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A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in Singapore

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So, you are  looking to  apply for a Singapore visa. For most people, this is  a fairly straightforward task. Your company, or an agent you give permission to, can take care of the application process for you. There is no  immigration points system  for workers in Singapore, and visas usually allow you to bring dependent family members to the city-state.

To be  granted  permanent residence (or green card)—and  to receive  the benefits that come with it—is a different story. This involves being in Singapore for at least two years. We explore this in more detail below.

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Work Permits and Employment Based Visas

Foreigners relocating to Singapore need an employment visa (or work permit) rather than a business visa to legally take up employment in the Lion City. Luckily, there are a wide range of work visas and permits to explore. These passes are typically only valid for two years and holding one does not make you a permanent resident.

Singapore Work Visa Requirements

In general, to be eligible for a Singapore work visa all employees must:

• hold a valid passport; • be at least 18 years of age; • be qualified for the role (with supporting documents from accredited institutions); • only work within the scope of their role.

All employees must ensure that they have a relevant work visa. If you are moving with a company, that company should be able to help with this. If they do not, then skilled expats will usually need one of the following visas:

Employment Pass: For foreign professionals, managers, and executives who will earn at least 3,600 SGD (2,600 USD) per month and have relevant qualifications. Valid for up to two years. • S Pass: For mid-level skilled staff who will earn least 2,400 SGD (1,700 USD) per month and meet the assessment criteria. Valid for up to two years.

Specific work permits are also available for employees in the entertainment, construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, or services sectors.

Singapore Work Visa Cost

Visa Cost SGD Cost USD Employment Pass 230 165 S Pass 175 125

Singapore Work Visa Application Form

Companies need to apply for employment passes on the employee’s behalf. You should be aware that your employer might engage an employment agent to help with the process.

Overseas employers need to ask a Singapore-based company to act as a local sponsor. The local sponsor will apply on the employee’s behalf.

The processes for getting an employment pass or S pass are similar.

Before an application is submitted for an employment or S pass, you will need to gather the following documents:

• written consent for your company or agent to apply on your behalf; • copy of the personal information page of your passport (with an explanation letter and supporting documents e.g. from deed poll, if the name on your passport is different from other documents); • your educational certificates verified by a global verification agency (if they are from an institution that is not listed on the application form).

Your company will be expected to supply its latest business profile or instant information as registered with Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

Once the application has been submitted, the processing time is usually three weeks for online applications and eight weeks for manual applications.

After Your Application

Your employer should receive an In Principal Approval (IPA) letter. You will receive a copy of this, and the employer has six months to bring you to Singapore to issue an employment pass, or only sixty days if you are applying for an S pass. You must be in Singapore to be issued with your pass.

Once you have arrived in Singapore to get your pass, there are a few things you need to provide:

• details of your current immigration pass and disembarkation/embarkation card; • a completed medical examination or health declaration form; • a residential address in Singapore that meets housing requirements.

Notification Letters

Once your employer has completed the necessary issuance steps and your pass has been granted, you will receive a notification letter. This is valid for one month, although validity can be extended. Having this letter means you can start work, as well as travel in and out of Singapore while you wait for your pass card.

The notification letter also lets employees know if they have to register their photo and fingerprints within two weeks of the pass being issued. This will be at a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Services Center. If you need to register, you should bring the following documents to your appointment:

• original passport; • appointment letter; • notification letter; • any documents listed in the IPA letter and notification letter.

If you do not need to register, the pass card should arrive within four days of submitting all the documents. If you do need to register, your card should arrive within four days of your registration.

Business Visa – EntrePass

If you are looking to start a new business in Singapore, you might qualify for an EntrePass. Created to attract innovation, workers with this pass do not need to find secure employment before applying, nor do they need to earn a minimum salary.

EntrePass Requirements

This pass has stringent criteria. Applicants must be either an entrepreneur, innovator, or investor. You can check your eligibility here, but we have also listed some criteria below.

