Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is the Employment Pass. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

  • Work Pass: Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass: EP is for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialized jobs. S Pass is for mid-level skilled foreigners (e.g. technicians).
  • Training Employment Pass: For foreign students and trainees from overseas offices coming to Singapore for work placements.
  • Miscellaneous Work Pass: For short term assignments of up to sixty (60) days, including journalists and reporters.
  • Work Pass Exempt: For short term assignments of up to sixty (60) days, including employees organizing or conducting any seminar, conference, workshop, gathering or talk, and employees providing expertise or specialized skills that is not available in Singapore or is to be provided by the authorized service personnel of the manufacturer or supplier of the equipment. The maximum number of permitted days under the Work Pass Exempt category is ninety (90) per calendar year.
  • Personalised Employment Pass (PEP): Valid for three (3) years, non-renewable, allows qualified foreigner workers to work for any employer in Singapore during the validity period of the pass. As the PEP is granted on the strength of the holder’s individual merits and not tied to an employer, the PEP holder is free to change employers without having the need to obtain a new work pass.

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the Employment Pass (EP) application process. Approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in Singapore is three (3) to four (4) weeks. However, note that lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. See the Application Materials section below for further details. Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

Step One: Advertise the Role
Processing Time:
Fourteen (14) days

The employing company in Singapore must show that there is no one suitable for the role before offering it to a foreign worker. The position must therefore be advertised on Jobsbank (Singaporean government website) for at least fourteen (14) days. Exceptions to this requirement are if the employee is an Intra Company Transferee [with at least twelve (12) months of experience] coming to perform a managerial, executive or specialized role; being paid a salary of at least S$12,000 per month; or, the employing company has fewer than twenty-five (25) employees.

Step Two: In-Principle Approval
Processing Time:
Up to three (3) weeks

Our Singapore office is able to submit the online Employment Pass/Dependant Pass/Long Term Visit Pass (EP/DP/LTVP) application to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on the company’s behalf. The assignee can be in-country at the time of submission. The application takes up to three (3) weeks to be processed upon submission to the MOM. Once approved, an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter will be issued to the applicant and the Sponsor Company.

Do note that the MOM may take longer to process the application during peak periods or if the MOM needs to obtain further information from and verify the information with any person, organization, or any other source for assessing the application.

If the Sponsor Company in Singapore is newly set-up, the processing time can be between four (4) to six (6) weeks.

The IPA letter also serves as a Single-Journey Entry Visa for visa nationals (i.e. nationals requiring visa to enter Singapore). This is usually stated in the IPA letter.

Step Three: Issuance of Notification Letter
Processing Time: One (1) day

Once the assignee and any dependents have arrived in Singapore, the EP/DP/LTVP can be issued online.

The MOM will issue each person a Notification Letter in acknowledgement of the issuance of their EP/DP/LTVP.

Only when the Notification Letter has been provided by the MOM may the assignee start work. Therefore it is highly advisable to plan on entering Singapore at least two (2) to three (3) working days prior to the first day of employment.

The MOM may require the assignee and family members to undergo a medical examination. This will be indicated in the IPA letter. Should a medical examination be required, it must be done before the EP/DP/LTVP Notification Letter is issued. We can coordinate with our MOM-approved medical clinic to arrange for such an examination.

In cases where a medical exam is required, the arrival date in Singapore should be at least one (1) week before the proposed employment start date.

An appointment is booked for Registration of Biometric Data (Step Three) for the assignee and all dependents for documents submission, finger-printing and photo-imaging.

Step Four: Registration of Biometric Data
Processing Time: One (1) hour

The assignee and all dependents must go in person to the Employment Pass Services Centre (EPSC) for finger-printing and photo imaging.

Step Five: Delivery of Long Term Pass (LTP) Card
Processing Time: One (1) day

Four (4) to seven (7) working days after Step Three (Registration of Biometric Data), the LTP card(s) will be delivered to Emigra Worldwide. Emigra Worldwide can then deliver the LTP Card(s) to the assignee by the next working day.

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the Employment Pass (EP) application process described above will result in the obtention of the following immigration documents. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, Renewal.

  • Long Term Pass Card (EP/DP/LTVP Holders): Validity is in line with EP/DP/LTVP. The maximum duration normally granted is twenty-four (24) months for a new application, and thirty-six (36) months for a renewal, regardless of the validity of the Passport.
  • Long Term Pass Card (S Pass Holders): Validity is in line with S Pass. The maximum duration normally granted is twenty-four (24) months for a new application, and thirty-six (36) months for a renewal, or up to one (1) month before the current passport expires, whichever is sooner.
  • Long Term Pass (PEP Holders): Validity is in line with PEP. The maximum duration of the PEP is thirty-six (36) months.
  • Training Employment Pass: Valid for the length of the training programme, up to a maximum of three (3) months.

Renewal

Renewal is possible for Employment Pass and related pass holders only if they continue to meet the minimum requirements. Renewal processes take one (1) to two (2) weeks following submission to the Ministry of Manpower; please allow one week of lead time for document gathering. Once approved, an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter will be issued to the applicant and the Sponsor Company.

Renewal is not possible for Training Employment Pass or Personalized Employment Pass holders.

Permanent Residence may be available for Employment Pass or PEP holders. Our Singapore office can assist with all of these processes.

