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Visas & Work Permits in Singapore
The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements
With many different Singapore visa types to understand, knowing which one to apply for can be hard. This section covers the difference between visas and work permits in Singapore, which one you should apply for as a highly skilled worker, and the process for becoming a permanent resident.
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Before you can head off to start your new expat life, you’ll need to apply for a Singaporean visa. As the visa requirements in Singapore are mostly based on salary, the visa application process can be simpler than other countries.
As well as Employment Passes, we also discuss work visas. Although the salary requirements are lower, there is an immigration point system in Singapore for this visa category. Be aware that whether or not you can bring your spouse or dependents also depends on your visa category and your income. We cover the thresholds for both as well as basic information such as Singapore visa fees.
For entrepreneurial expats, we also talk about the EntrePass, a special visa for people looking to start a business in Singapore.
Permanent Residence Visa
- Permanent Residents of Singapore are eligible for a number of benefits including lower educational fees, lower fees at public clinics, and the option to purchase public housing.
- Expats can apply for permanent residency in Singapore under the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS) as soon as they acquire their work pass.
- With the Global Investor Programme, investors and entrepreneurs can also apply.
While many expats are perfectly content with the options and possibilities the various work passes for Singapore offer them (see our article on work permits in Singapore for a detailed overview of the requirements and application processes), there is a large number of foreigners, particularly those who can see themselves making the Lion City their long-term home, who opt for permanent residency in Singapore.
There are a number of reasons why becoming a permanent resident, or PR for short, is often a good idea. Permanent residency in Singapore comes with a number of benefits that “regular” expatriates do not enjoy, for example lower charges at government–subsidized clinics, lower schooling fees for PR children, the possibility of buying public housing flats from the Housing Development Board, and participation in the Central Provident Fund (the social security system), to name a few.
The most interesting benefits of permanent residency in Singapore for expats include the heightened flexibility PRs enjoy on the job market in comparison to work pass holders, and being eligible to live and work in the city-state for at least five years.
Who is Eligible for Permanent Residency in Singapore?
In contrast to many other nations which require foreigners interested in becoming permanent residents to have spent a certain number of years working in the country, expats can apply for permanent residency in Singapore under the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS) pretty much as soon as they acquire their P, Q, or S Work Pass. Investors and entrepreneurs are eligible as well, under the Global Investor Programme.
Submitting an application is of course not a guarantee for successfully gaining permanent residency in Singapore. Each application is considered on its own merit — looking for a Singaporean citizen or company to sponsor your application will not offer much in the way of help.
The application process is rather straightforward. All you have to do to apply for permanent residency in Singapore is to submit two sets of the completed application Form 4A (one original and one photocopy), along with a number of additional supporting documents. A list of these documents can be found in the explanatory notes to Form 4A. They include, among others:
- recent passport-sized photograph
- valid travel document
- identity card (if applicable)
- work pass
- educational and professional certificates, including two copies of your degree or diploma
- birth certificate
- testimonials from your previous employer stating the nature, duration, and compensation of employment
- payslips for the last six months
- income tax notices of assessment for the last three years
There are a number of further requirements which apply if you want to include your spouse and children in your application (see below).
All of the above documents have to be presented in original and copy. If any of the documents are not in English, you are required to have them officially translated before you can hand them in. All your original documents will be returned to you after sighting. If you are not able to produce any of the required documents, you need to provide a written explanation for their absence.
The requirements for the application under the GIP scheme are very different from those of the PTS scheme. For more details on the GIP, including a general overview on the matter, please see the factsheet provided by Contact Singapore.
Handing in Your Application
Note that you can only submit your application in person. Submissions by post will not be accepted by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. To make an appointment to hand in your submission, you can use the online services offered on the ICA website. Your first step towards permanent residency in Singapore begins at:
Permanent Resident Services Centre
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority
ICA Building, 5th floor
10 Kallang Road
If you arrive by MRT, Lavender Station is your stop. Punctuality is highly valued here. Also, be sure to bring all required documents at the time of submission, as your application may otherwise be rejected at the counter.
National Service for PR Children
If you decide to include your spouse or children under the age of 21 in your application for permanent residency in Singapore, keep in mind that your son(s) will most probably be liable for registration and enlistment in the National Service (NS). Registration is mandatory at the age of 16 ½, and enlistment will be scheduled for the earliest possible date after their 18th birthday.