• Entrepreneurs need to have raised over 100,000 SGD (72,000 USD) from a venture capitalist recognized by a Singapore Government Agency and/or have a proven track record of achievements and expertise in your business area. • Innovators must hold registered intellectual property and/or be collaborating with a research institute in Singapore. You can also have extraordinary expertise relating to your business. • Investors must have a proven investment track record. • The business you want to register must have a minimum of 50,000 SGD (36,000 USD) in capital. Applications must be before, or within six months of registering your business with ACRA.

Ineligible Businesses

• coffee shops, hawker centers, or food courts; • bars, night clubs, or karaoke lounges; • foot reflexology, massage parlors, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, or herbal dispensing businesses; • employment agencies; • geomancy business.

EntrePass and Dependents

You may not bring dependents on this pass until your business spends at least 100,000 SGD (72,000 USD) a year and has a minimum of three employees.

EntrePass Application Form and Process

You can download the application form for an EntrePass submission through the Ministry of Manpower website.

You must apply personally for an EntrePass by downloading and completing the application form. It must be printed off and signed before you submit the scan online. You will need to pay a 105 SGD (75 USD) fee to apply.

Alongside the form, you will need to submit a screenshot of the banking page confirming your payment as well as any supporting documents listed in the application form.

It will take about eight weeks to process the application. Once approved, you will receive an In Principal Approval (IPA) letter, which will give you six months to arrive in Singapore to issue the pass. You must be in Singapore to be issued the pass. This can be done online or over-the-counter.

At this point, you will need to pay an additional 225 SGD (160 USD) fee to get the pass issued. You also need to provide:

• details of your current immigration pass and disembarkation/embarkation card; • a completed medical examination form and details of medical insurance; • a residential address in Singapore that meets housing requirements.

Notification Letter

Once the pass is approved you will receive a notification letter that is valid for one month. It means you can start work as well as travel in and out of Singapore.

This notification letter also lets you know if you have to register your photo and fingerprints at a MOM Services Center within two weeks of the pass being issued. You should bring the following documents to your appointment:

• original passport; • appointment letter; • notification letter; • any documents listed in the IPA letter and notification letter.

If you do not need to register, the pass card should arrive within four days of submitting all the documents. If you do have to register, it should arrive by four days after the registration.

EntrePass Costs

Visa Cost SGD Cost USD EntrePass 330 235

Self-Employment Visas

As you cannot be self-employed in Singapore without being a permanent resident, there are no specific self-employment visas. This means that the main self-employed visa requirements are that you have an employment or S pass and have lived in the country for at least two years. The self-employment visa application forms, process and cost are the same as for employment and S pass, then.

Is Being Self-Employed Worth It in Singapore?

Due to the high costs of living in the country many people also find that it makes more sense to have a full-time job with part time freelance work on the side. However, Singapore business culture calls for long working days. It is worth ensuring your base salary is enough to cover all your costs as you may find that relying on freelance work to top up your income will substantially reduce your free time.

There are a few different options for permanent residents who want to set up a side business, including a specific scheme for small businesses run from home. You can learn more about this under “Home-Based Small Scale Businesses.”


None of the current work permits are suitable for applying to move to Singapore as a freelancer. This means that you cannot move to the country under a “self-employed” visa. It is also unlikely that most freelancers will fit the requirements to be able to work legally under the EntrePass route.

Permanent residents can  become freelancers relatively easily, however. To operate as a freelancer, you should:

  • check if you need a business license to operate;
  • decide if you want to set up a company (not necessary, but provides security over invoicing and so on);
  • network to create contacts and establish yourself.

In general, you do not need to register your services with the government to be able to work.  You will be expected to file a tax return and make any appropriate contributions to the Central Provident Fund.

