Immigration and Employment Pass Procedures
By Lim Yan Wen

Foreigners who wish to live and work long-term in Singapore will find the immigration procedures relatively straightforward and easy to follow.

With the intense global competition for talent today, Singapore is opening her arms to foreigners from any background, as long as you possess the right skills, experience, qualifications and personality, and are interested in contributing to Singapore's economy.

But before we can discuss job opportunities, we need to first consider the immigration procedures. There is a lot to do, but you will find the process relatively easy to follow when compared to many other countries.

Firstly, let us discuss the type of work pass you need to apply for.

Type of Work Pass

Appropriate For

Employment Pass (EP)
(P & Q Pass)

Foreign professionals, managers, executives and specialists. Applicants will be assessed based on their salary, qualifications, work experience and nature of job, and other factors. EP applicants must earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,500. There are three categories of EP: the P1, P2 and Q Pass. They differ in the amount of salary earned and types of jobs. EP holders qualify for dependant privileges

S Pass

Middle-level skilled applicants. S Pass applicants are assessed using a points system that takes into consideration their salary, qualifications, skills, work experience and job type. S Pass applicants must earn at least a fixed monthly salary of $1,800. S Pass holders who earn less than $2,500 per month are not allowed to bring in their dependants, such as spouses, children and other family members. But those paid more than $2,500 can apply for a Dependent's Pass for their family members.

Work Permit (WP)

Semi-skilled and unskilled foreign workers who do not qualify for S Passes. Work Permit holders are not eligible for dependant privileges. Work Permits are also issued to foreign domestic workers.

Training Employment Pass

Foreigners to undergo practical training attachment for jobs of professional, managerial, executive or specialist nature in Singapore. To qualify, applicants must have a fixed monthly salary of more than $2,500 or hold acceptable tertiary/ professional qualifications. For undergraduates,the training attachment must be a compulsory component of their curriculum from an acceptable institution. Companies may also bring in employees from their foreign offices or subsidiaries to Singapore for training purposes.

Training Work Permit (TWP)

Unskilled/semi-skilled foreign trainees undergoing training in Singapore for up to six months. Non-Malaysians on Social Visit Passes and those who earn more than $2,500 and/or hold acceptable tertiary/professional qualifications do not qualify for TWP.

Miscellaneous Work Pass

Foreigners who are involved in activities directly related to the organisation; religious worker giving talks; and foreign journalist, reporter or an accompanying crew member not supported/sponsored by any Singapore Government agency. This pass is valid for up to 60 days.

Work Permit (Performing Artiste)

Foreign artistes performing at any bar, discotheque, lounge, night club, pub, hotel, private club or restaurant.Valid for up to 6 months.

From 1 February 2008 onwards, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will cease to issue Professional Visits Passes (PVP) to foreigners working in Singapore on short-term assignments. In its place, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will introduce two new categories of passes for such purposes, namely the Miscellaneous Work Pass and the Work Permit (Performing Artiste).

In addition, MOM would continue to exempt foreigners currently exempted under the PVP scheme as well as those performing the two new short-term activities from having to obtain a Work Pass.

Get an Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate (EPEC) First
The first step in employment procedures would be to apply for an Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate (EPEC) when you are ready to come to Singapore.  This can only be done via MOM's website at http://epec.mom.gov.sg/epec/. You will be required to upload soft copies of your tertiary academic qualifications or your professional qualification transcripts, along with the personal particulars from your passport. You will also need to submit a passport-sized photo taken within the last three months.

The processing time is seven working days from the date of application. Applicants will be notified of their application status by email and you will not have to pay any administrative cost for EPEC applications.

Together with the EPEC you will still require an appropriate visa to enter Singapore; the visa to get will depend on the duration of your stay in Singapore. The EPEC will also grant you a Social Visit Pass (SVP) of up to 12 months; this will allow you sufficient time to secure a job in Singapore. If you feel the stipulated time is not adequate for your job search, you can apply for the extension of your Social Visit Pass at ICA. You can log on to the user-friendly ICA website at www.ica.gov.sg for more information on the application procedures and requirements for SVPs.

Next: Get the Employment Pass!
When you've managed to secure a job post in Singapore, proceed straight away to the Work Pass Division at the MOM. Here is where you'll apply for your Employment Pass (EP), the "golden ticket" that will enable you to work in Singapore for your soon-to-be employer.

