Work Passes For Foreign Workers In Singapore

Overview Of Singapore Work Pass Schemes

Non-residents working in Singapore require a valid work pass issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). There are 2 broad categories of work pass differentiated by salary and skill level. For foreign professionals, the work permit schemes available to them are:-

  • Employment Pass (EP)
  • Entrepreneur Pass (Entrepass)
  • Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)

There is no restriction on number of foreign professionals under employment pass scheme that a company can hire. However, each application is assessed on its own merits and the MOM may reject an application without giving any specific reason. MOM is known to be more stringent in evaluating EP application recently, in line with its overall direction in raising the quality profile of the foreign workforce.

Comparison Of The Employment Passes For Foreign Professionals

  Employment Pass Personalized EP EntrePass
Who is it for? Foreign professionals who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$3,000 and have acceptable qualifications A premium pass for top-tier foreign talent Foreign entrepreneurs who would like to relocate to Singapore to start businesses in Singapore
Sponsor/ applicant Application by employer on behalf of a job candidate Self – not tied to a specific employer Self
Eligibility 3 classes by fixed monthly salary level:
P1 – S$8,000
P2 – S$4,500
Q1 – S$3,000
Besides salary requirement, P1 and P2 pass holders are required to possess acceptable qualifications. For Q1, young graduates from good institutions or older applicants with higher salaries and work experience / professional skill could qualify
  • Available to P1 EP holders who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000
  • Or overseas-based foreign professionals whose last drawn fixed monthly salary was at least S$18,000
  • Minimum fixed salary requirement of S$144,000 per annum
Business owners who are ready to set-up a new company or have recently incorporated a company that is less than 6-month old
Company must have at least S$50,000 paid-up capital
Applicant must hold at least 30% shares in the company
Business must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  1. Receives funding or investment from a recognized VC or accredited business angel
  2. Holds an IP registered with an approved national IP institution
  3. On-going research collaboration with a research institution recognized by A*STAR or Institutes of Higher Learning in Singapore
  4. Is an incubatee at a Singapore Government supported incubator
Validity 1-2 years and renewable as long as the applicant continues to be employed by the company 3-year and non-renewable Initially 1-year and renewable as long as the business remains viable and renewal conditions met.
Key Benefits Relative ease of application and less stringent requirement in getting approval from MOM, compared to PEP and Entrepass Job flexibility – need not reapply for a new pass when changing jobs
Allows holders to stay in Singapore without a job for up to 6-months while evaluating employment opportunities
Not tied to employment as it is intended for foreign business owners
Downsides Need to have a job offer in Singapore first. Employer is required to cancel EP when the foreign employee resigns. New employer needs to re-apply. In the case of retrenchment, employee may have to leave the country if he/she fail to find another job in Singapore Not allowed to start own company / business in Singapore.
Issued only once. Not renewable
Stringent qualifying conditions as mentioned above.
In addition, applicant must be prepared to hire at least 2 local employees and have a minimum business spending of S$100,000 within the first year.

For Mid-Level And Low Skilled Workers

The relevant pass for mid-level skilled foreign employees is “S” Pass. The monthly fixed monthly salary requirement for “S” Pass holder is a minimum of S$2,200. Besides salary, S Pass applications are assessed on other criteria including education qualifications, skills, job type and work experience. The last category of work pass for foreign workers is “Work Permit” (WP) for foreign workers at a lower salary level from an approved source country (depending on the industry sector).

There is restriction on the number of S-Pass and EP foreign workers that a company can hire based on a foreign to local worker ratio (quota). The foreign to local worker ratio differs by the organisation’s industry sector as shown in the table below.

Maximum Number Of Foreign Workers From 1 July 2013:

Industry Sector Foreign Worker Quota (% of total workforce) No. of Foreign Workers per local headcount
Construction 87.5% 7
Process 87.5% 7
Marine 83.3% 5
Manufacturing 60.0% 1.5
Service 40.0% 0.67

In addition, the number of S-Pass holders a company can employ is capped at a sub-Dependency Ceiling (sub-DC) of 15% of the company’s total workforce in the Services sector and 20% in all other sectors.

Employers of S-Pass and WP holders need to pay a Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) for each of such worker they employ. The amount of levy to be paid depends on the worker’s qualification (“skilled” or “unskilled”) and “dependency Ceiling” for certain sectors. The FWL currently ranges between S$300 and S$750 per worker per month.