Article: Immigration Law and Employment of Foreign Manpower

Need an overview of the different requirements and terms of employment passes for foreign employees and immigration passes for related persons in Singapore? As a Singapore employment lawyer, I set out key points to note.

Personalised Employment Pass (PEP)

Eligibility Requirements

>  Overseas foreign professional with last drawn fixed monthly salary overseas within 6 months before pass application is at least S$18,000; or

> A present Employment Pass holder earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000.

Who may not apply:

> An Employment Pass holder under the sponsorship scheme.

> A freelancer or foreigner who intends to work on a freelance-basis.

> A sole proprietor, partner or director and shareholder in an ACRA-registered company.

> A journalist, editor, sub-editor or producer.

> Candidate or appointed Employment Agent (EA) may apply.

Pass Terms / Requirements

>  Not allowed to start a business or conduct any form of entrepreneurial activity while on a PEP. (See EntrePass.)

Benefits / Other Remarks

>  Generally allows for jobs in any sector.

> Do not need to re-apply for a new pass if change job; only need to notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

> Can stay in Singapore for a continuous period of up to 6 months without a job to search for new employment.

PEP holders who have fixed monthly salary of at least S$6,000 are eligible to apply for Dependant’s Pass for spouse and children.

Employment Pass (EP)

Eligibility Requirements

> Have a job offer in Singapore.

>  Work in a managerial, executive or specialised job.

> Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$4,500 (more experienced candidates need higher salaries; there may be different amounts for certain sectors such as financial services).

> Acceptable qualifications: usually a good university degree, professional qualifications or specialist skills; track record; exceptional skill set (at MOM’s discretion).
Employer (for overseas employers, a Singapore sponsor must apply) or appointed EA. Employers should have attempted to advertise the job to find a Singaporean prospect under the Fair Consideration Framework.

Pass Terms / Requirements

> Duration: 2 years for 1st time candidates; 3 years for renewals.

> No foreign worker levy or quota.

Benefits / Other Remarks

> Additional documents required for certain category of candidates: e.g. candidates with qualifications from India/China; regional representatives of overseas companies; healthcare professionals, lawyers, football players or coaches; employees in a food establishment.

> EP holders who have fixed monthly salary of at least S$6,000 are eligible to apply for Dependant’s Pass for spouse and children. See below.

S Pass

Eligibility Requirements

> Fixed monthly salary of at least $2,400. Salary should reflect work experience. Older, more experienced applicants need higher salaries to qualify.

> A degree or diploma. Or technical certificates, such as courses for qualified technicians or specialists. Certification should include at least 1 year of full-time study.

> Years of relevant work experience.
Employer (for overseas employers, a Singapore sponsor must apply) or appointed employment agent.

Pass Terms / Requirements

Duration: up to 2 years.
Employers must:> Pay S Pass holders’ salaries electronically. Start electronic payments within 3 months after the S Pass is issued.

> Maintain a record of the salary payments.
Quota requirements apply:

> Services industry: only 13% of employer’s total workforce may be Work Permit or S Pass holders (change to 10% from 1 January 2021);

Construction, Marine shipyard, Process industries: change from 20% to 18% of total workforce from 1 January 2021, and 18% to 15% from 1 January 2023;

> All other sectors: 20%.

S pass holders quota is counted within work permit quota.

Employers must pay levy for S Pass holders:

> Services industry: Tier 1 up to 10% of total workforce S$330 monthly, S$10.85 daily; Tier 2 10%-13% S$650 monthly, S$21.37 daily.

> Other sectors: up to 10% S$330 monthly, S$10.85 daily; Tier 2 10%-20% S$650 monthly, S$21.37 daily.

The daily levy rate applies only to S Pass holders who did not work for a full calendar month.
Employers must purchase medical insurance for S Pass holder; coverage at least $15,000 per year and cover inpatient care and day surgery.

Benefits / Other Remarks

> S Pass holders who have fixed monthly salary of at least S$6,000 are eligible to apply for Dependant’s Pass for spouse and children. See below.

Work Permit

Eligibility Requirements

Foreign workers from approved source countries working in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or services sector.

Pass Terms / Requirements

Duration: Up to 2 years, depending on the validity of the worker’s passport, security bond and employment period.

Specific requirements apply for certain sectors, e.g. workers must come from certain countries, age, maximum period of employment, quota (ratio between Work Permit holders and Singaporean workers) and levy.

Employers must purchase medical insurance for Work Permit holders; coverage at least $15,000 per year and cover inpatient care and day surgery.

