Singapore is one of the most vibrant business destinations in the Asian continent and attracts many foreign visitors looking to live and work there, seeking rewarding career options as a result of its integrated and well-developed economy.
The Employment Pass or EP is the main type of Singapore visa issued to foreign professionals looking to work in managerial and executive positions as well as owners & Directors of Singapore Companies. An EP Visa grants the ability to work and live in Singapore whilst simultaneously travelling in and out of the Country freely without the need for any further documentation.
Dependents of the EP Holder may apply for a Dependent Pass (or DP) which will be discussed in further detail below.
The EP and DP can be obtained by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) which is a department of the Singapore Government responsible for the formulation and implementation of labour policies related to the workforce.
Eligibility to apply for an employment pass
To be eligible to apply for a visa, the applicants are assessed based on their:
- Salary in their current country of residence.
- Qualifications & work experience background.
- Nature of the job they are applying for.
- Other factors as determined by the MOM.
It is important to mention at this stage that the company where the applicant is applying to work must be incorporated in Singapore and not an offshore location.
With regards to the salary criterion, the qualifying monthly salary for young graduates from a reputable institution to apply for an EP is S$3,300, while more experienced candidates require higher salaries to qualify.
The stated acceptable qualifications may include respectable degrees, professional qualifications or specialist skills. It should be noted that possessing an acceptable qualification does not automatically guarantee a successful Employment Pass application as the applicant may need to satisfy other criteria such as qualifying salary or professional skills.
Similarly, applicants who do not possess an acceptable qualification may not necessarily be rejected for an Employment Pass; instead, the MOM will consider on a case-by-case basis those applicants with a proven track records and/or exceptional skills. Chances of approval are higher if the applicants’ skills-set compliments the local work-force (in terms of meeting the current demand for roles where there is a lack thereof) and is being paid the appropriate local salary.
MOMs online Self-Assessment Tool
MOM actively encourages all employers to extensively use the MOM’s online Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) to help evaluate whether a candidate meets the EP requirements. The online SAT is designed to help employers gage whether the applicants of interest are qualified, and provide a preliminary indication about the likelihood of obtaining the respective work pass.
The processing time once the application is submitted to the MOM is approximately five weeks, which may take longer during peak periods or when additional information is required. Importantly, it is always the Employer or an authorised third party that makes the EP application be submitted to the MOM. Employees themselves are not allowed to submit their EP application directly.
Another important consideration that all employers must remember before applying for employing foreign staff is the newly-introduced Fair Consideration Framework (FCF). As part of the FCF, firms that wish to hire foreign employees must first advertise the vacancies on the Jobs Bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency prior to application. The advertisement must be open to Singapore citizens; comply with the guidelines as per the fair employment practices and the advertisement should run for at least 14 calendar days. This way, employers will have access to a larger pool of potential candidates and Singapore citizens will have a better visibility of job openings. After the advertising period has passed, the firm may then hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of nationality.
The following are exemptions from advertising requirements as previously discussed:
- Companies with 25 or fewer employees.
- Roles that offer a fixed monthly salary of S$12,000 and above;
- Jobs to be filled by intra-corporate transferees (ICT), referring to those holding senior positions in the organisation or have an advanced level of expertise; or
- Jobs that are held for short-term contingencies (employment in Singapore for no longer than one month).
The documentation requested for an application of EP are as follows:
1. Employment Pass application form:
The form must be endorsed with the company’s stamp or seal, and signed by the applicant and an authorised officer from the sponsoring company.
2. Applicant’s educational documents.
Additional document(s) are required for:
- Diploma/degree qualifications from India
Transcripts and mark sheets.
- Diploma/degree qualifications from China
– Certificate of Graduation .
Note: English translation is not required for verification proof of education certificates obtained from China.
3. Latest business profile and business activities.
4. Passport sized photograph of the applicant no older than 3 months old.
5. Personal particulars page of applicant’s passport/travel document.
Rejections & appeals
The MOM has tightened the criteria for the Employment Pass to raise the overall quality of the foreign workforce. And therefore not every application will be successful. If the application is rejected, the MOM letter should provide the reasons why and advise on what to do next.
MOM considers each case carefully before rejecting an application and therefore unless new information is provided, there will be a very low chance of success of the appeal. What is actually suggested by the MOM is to only appeal if the issues on the rejection advice can be rectified.
A DP holder in Singapore is tied to the status of the main EP holder. Providing the Employment Pass holder is gainfully employed in Singapore, the DP holder is eligible to live in Singapore as well as leave and enter Singapore freely without having to apply for further documentation.
Successful Employment pass applicants with a fixed monthly salary of S$4,000 and above can apply for a DP for a legal spouse and unmarried children under 21 years.
The Dependent’s Pass visa application and supporting documents may be submitted together with the EP application or separately at a later date. Similarly to the EP application, the DP application must also be sponsored by the employer of the EP holder. If the DP visa application was filed separately, the processing time may vary between 1-2 weeks.
A DP holder is also allowed to work in Singapore by securing a letter of consent (LOC) from the MOM. It takes approximately 4-6 weeks to receive an outcome from MOM for LOC approval. The LOC expires at the same time as DP expires. LOC is renewed whenever the DP is renewed and issued by MOM.