Working in Singapore: Getting A Work Visa

The island city-state of Singapore in Southeast Asia is a popular place for expats from all around the globe. The Singapore Government’s Ministry of Manpower estimates that there are over 110,000 expatriates and 7,000 multinational companies operating in the city.
With English as one of the official languages, it’s a good base for many British expats looking to work in the East. It’s also incredibly family friendly, and scored so highly in all areas in the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, that it was ranked the top expat destination in both 2016 and 2017.
Most British expatriates move to the country specifically for work, often as inter-company transfers or being headhunted by one of the many corporations in the region. It’s important for anyone intending to work in Singapore to ensure that they have the correct work visa before commencing any employment, and employers need to check that their foreign employees hold a valid pass.
Here are the main work passes and permits available for British expats.

Employment Pass

This is one of the most common work permits. It is for foreign professionals with a job offer in Singapore who meet the eligibility criteria, which includes a fixed monthly salary of at least $3,600. It is originally valid for two years, and can be renewed for three years at a time. The employer applies for this on behalf of the employee. Family passes can also be applied for once the Employment Pass is granted.

Personalised Employment Pass

This permit is for high-earners, including existing Employment Pass holders and overseas foreign professionals. The minimum salary requirements are higher ($12,000 a month for existing Employment Pass holders and $18,000 a month for overseas foreign professionals), and it can only be issued once for three years. The advantage is that it offers greater job flexibility; the candidate can apply for this permit themselves and can stay in Singapore for six months to secure work. After three years, an Employment Pass would be required.


This permit is specifically designed for those who wish to start and operate a new business in Singapore. It is only valid for one year and the candidate can apply for it themselves. It is renewable as long as the renewal criteria are met. Only eligible foreign entrepreneurs can apply, which includes at least $50,000 in paid-up capital in a Singapore-based company bank account and a minimum of 30% shares in the company.

S Pass

The S Pass is for mid-skilled technical workers with a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,200. It is valid for two years initially, but it can be renewed. The employer is responsible for applying for the permit, and it is not transferrable between jobs. Employers must also provide medical insurance and pay a levy for S pass employees.

Work Permit

The Work Permit is for semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or services sector. It needs to be applied for by the employer, and there is no minimum salary requirement. It is valid for up to two years, but there are other conditions that determine its length of validity, and it can be renewed. It doesn’t allow for family passes. Employers are required to provide medical insurance.
There are other types of work permits available, including passes and permits for family members who may also be relocating. See the full list of available visas on the Ministry of Manpower website.
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