If your child is studying full time, they may be allowed to first complete their studies under certain circumstances. Apart from this minimal flexibility, every permanent resident who is liable for NS is expected to complete it.
Application from Overseas
If you decide that permanent residency in Singapore is the most appropriate option for your expat adventure in Singapore, then you can also hand in your application to the Singaporean Mission in your country of origin. The requirements of the application remain the same. For example, you will still need the appropriate working pass — even if you do not actually make use of it — except for the application for permanent residency in Singapore.
Seeing how the matter of becoming a Singaporean citizen might be appealing to a fraction of the expatriate community, but is probably not a viable option for the vast majority of expats, we will not cover the topic in detail here.
If you should, however, decide that you would like to become a citizen of the city-state after all, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority is happy to help with any information you might need. As a general rule, you should have been a permanent resident of Singapore for at least two to six years prior to applying for naturalization.
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Work Permit Visa
- Work permits in Singapore are determined mostly by your monthly salary.
- Employment Passes are for expats in managerial or executive positions, as well as foreign applicants working in specialized jobs.
- Your future employer or a sponsor is usually responsible for submitting your Employment Pass application.
There are different types of work permits for Singapore, which apply to different purposes and durations of your stay. Your monthly salary determines which type of Employment Pass or work permit for Singapore you need. Generally speaking, Employment Passes apply to those who earn at least 3,300 SGD per month, and work visas are designed for workers with a lower income.
Every foreign resident must secure a work permit for Singapore before taking up employment there. This is also in the interest of your future employers, as they could face hefty fines for employing expats who are not in possession of a proper work permit for Singapore.
According to the Employment Act, the minimum age for foreign employees is 18 years. But there is also a maximum age for expats who wish to apply for a work permit for Singapore. Malaysian expats must be below 58 years of age, while other expatriates must not be older than 50 years at the time of application.
But most of the responsibility lies with the employers. They have to pay the Foreign Worker Levy, arrange for medical examinations, provide upkeep, maintenance and eventual repatriation, and much more.
Different Types of Work Permits
As mentioned above, there are different types of work permits for Singapore. Employment Passes, for instance, are the right choice for expats in managerial or executive positions, and foreign nationals working in specialized jobs. Other passes allow you start a new business in Singapore.
Employment Pass (EP)
Any foreign national who wants to work in a higher position or has a suitable job offer from a company in Singapore needs to secure an Employment Pass (EP). Employment Passes are divided into four different categories:
- P1 Employment Pass for expats with a fixed monthly salary of 8,000 SGD
- P2 Employment Pass for expats with a fixed monthly salary of 4,500 SGD
- Q1 Employment Pass for young graduates with a minimum income of 3,300 SGD and older applicants with higher monthly salaries and considerable work experience
- S Employment Pass for expats with mid-level technical skills and a fixed monthly salary of at least 2,200 SGD a month
You can use the Self-Assessment Tool of the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore to find out if you qualify for an Employment Pass and which type of pass you need. Keep in mind, though, that this does not automatically guarantee an approval of your application. Your employer has to submit your application for a work permit for Singapore. If you are hired by a company which is located overseas, a company which is based in Singapore has to act as a sponsor.
As an Employment Pass holder, you are eligible to apply for a Dependent’s Pass or a Long Term Visit Pass for your children and your spouse. But remember that you need to submit a separate application for each of your family members.
Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)
Expats can also apply for a special work permit for Singapore: the Personalized Employment Pass (PEP). They are eligible if their last fixed monthly salary overseas was at least 18,000 SGD or if they hold a P1 Pass and make at least 12,000 SGD per month.
Since December 2012, the minimum annual salary has increased from 34,000 SGD to 144,000 SGD. The Personalized Employment Pass is now only valid for three years, instead of five. With the new requirements, Singapore’s government is making sure that the PEP is exclusively available to top-tier foreign professionals. The goal is to raise the quality of Singapore’s Employment Pass holders.
Keep in mind that there are restrictions when it comes to work permits for Singapore. You cannot apply for a PEP if you
- have received an Employment Pass under the Sponsorship Scheme;
- want to work on a free-lance basis without a direct employer;
- are working as a journalist, editor, sub-editor, or producer;
- are listed as “Director”, “Partner”, or “Sole-Proprietor” in a business registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
Unlike other work permits for Singapore, the PEP allows you to work in any sector without reapplying when changing jobs. If you lose or quit your current job, you have six months to find a new employer. The PEP can be issued only once and is not renewable.
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