#A Singapore Employment Pass (EP) is a renewable work visa designed for managers, executives, specialists and other skilled professionals who wish to live and work in Singapore. There are no official quota limits for issuing EPs, so the application should be straightforward.
When you have incorporated a company in Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) allows you to apply for an EP, enabling you to relocate to Singapore to run company operations. Sovereign can assist in obtaining EPs for you and your staff. Additional HR services such as drafting business plans or employment contracts are also available upon request.
Eligibility for Employment Pass
Only eligible candidates will be considered for an EP. Criteria include earning a salary of at least SGD5,000 per month, which is benchmarked against the top one-third of the local professional, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) salaries by age.
Who is eligible?
Application for an EP is open to all nationalities. It is for foreign professionals who:
- Have a job offer in Singapore.
- Work in a managerial, executive or specialised job.
- Have acceptable qualifications, usually a good university degree, professional qualifications or specialised skills.
- Earn a fixed monthly salary comparable to the top one-third of the local PMET workforce by age, as shown below:
Applicants will be asked to provide details of qualifications and work experience when submitting a candidate’s work pass applications. Only qualifications from accredited institutions will be accepted.
Other factors that may also influence the success of an EP application include the candidate’s nationality, the type of position, the type of sector or industry, or the maturity of the company.
Self-Assessment Tool (SAT)
To get an indication of whether a candidate meets the Employment Pass requirements, sponsors and/or candidates are encouraged to use the Self-Assessment Tool (SA).
If the SAT shows that the candidate is not eligible, the EP application will be rejected. If the SAT shows that the candidate is eligible, there is about a 90% chance that the candidate will get an EP.
Who can apply?
An employer or authorised third party is required to apply for a candidate’s EP. Employers making EP applications must first advertise on MyCareersFuture and fairly consider all candidates.
Overseas employers that do not have a registered office in Singapore are required to get a Singapore-registered company to act as a local sponsor and submit the EP application. Sovereign Management Services in Singapore can act as your local sponsor.
The duration of the EP is for up to two years for first-time candidates and up to three years for renewals. Certain experienced tech professionals with skills in shortage may further be eligible for a longer five-year duration pass.
If you are an EP holder, you can apply to be a Singapore permanent resident (PR) through the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA). The application will be assessed according to the ICA’s PR criteria.
Spouses and children of EP holders can apply for a family visa known as a Dependent’s Pass (DP) during or after the approval of the EP, provided the EP holder is earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of SGD6,000 and is sponsored by an established, Singapore-registered company. DPs are approved automatically once the EP application is approved and expire at the same time as the EP.
Common-law spouses, unmarried handicapped children above the age of 21, and unmarried stepchildren under the age of 21 of EP holders can apply for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP), provided the EP holder is earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of SGD6,000 and is sponsored by an established, Singapore-registered company. LTVPs are approved automatically once an EP application is approved and expire at the same time as the EP.
Parents of successful EP holders can also apply for the LTVP, but the EP holder is required to earn a minimum fixed monthly salary of SGD12,000 per month to qualify.
DP and LTVP holders are permitted to work in Singapore but must first receive a job offer in Singapore. Their prospective employer must then apply for an EP, ‘S Pass’ or Work Permit on their behalf and they will have to meet all the relevant application criteria.
Additional EP eligibility criteria
As from 1 September 2023, in addition to meeting the qualifying salary, EP candidates will further be required to pass a points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). This also applies to renewals from 1 September 2024
COMPASS evaluates EP applications based on a set of individual and firm-related attributes. An application is scored on four ‘foundational criteria’ and two ‘bonus criteria’, with applicants earning points if they meet or exceed expectations in these areas.
- Salary (Individual) – Fixed monthly salary compared to local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) salaries in sector by age
- Qualification (Individual) – Based on candidate’s qualifications
- Diversity (Firm-related) ¬– Share of candidate’s nationality among firm’s PMETs.
- Support for local employment (Firm-related) – Firm’s share of local PMETs within its subsector
- Skills Bonus (Individual) – Jon on the Shortage Occupation List
- Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Firm-related) – Firm meets specific assessment criteria on innovation or internationalisation activities
Candidates require 40 points to pass COMPASS, so that applications that meet expectations (earn 10 points) on all four foundational criteria will pass. If they fail, applications can make up the required points by exceeding expectations on another criterion or by scoring bonus points.
Candidates are exempted from COMPASS if they fufill any of these conditions:
- Earn at least SGD22,500 fixed monthly salary (equivalent to the prevailing Fair Consideration Framework job advertising exemption from 1 September 2023).