If your freelancing work takes place entirely in other countries, and these companies have no activity in Singapore, you may not need a work permit. You will still need to file a personal income tax report, but any money earned outside of Singapore is not taxed by the Singapore government.  This might be useful for people who arrive in the nation on a  Dependent Pass, who  cannot work without permission from the Ministry of Manpower.

Beginning a Business

To set up a business in Singapore, you should first register your business at  Bizfile  and with the  Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority  (ACRA). If you want to find professionals to help guide you through the process, such as lawyers and accountants,  InterNations GO! can help you find the experts to suit your needs.

You should then set up your company within the ACRA regulations. After registering an ACRA approved company name, your company must have:

  • a minimum of one shareholder;
  • a minimum of one director, who must be a Singapore resident living in Singapore;
  • a company secretary, who must be a Singapore resident;
  • paid-up capital of at least 1 SGD (0.72 USD);
  • registered an address for physical office space.

After incorporation, you will have to follow certain regulations depending on your business. This can include obtaining licenses, registering your office hours, registering for Singapore customs goods and services tax, and registering with the Central Provident Fund.

You must also open a Singapore bank account. See our Banking and Taxes section for detailed information on how to do this.

Home-Based Small-Scale Businesses

The government provides a special scheme for  permanent  residents who live in houses provided by the Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB).  It is aimed at small-scale businesses such as bakeries or beauty services.

This scheme lets people use their home address as their business address when they register under ACRA, without seeking approval to create a business from the HDB. It was created to help workers supplement their income.

It costs only  20  SGD (14  USD) to register for five years. Foreign workers on work permits and employment passes  are  not  eligible  for the scheme.

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

If you are looking at staying in Singapore long term, you should know how to become a Singapore permanent resident. There is no need to apply for a temporary residence permit.

A residency permit is different from a work pass. Being a resident of Singapore offers you a wealth of opportunities that you would not have access to as a non-resident. Sometimes, this is literal: Singapore residents have access to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a mandatory savings scheme that offers you cheaper housing and a pension, among other benefits.

Tax Residency in Singapore

If you move to Singapore to work for anything longer than 183 days out of the year, you will become a resident for tax purposes. This is an automatic system that is in place in many countries across the world.  You can learn more about the Singapore tax system in our Banks and Taxes section.

That being said, being a tax resident does not automatically mean you are a resident of Singapore. Being a tax resident simply specifies the amount of tax you pay in the given tax year.

How to Get Permanent Residency in Singapore

If you wish to make Singapore your permanent home, and potentially become a citizen, your first step is to become a Singapore Permanent Resident.  This means you have the right to reside in Singapore on a permanent basis, even though you are not a citizen of the country.

 Singapore Permanent Resident Visa Requirements

There are certain criteria to meet before you can become a permanent resident. For instance, you must be one of the following:

  • holder of an employment pass or S pass for at least six months;
  • spouse or elderly parent of a Singapore citizen or permanent resident;
  • unmarried child below the age of 21 and born within a legal marriage between, or have been legally adopted by, a Singapore citizen or permanent resident;
  • foreign investor.

Keep in mind that getting permanent residency is  not quick. You should expect to wait at least six months to a year for everything to process.  We go through the steps on how to  upgrade your Singaporean work pass to permanent  residency below.

Anybody employed in Singapore for a period of more than  two years on either an employment or S pass can apply for permanent residency.  All applications are sent through the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), and should be completed online through the Electronic Permanent Residence (E-PR) system.

Note: when you are filling in the form, simply add NA to any boxes that are not applicable.

 Singapore Permanent Resident Application

The application requires one passport sized (35mm x 45mm) digital color photograph. This must be:

  • taken within the last three months;
  • against a plain white, matt, or semi-matt background;
  • full face, without headgear (unless you habitually wear headgear for religious or racial customs, in which case it cannot hide your facial features);
  • measuring 25mm to 35mm chin to crown;
  • JPEG image format.