EP applicants are required to submit supporting documents together with their applications. At this point, you'll need the support of your employer; he plays a part in getting you your employment pass. Additional documents and information must be presented on request. These are the documents you'll need to submit for your employment pass procedures:

  • Your Employment Pass application form
  • Authorised documents to verify that you are sponsored by a well-established Singapore-registered company (usually the employer). Ensure that these forms are affixed with the company's stamp/seal. The forms also have to bear the signatures of you and the representative (the sponsor).
  • A recent passport-sized photograph of yourself
  • A copy of your educational transcripts and past employment testimonials
  • A copy of the personal particulars page of your passport/travel document
  • For non-English certificates or documents, a copy of the original certificates/documents and the official English translation certified by the respective embassy must be submitted.
  • Business Profile/Instant Information/Registration papers that must be provided by your employer. Companies/businesses registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) must produce the Business Profile/Instant Information from ACRA. Companies/businesses or professional practices not registered with ACRA must produce registration papers from their respective professional bodies.

Staying in Singapore as a Permanent Resident
So far, we've covered the part on working in Singapore. What about staying for good? Some of you may decide to apply for a Singapore Permanent Residency (PR) status to stay in Singapore.

To become a PR, you'll have to obtain an Entry Permit, which is the application for Permanent Residency. According to the ICA, foreigners who hold the P, Q and S Pass are eligible to apply for PR status for a fee of S$100.

If your request is rejected, you can file for a Re-Entry Permit, but only a year later (S$10 per year). The process is longer, it may take up to three months. Conferral of PR status on an individual usually depends on his or her merits.

National Service
According to Singapore law, it is compulsory for all male Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) to serve two years of full-time National Service (NS), after which they are liable for reservist of 10 NS training cycles of up to 40 days a year, not necessarily consecutively. After that, they are called up for training for up to 3 days a year until the age of 40 or 50, depending on their rank. Main applicants (not dependant on anyone), who are granted permanent residency under the First Generation Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers (PTS) Scheme will be exempted from NS.

But NS-liable PRs who give up or lose their PR status without serving or completing NS will have an adverse impact on any application made by them in future, for instance, if they decide to work or study in Singapore. Male ex-Singapore Citizens and ex-Singapore Permanent Residents who are granted Singapore PR status are liable to be called up for NS regardless of the type of PR status they are granted.

Central Provident Fund Tax Reliefs & Savings
All Singaporeans and Permanent Residents aged 21 and above are obligated to contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF). This is an important scheme that will secure your future financially after retirement, or even before that, when you may need to spend on hospitalisation, housing, family insurance and asset management purposes.

Under the CPF scheme, contributions are made by both the employer and the employee into the account of the employee. There are some differences, however, in mandatory contributions for a PR. The contribution rates can be lowered in the first and second year of obtaining PR status, unless both the employer and employee prefer to contribute the full rates.

PRs who have not reached retirement age cannot withdraw the CPF funds, unless he or she gives up PR status and leaves Singapore for good. He or she has to settle all outstanding taxes before the PR status can be given up. Tax savings would be achieved because PRs will be allowed to deduct CPF contributions for tax purposes. Furthermore, the additional contributions made by the employer (which is mandatory) will supplement the PR's CPF account balance.

Are PRs eligible to buy a flat?
PRs are eligible to purchase only resale Housing & Development Board flats. If you intend to purchase a resale flat in Singapore, you can enquire directly with the HDB on your eligibility and any rules you may need to know.

Since 1973, the Singapore Government has imposed restrictions on foreign ownership of all private and residential property in Singapore. Such ownership is governed by the Residential Property Act, which balances between giving Singaporeans priority of buying and owning residential property at an affordable price and also attracting foreign talents. It allows PRs and foreign companies that make economic contributions to Singapore to purchase such properties for their business activities.

Based on the Residential Property Act, non-Singapore citizens are only allowed to buy residential property classified as condominiums or apartments in buildings that are at least six stories. Non-Singapore citizens wishing to buy landed property must apply to the Controller of Residential Property for permission. So PRs and foreigners who wish to own private property such as bungalows and terrace houses will have to apply to the Residential Property Act. You can download the application form at http://www.sla.gov.sg/htm/ser/ser0307.htm#d. You can submit the form together with the required supporting documents to the Land Dealings (Approval) Unit at Temasek Tower.

Termination of Employment with a Company
Unlike the situation in termination of employment of EP holders, an employer does not need to inform the authorities if a PR employee resigns from his or her job, as they may seek another job in Singapore.

If you are not a PR and choose to resign from a company, the employer may withhold the funds that are due to you for tax clearance purposes. Your funds will only be given to you upon approval from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).