- Apply as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to
- Fill a role on a short-term basis (one month or less)
Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions
The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a manadatory savings and pension plan for working Singaporeans and permanent residents primarily to fund their retirement, healthcare and housing needs in Singapore.
Singapore employers are required to pay CPF contributions for all employees who earn total wages of more than SGD50 per month. Singapore employees earning more than SGD500 per month are also required to pay CPF contributions.
Different CFP rates apply to different age groups and different wage bands, ranging from 37% of the total wage (17% by employer and 20% by employee) for employees aged 55 years and below to 12.5%
(7.5% by employer and 5% by employee) for employees aged over 70 years.
Singapore employers are exempted from paying CPF contributions for foreign workers – persons who are neither Singapore Citizens nor Singapore Permanent Residents. Foreign employees are also exempted from the CFP requirement. Singapore employers are further exempted from paying the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL), which is used to regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore, in respect of EP holders.
EP application procedure
The Singapore employer or its appointed employment agent (EA) will typically apply to MOM for your EP on your behalf. If you are incorporating a company in Singapore, the company must be incorporated before you can apply for the EP. You will need a Singapore resident director, at least on a temporary basis until your EP is approved. Sovereign Management Services will provide local director services in Singapore.
You can apply for an EP as a company shareholder if you own fewer than 30% of the company’s shares and/or your company has neen registered for more than six months. If you hold more than 30% shares and/or your company is less than six-months old, you would typically apply for an Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) instead.
If you are an overseas company without a Singapore-registered office, you will need to get Sovereign Management Services to submit the application as your local sponsor.
Applicants will need to supply scanned copies of documents such as resumé, educational certificates and passport. The processing time generally takes about three weeks. MOM should provide an update within 10 business days. For an overseas company without a Singapore-registered office, an EP application will generally be processed within eight weeks.
If approved, MOM will send an In-Principle-Approval (IPA) letter to the registered address of the Singapore employer or its appointed employment agent (EA). The IPA letter is valid for six months from the date of issue.
To collect the EP, you will need to visit MOM and present a copy of the IPA letter, your passport, appointment letter, employment letter and any other documents that may be requested in the IPA letter, include biometric or photographic identifications.
The IPA letter may further require applicants to undergo a medical examination and produce the report when the EP is collected. A medical examination can be undertaken in an approved medical facility in the applicant’s home country, or on arrival in Singapore.
If required, a one-time entry visa will be issued to enable the applicant to enter Singapore to collect the EP. If DPs or LTVPs for family members were also applied for, these can be collected at the same time.
If an EP application is rejected, Sovereign can work closely with MOM to address the reasons for the rejection and, when appropriate, assist in submitting an appeal. Appeals are generally processed by MOM within eight weeks.
The Tech@SG Programme
The Tech@SG Programme is an EP facilitation scheme to help fast-growing tech companies hire critical core team talent to grow and scale their business in Singapore and the region. The benefits include company-level endorsement to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), reducing the risks of rejections for the company’s Employment Pass (EP) applications. Eligible companies can expect to receive:
- Up to 10 new EPs over two years, for foreign employees who will be hired in senior roles as part of your company’s core team in Singapore
- Coverage for the first renewal of EPs.
A qualifying company must:
- Be an incorporated entity in Singapore with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
- Have a digital/technology offering as its core business
- Have secured USD10million (cumulative) or more in Venture Capital (VC) funding in the past 36 months
- Have received funding from a Programme-Recognised Investment Firm (PRIF) in the past 36 months.
The programme is jointly administered by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).
- Companies with more than 30% Singaporean shareholding should submit a Tech@SG application via the ESG.
- Companies with less than 30% Singaporean shareholding should submit a Tech@SG application via the EDB.
If your company qualifies for Tech@SG, you must also ensure that the individuals for whom you are applying meet all the EP requirements.
Sovereign EP services
Sovereign Management Services can assist entrepreneurs and foreign companies with all aspects of setting up operations in Singapore, including assistance with EP or EntrePass applications, as well as providing ongoing administration and business support services.
Managing payroll functions in Singapore can be complicated and resource intensive. Depending on an employee’s residency status, the rules can vary in respect of contributions to the CPF, maternity pay, leave, income tax, Foreign Workers Levy, Skills Development Levy, as well as withholding taxes. Sovereign can provide a comprehensive, flexible outsourced Singapore payroll service tailored to each client’s specific requirements.