Personal Documents Needed

  • valid travel documentation and passport pages showing personal particulars and official descriptions;
  • your employment or S pass;
  • identity card (if applicable);
  • your birth certificate or an official census showing both of your parents’ names;
  • highest educational certificates, transcripts, professional license/membership certificates, and vocational trade certificates.

Work Related Documents

  • testimonials from previous employer(s) stating the nature and duration of employment and the last drawn basic salary (if any);
  • pay slips for the last six months;
  • current employer’s letter stating the date of employment, position held, salary per month for the past six months with breakdown into basic, overtime and allowance per month, addressed to the Controller of Immigration and dated within one month from the date of submission;
  • IRAS consent form to give consent for ICA to obtain and verify financial information provided in respect of this application with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore directly.

Documents Relating to Marriage

  • official marriage certificate;
  • deed poll or change of name certificate (if applicable);
  • death certificate or divorce certificate in respect of your previous marriages (if any);
  • custody papers for the child(ren) in respect of your previous marriage(s) (if any);
  • spouse’s highest educational certificates, transcripts, professional license/membership certificates, and vocational trade certificates.

Permanent Resident Fees  in Singapore

Point in the Process Fee  SGD Fee USD Application fee 100 72 Entry Permit 20 14

Permanent Resident Benefits in Singapore

Becoming a Singapore permanent resident is popular. By 2018, there were over half a million permanent residents in the nation  of  around  5.75 million people.

One of the key benefits to becoming a permanent resident is greater freedom of movement for yourself and your family.  In reality,  this  means you gain  the ability to  leave, re-enter, and live in Singapore without having to apply for a new work pass. It also means you can change jobs without worrying about a work pass;  include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 as permanent residents;  and apply for long-stay visas for your parents.

Monetary and Welfare Incentives

These include access to:

  • subsidized housing through the Housing and Development Board (HDB);
  • subsidized healthcare and medical insurance;
  • the Central Provident Fund  (see our Banks and Taxes section for more details);
  • a higher priority for getting a  housing  loan  and ability to purchase HDB properties.

National Service

You can also obtain full Singapore citizenship if you are over the age of 21 and have been a permanent resident for two years.  However, it is worth noting that Singapore has a National Service. Under the Enlistment Act, male Singapore citizens and permanent residents  have to  register by the age of 16 and a half. At the age of 18, all males must serve two years of full-time national service plus an  additional 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service every year until they reach 40. If they are an officer, this is until the age of 50.

All male permanent residents are liable for national service,  including children who gain permanent residence through their parents. Only  people who join through the Investor scheme or the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers scheme  are excused from serving.

Family Visa: Singapore Spouse or  Fiancé  Visa Process

The spouse or fiancé(e) visa process for Singapore is simple, in that your other half can only obtain a Singaporean dependent visa if  they are  your  legally married spouse.  There is no fiancé(e) visa available.

If you are working in Singapore on an  employment or  S pass, and you have  a fixed monthly salary of at least 6,000  SGD (4,330  USD), your  legally married  spouse and  unmarried  children  (including legally adopted children) under the age of 21  are all eligible for a Dependent’s Pass.

Long-Term Visit Pass

With an employment visa you can also bring the following people to Singapore on long-term visit passes:

  • parents;
  • common-law spouse;
  • unmarried handicapped children over the age of 21;
  • unmarried  stepchildren  under 21.

Employers can submit applications for dependency visas that are linked to employment passes. This is relatively straightforward,  although the employment or S pass holder must earn  a minimum of  6,000  SGD (4,330  USD) per month at a Singapore-registered company  to be eligible.

Documents Needed for Dependent Visas

  • valid  travel document,  with valid Immigration Pass and passport pages showing personal  identification information and  official descriptions;
  • birth certificate showing both parents’ name;
  • deed poll or change of name certificate (if applicable);
  • identity card (if applicable);
  • death certificate or divorce certificate and the custody papers for the child(ren) in respect of your spouse’s previous marriage(s) (if any).

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