Singapore introduces new COMPASS eligibility for Employment Pass

Singapore landscape

Singapore introduced its new points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for Employment Pass (EP) applicants on 1 September 2023. Designed to attract more highly skilled foreign nationals to live and work in Singapore, the new system will also apply to EP renewals from 1 September 2024.

The EP permit is issued to foreign executives, managers, or skilled professionals in Singapore. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), EP holders numbered 187,300 as of last December – representing about 13% of Singapore’s foreign workforce.

To ensure the quality of EP holders, eligibility is subject to a minimum qualifying monthly salary that is benchmarked to salaries of the top one-third of the local PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) workforce.

The minimum qualifying monthly salary for all sectors except financial services increases progressively from SGD5,000 at age 23 up to SGD10,500 at age 45 and above. For financial services, the minimum qualifying monthly salary rises from SGD5,500 at age 23 to up to SGD11,500 at age 45 and above.

These salary thresholds were applied to EP applicants from 1 September 2022 and to EP renewals from1 September 2023.

In addition to the EP qualifying salary requirements, the Singapore government has now introduced the new points-based COMPASS system. The aim is to improve the capacity of Singaporean businesses to select high-quality foreign professionals, while improving workforce diversity and building a strong local core.

The COMPASS programme will evaluate a candidate’s potential contribution to the local economy based on a set of individual and firm-related attributes. Points are earned if candidates or the hiring firm are assessed to meet or exceed expectations – 20 points if they ‘exceed expectations’, 10 points if they ‘meet expectations’ and 0 points if they fail to meet expectations.

Applicants are all scored on four foundational criteria:

  1. Salary – All applicants must meet the EP qualifying salary requirement (as set out above). COMPASS further accounts for sectoral differences in salary norms. An application earns points by meeting the sector-specific, age-adjusted benchmarks for PMET salaries by percentile.
  2. Qualifications – 20 points for a qualification from a top-tier institution, 10 points for a degree-equivalent qualification. Employers are responsible for ensuring that a candidate’s qualifications are genuine and were awarded by accredited institutions. Qualifications are not a mandatory requirement and candidates who do not hold degree-equivalent qualifications can still earn sufficient points under other criteria.
  3. Diversity – COMPASS awards more points to applications where the nationality of the candidate forms a small proportion (20 points if less that 5%, 10 points if between 5 and 25%) of the hiring firm’s PMET employees (all employees earning at least SGD3,000 per month). No points are earned if the candidate’s nationality forms more than or equal to 25% of the hiring firm’s PMET employees.
  4. Support for local employment – An application earns more points if the hiring form has a relatively high share of Singaporean nationals amongst its PMET employees compared to its peers in the same subsector (20 points within the 50th percentile, 10 points between the 50th and 20th percentile, and 0 points below the 20th percentile)

To qualify for an EP, candidates need to score at least 40 points in total. However, candidates can also earn additional points against two ‘bonus’ criteria:

  • Skills Shortage – To address skills shortage, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has drawn up a Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which currently includes 27 occupations grouped under six sectoral headings – Agritech, Financial Services, Green Economy, Healthcare, Infocomm Technology and Maritime.EP applicants filling an occupation on SOL can earn up to 20 COMPASS bonus points. This is reduced to 10 points if the candidate’s nationality forms one-third or higher of a hiring form’s PMET employees. The SOL will be reviewed every three years, but MOM can add or remove occupations annually where market conditions require.
  • Strategic Economic Priorities – This bonus recognises firms undertaking ambitious investment, innovation, internationalism or company of workforce transformation activities. Firms receiving the SEP bonus will be awarded 10 bonus points on COMPASS for each EP application submitted.Firms must be supported by sector agencies or the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to qualify for the SEP Bonus. To be considered, firms must participate in one of the eligible programmes run by agencies and demonstrate commitment to developing the local workforce. These include the Research and Innovation Scheme for Companies by the Economic Development Board, Scale-Up SG by Enterprise Singapore, and SG:D Spark by the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

    Progressive firms committed to working with the Labour Movement to strengthen local workforce development through NTUC’s Company Training Committees (CTCs) can also qualify for SEP Bonus.

COMPASS is designed to be a transparent system that gives businesses greater clarity and certainty for manpower planning. Employers and employment agents can use MOM’s enhanced Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) to check a candidate’s eligibility before they apply.

Candidates that fulfil any of the following conditions will be exempted from COMPASS:

  • Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD20,000.
  • Applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement to which Singapore is a party.
  • Filling a role on a short-term basis of one month or less.

“As Singapore moves to capture new economic opportunities, firms will require access to skilled talent to fill these jobs,” the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement. It said the demand for skilled roles would have to be met by foreign workers given that the local workforce was limited and global competition for talent was intensifying.

Successful candidates will also need to meet vaccination requirements to get their pass issued. Employers must also continue to meet the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement before submitting new EP applications.

Need support with Singapore immigration matters? Click below to get in touch with Jelli Abdul Razak

Contact Jelli Abdul Razak
Get in Touch

Please contact us if you have any questions or queries and your local representative will be in touch with you as soon as possible.