restrictions, including the items to leave behind. We also cover the documentation you’ll need to provide to make sure you don’t have to pay import taxes on your personal items.

For those relocating with pets, we outline how to get an import license from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and how much time to allow. As well as getting your paperwork in order, head to the health article for information on the essential and optional vaccinations to get before moving to Singapore.

Moving and shipping household goods

Transferring Your Household Goods

If you are going to stay in Singapore for a longer stretch of time, it might be a good idea to have your personal effects, household goods, and other articles shipped to your new place of residence if you do not want to stay in a furnished apartment or spend lots of money on new furniture. Since it is quite common for people to bring their household items when moving to Singapore, the process is rather straightforward from a customs point of view.

You have to make sure that you document each and every item you have shipped to you in the correct manner so as to avoid having to pay GST for them. As a general rule, the items cannot be brand new: they need to have been in your possession for at least three months before you have them sent over. On the flipside, these items cannot be too worn down, either. Hence, you have to declare that you do not intend to dispose of the items within three months of importation. Furthermore, the GST relief is only granted if you transfer your belongings no later than six months after arrival in Singapore.

Once your belongings arrive in Singapore via air, ship, or road, you have to submit a so-called Declaration of Facts with the local freight forwarding agent. The declaration can be filled out and completed online at the Singapore Customs website. Make sure to hand in the following documents in addition to the declaration:

  • Extract of passport particulars
  • Employment Pass
  • Entry permit
  • Air waybill

Only after all of the above have been handed in to Singapore Customs (either personally or by fax to 6250-9606) the Customs In-Non-Payment (GST Relief) declaration can be submitted. Make sure to follow all of these steps so as to not have to deal with any GST payments. If everything is in order, you can pick up your belongings after you have obtained the GST relief permit.

Please keep in mind that there is a wide array of controlled goods. These include, among many others, meat, fruit, pharmaceuticals, weapons (also of the decorative kind), and radio communication equipment (such as walkie-talkies or ham radios). Before being able to import them to Singapore, you have to acquire a permit from the appropriate authority on the matter. Singapore Customs offers an overview of controlled goods and the controlling authorities on their webpage.

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Vaccinations and health requirements for Singapore

Vaccinations for Singapore

When you prepare for your relocation to Southeast Asia, don’t forget to get the necessary vaccinations for Singapore. All tips concerning travel health in Singapore list booster shots for standard immunizations. These include DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), polio, influenza, and bacterial pneumonia. Other recommended vaccinations for Singapore — depending on the duration and intent of your stay — are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies.

Lastly, you may need a vaccination against yellow fever to enter Singapore. This is only necessary if you arrive from an official high-risk region. Please note that this requirement also applies if you spend twelve hours in transit at an airport located in such an area.

Take care to book your doctor’s appointments at least four to six weeks before your date of departure. Only then will your immunizations become fully effective. Moreover, talk to a doctor specializing in tropical medicine about travel health in Singapore.

Essential Items

When you start packing, you should make sure to prepare a little travel health kit for Singapore. Besides the usual sanitary and medical items (like sunblock, condoms, or aspirin), there are some things you really shouldn’t forget; many travelers and expats suffer from stomach complaints until they have settled in. Over-the-counter diarrhea medication is therefore a must. Furthermore, hand sanitizer can help you avoid some infectious diseases, especially hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

If you need to take any prescription medication, remember to pack a sufficient amount for your personal use. According to customs regulations, the prescription drugs should remain in their original packaging, complete with package insert. You should also have a doctor’s certificate in English confirming that you need them. Lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or the oil of lemon eucalyptus will protect you against mosquito bites. Unfortunately, insect-borne diseases are common in Singapore. For more information on medical supplies that would be useful in Singapore, go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Infectious Diseases

As mentioned above, mosquitoes are often carriers of more or less dangerous diseases in Singapore and neighboring states. While Singapore is a malaria-free zone, other mosquito-borne illnesses are the Chikungunya virus and Dengue fever. There is no medical prophylaxis. You need appropriate clothing, insect repellants, mosquito nets, window screens, and air-conditioning to protect yourself.

While Chikungunya is unpleasant, but mostly harmless, Dengue fever is a risk that people aware of travel health in Singapore should take seriously: in case of secondary infections, the illness can occasionally be fatal. So, when you notice any of the following symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible to check if it’s Dengue or a garden-variety flu: fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, mild bleeding, bruising, skin rashes, pain behind your eyes, nausea, and throwing up.

Speaking of flu, there have only been a few cases of aggressive flu viruses among humans or animals in Singapore since 2004, so you do not have to worry about the bird flu. However, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a pretty common travel health concern in Singapore. It’s transmitted by smear infection. You should therefore wash your hands properly and frequently, in addition to using sanitary wipes or disinfectant.

Please be aware that medical professionals are legally required to notify the public authorities of most infectious diseases, like Dengue or HIV/AIDS. This will happen even without your consent. In case of a potential pandemic, residents can be subject to screening measures or quarantine, too.

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Moving with pets

Bringing Your Pets

The import of pets is unsurprisingly also controlled in Singapore. In order to legally bring your furry or feathered friends to the Lion City, you have to obtain an import license from the Agri-Food and Veterinarian Authority (AVA) at least 30 days before the arrival of the animal. You can license your pet on the AVA’s website, which will cost around 50 SGD.

Keep in mind that you must have been the owner of the pet for at least three months before you apply to have it shipped to Singapore. Furthermore, there are various veterinary conditions and quarantine requirements for the import of dogs and cats, categorized by the rabies risk in the country of origin. Please see the website of the AVA for all details on these quarantine requirements. The categories are:

  • A: Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom
  • B: Cayman Islands, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, USA (Guam and Hawaii only)
  • C: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, United States of America (except Guam and Hawaii)
  • D: all remaining countries not listed in categories A, B, or C

Importing Your Car

Some expats might even have the idea of importing their vehicle to Singapore. However, this step is both highly unnecessary — local public transport is of excellent quality and availability — and extremely costly. You can expect to pay your car’s net worth multiple times over. If this fact was not enough to deter you, see this detailed page on the matter, provided by Singapore Customs, and read our article about driving and traffic in Singapore.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: April 05, 2019

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