Deregistration

The government of Singapore requires all foreigners holding a work pass or other related pass [Employment Pass (EP), Dependant Pass (DP), Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP), etc.] to cancel their passes within seven (7) days of completing a work assignment or being terminated from the sponsoring Singapore company’s employment. Original passes, which are considered the property of the government of Singapore, must then be surrendered to the Ministry of Manpower within seven (7) days of the cancellation. An EP holder is not allowed to continue working with their company in Singapore after their EP has been cancelled.

Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in Singapore with an Employment Pass, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Not applicable.
  • Maximum age (children): Twenty-one (21). Unmarried children over twenty-one may qualify for a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) under certain circumstances, primarily if they are the dependents of EP holders.
  • Unmarried partners: May apply for a LTVP if the EP holder meets the MOM conditions
  • Same sex partners: No
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): May apply for LTVP if dependents of EP holders only, and if the EP holder and LTVP applicant meet the MOM conditions
  • Work authorization granted? Permitted for Dependant Pass holders over sixteen (16) years of age, but additional immigration approval (Letter of Consent) is required

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for the Employment Pass application are noted below.

  • General application materials include passport copy, current resume (C.V.), diploma, birth and marriage certificates, corporate financial records, and corporate registration certificates.
  • A detailed training programme is required for Training Employment Pass applications.
  • All documentation must be submitted in English. We can assist with translation requirements.

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted: Visitor Visa
  • Duration of stay: Up to ninety (90) days, depending on nationality and visa issued.
  • Visa Waiver Program: Visa requirements are waived for specific nationalities.
  • General activities permitted: Orientation, home-finding, and other preparation for employment can be conducted under business visitor status. Note that a foreigner who is involved in activities directly related to the organization or conduct of any seminar, conference, workshop, gathering or talk concerning any religion, race or community, cause, or political end will require a Miscellaneous Work Pass. If the conference, workshop, gathering or talk does not relate directly to any of the above, then the Business Visitor must notify the MOM of the Work Pass Exempt Activity that is being performed. They can perform these activities for the duration of their short term visit passes subject to a maximum of sixty (60) days.

Change of Status

Applicants may either be in or out of Singapore while their applications are in progress and may change status from visitor to Employment Pass/Dependant Pass/Long Term Visit Pass/S Pass after obtaining the In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter.

However, for applicants who are already in Singapore when their applications are submitted, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will not grant an extension for visit passes that are due to expire because the outcome of the applications is not yet known. Employers are advised to bring in applicants of Employment Passes only when the outcomes of the applications are successful.

Basic Entry Requirements

  • Valid Passport [minimum six (6) months validity]
  • Entry Visa *(where applicable) or IPA letter
  • Onwards journey or return trip tickets or IPA letter
  • Proof of sufficient funds to last for the intended period of stay in Singapore or IPA letter
  • Yellow-Fever Vaccination Certificate [if the traveler has been to Africa or South America in the six (6) days prior to entering Singapore]
  • Completed Disembarkation/Embarkation Card (Immigration White Card). This will be distributed on board the plane coming in to Singapore, or can be obtained in the Arrival Hall of Changi International Airport.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. In Singapore, there are minimum salary requirements in place. Please your representative for more details for your specific situation.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the In-Principle Approval will be granted. To receive immigration approval for the lowest category of Work Pass, a new hire should have at minimum, a full National Technical Certificate-2 plus relevant experience and a fixed monthly salary of at least S$2,200 (for S-Pass, with effect from 01 July 2013). Higher level Employment Passes would require higher minimum standards. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of Degree Certificate/Graduation Diploma.
  • Absence of relevant experience.
  • Insufficient compensation.
  • Assignee has previously been a Singapore citizen or permanent resident.
  • Note that same-sex partners cannot receive Dependant Passes or Long Term Visit Passes.
  • For S-Pass applications, the Ministry of Manpower will also look at the Employer’s ratio of foreign to local workers.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of Singapore takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Foreigners who work in Singapore without a valid work pass may be fined up to SGD$20,000 and/or imprisoned for up to two (2) years.

Employer Penalties:

Employers are required to exercise due diligence before hiring by checking the passport, document of identity, or other travel document of each individual they hire to ensure that the individual has permission to work in Singapore. Individuals who employ a foreigner without a valid work pass can be fined SGD$5,000 to SGD$30,000 and/or imprisoned for up to twelve (12) months for a first offense. Subsequent offenses carry a fine of SGD$10,000 to SGD$30,000 and one (1) to twelve (12) months’ imprisonment for individuals, and fines of SGD$20,000 to SGD$60,000 for other entities. Employing a foreigner outside of the conditions of the foreigner’s work pass carries a fine of up to SGD$10,000 per offense.

For more details, please contact your representative.

Bilateral Agreements

  • Work Holiday Programme: This scheme is open to undergraduates and graduates from universities and equivalent institutions in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Applicants must be resident and full-time students of the university and between eighteen (18) to twenty-five (25) years of age. Graduates may also apply. This programme will start with 2,000 places. The Work Holiday Pass is valid for six (6) months. The Pass must be collected within three (3) months from the date of the In-Principle Approval Letter (IPA), which is sent to applicants when their applications are approved. Work Holiday Pass holders are allowed to work and are not restricted to only specific types of work. However, existing licensing, registration or accreditation requirements (e.g. medicine or law) will apply. Since this is a short work stint, there is no minimum salary requirement. Applicants must not have held a Work Holiday Pass within twelve (12) months from the submission of the application. For more details, please contact your representative.