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“Which Work Pass Do I Need?” An Overview of Main Work Permits in Singapore

Singapore’s central location, thriving economy, precise business policies, and focus on innovation are just some of the several reasons why working professionals and experienced entrepreneurs around the world are attracted to stay in this city-state for good. It is now established as the focal point of Asia’s premier commercial and business undertakings. Singapore is also known for the diversity of its workforce, with global talent shown in every company. Various work permit schemes have been set in the country for its foreign workers.

This guide will run through a brief summary of the three main work passes and permits available in Singapore. In case foreigners decide to work in the country, a valid pass is needed before starting a new job. These are the Employment Pass, S Pass, and Work Permit for Foreign Workers. Each permit is mandatory and mainly classified based on job level and salary. First off, a job offer in Singapore should be secured in order to qualify for any of the work permit schemes.

The Employment Pass (EP) is for professional staff, executives, and company owners with a college degree earned from a reputable university. Those who are qualified for this scheme should have a job offer in a specialized or management level with a fixed monthly income of at least SGD 3,300. Professionals with greater experience should have a higher income in order to qualify, as the minimum amount can only be considered for fresh graduates of globally recognized institutions. EP is valid for 1-2 years during first time application and renewable for up to three years validity. The foreign worker’s immediate family member can also apply for a Dependent’s Pass (DP), a family visa if the EP holder has, at least, SGD 5,000 monthly income. The minimum salary requirement has just been increased by the Ministry of Manpower. The new limit, SGD 1000 higher than the previous, was applied last September 1, 2015, as declared in the official website. Foreign entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a business in Singapore and operating it personally in the city-state are also required to apply for an EP.

This family visa is for the relocation of an EP holder’s spouse and unmarried children below 21 years of age. The DP can be filed and approved together with the EP as their status is tied together, and they have the same issuance and expiry date. The EP also makes the expat eligible for application of permanent residency in due course. A company can file for any number of EPs for its employees since this pass has no quota.

The S Pass is for mid-level technical workers who earn at least SGD 2,200 every month and have technical certificates with at least one year of full-time study. It is similar to the EP’s validity, renewal, and eligibility for a DP application. However, unlike the EP, an S Pass holder’s employer is required to provide medical insurance to the staff and can only have at most 15% of the company’s total workforce if it’s in the services sector or 20% in others. This quota helps regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore. If the company needs to go over its quote for S Pass workers, then a monthly levy must be paid for them.

The Work Permit for Foreign Worker is for semi-skilled foreign staff in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process, and services sectors. There is no required minimum monthly income in order to qualify, but each sector has its own work permit requisites such as the source country, quota, and levy to name a few. The quota and levy are based on the ratio of full-time locals to work permit holders. For example, the limit for the construction sector is capped as seven work permit holders per one full-time local staff. There are also course requirements depending on the sector in order to be eligible for this permit. Similar to the S Pass, the employer needs to grant the staff medical cover for eligibility. This permit’s validity is up to two years as well but depends on other factors such as passport, security bond, and employment period. Unlike the previous permit holders, the foreign worker with this pass is not allowed to apply for a family visa or DP.

Foreign workers should not file their own application for work permit. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower requires that only the employer itself or an appointed employment agent should process the application of these work permits before the expat arrives in the country. The official website for passes and permits contains the comprehensive guide for each type of Singapore work visa.