Employers must send Work Permit holders for a medical examination by a Singapore-registered doctor within 2 weeks of their arrival in Singapore.

> Employers are obliged to ensure their Work Permit holder workers have acceptable housing. They must update MOM with the residential addresses of foreign workers within 5 calendar days of employment or change of address.Foreign workers in the construction and process sector who are not from Malaysia and North Asian source (NAS) countries will also need to fulfil man-year entitlement (MYE) requirements.

MYE reflects the total number of Work Permit holders a main contractor is entitled to employ based on the value of projects or contracts awarded by developers or owners. It is allocated in the form of the number of ‘man-years’ required to complete a project.

Construction sector: prior approval is needed for companies to employ foreign workers from NAS countries and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Benefits / Other Remarks

Foreign workers in the construction sector require Skills Evaluation Certificate (SEC) or Skills Evaluation Certificate (Knowledge) (SEC(K)), which are administered by the Building and Construction Authority.

Fair Consideration Framework

All Singapore companies must comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices [] and have fair employment practices that are open, merit-based and non-discriminatory.

Before an employer may make an Employment Pass (EP) application, it must advertise the job vacancy on the Jobs Bank administered by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA). This includes applications for EP holders who are changing employers.

The advertisement must meet the following requirements:

Be open to Singaporeans.

Comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

Run for at least 14 calendar days before the application for EP.

In January 2020, MOM strengthened the FCF and have raised the administrative penalties across the board for all discrimination cases:

  • The minimum period of work pass debarment has increased from 6 months to 12 months. For more egregious cases, the debarment period can be up to a maximum of 24 months.
  • The debarment scope has expanded to include work pass renewals in addition to new work pass applications.

MOM may prosecute errant employers or key personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly. Employers convicted of false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act will face imprisonment of up to 2 years, or fine up to $20,000, or both.


  • Company has 10 or fewer employees.
  • Job position is paying a fixed monthly salary of $20,000 and above.
  • The job is to be filled by an intra-corporate transferee (ICTs). Under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO GATS), ICTs refer to those holding senior positions in the organisation or have an advanced level of expertise.
  • The job is necessary for short-term contingencies (i.e. period of employment in Singapore for not more than one month).

Foreign Spouses and Children

Foreign spouses of Singapore citizens or permanent residents (PRs)

Foreign wives of Singapore citizens may apply to become citizens of Singapore pursuant to Article 123(2), the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. There is no similar provision for foreign husbands of Singapore citizens.

Foreign spouses of Singapore citizens or PRs may apply for long term visit pass (LTVP). There is also an LTVP+ (plus) scheme. Couples with at least 1 child who is a Singapore citizen from their marriage will be eligible to apply for LTVP+. For those without such a child, other factors will be considered:

  1. Duration of marriage (at least 3 years favourable);
  2. Ability of sponsor to financially support family;
  3. Good conduct of sponsor and applicant;
  4. Age of the applicant;
  5. Sponsor’s employment and income amount;
  6. Educational qualifications of sponsor and applicant;
  7. Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution history of sponsor;
  8. Income tax records of sponsor and applicant (Explanatory Notes: Application for Permanent residence for Spouse and/or Children of a Singapore Citizen/Permanent Resident (April 2014)).

Applications are determined on a case by case basis.

Foreign spouses or parents of non-citizen and non-PR working or studying in Singapore

Female persons who have a child or grandchild studying in Singapore on a student’s pass may apply for a visit pass for long-term stay.

Only legally married spouses or unmarried children under 21 years of eligible Employment Pass or S Pass holders who earn at least S$6,000 monthly may apply for a Dependent’s Pass.

Dependents include common-law spouse.

Dependents of Employment Pass holders can get a Letter of Consent to work in Singapore if they find a job here (Regulation 11 of the Employment Of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012).

Dependents of S Pass holders will need to independently apply for a Work Permit, S Pass or Employment Pass.

Dependant’s Pass holders who get an Employment Pass or S Pass are required to cancel the Dependant’s Pass.

For S Pass dependants who get a Work Permit, the Work Permit’s validity period will be tied to that of the S Pass holder’s pass.

Dependents other than legally married spouses or unmarried children below 21 years of eligible Employment Pass or S Pass holders who earn at least S$6,000 monthly may apply for a long term visit pass.

Such dependents include: common-law spouse; unmarried handicapped children above 21 years old; unmarried step-children under 21 years old. Parents of those earning a monthly salary of at least S$10,000 may obtain a long term visit pass.

In these cases, the employer or appointed employment agent may apply for the relevant pass.

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