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Singapore Expats – How to Apply for Singapore Visas to Live & Work Here

singapore visas expats

Joanne Poh

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Thinking of moving to Singapore for a few years to make some money? You’re not alone. About a third of the workforce in Singapore is foreign. Many people simply fly in on a tourist visa, go for a couple of job interviews and get a work visa on the spot.

It’s not difficult to see how Singapore is so attractive. The working language in Singapore is English, average salaries are some of the region’s highest and the country is located at the doorstep of some of the Southeast Asia’s best travel destinations.

Here’s what you need to know about the most common kinds of Singapore work visas that will let you take advantage of that.

Common types of Singapore work visas

Visa Minimum salary Requirements Costs of application
Employment Pass $3,600 Professional, manager or executive $70 application fee
$150 for issuing pass
S Pass $2,200 Degree, diploma or technical certificate requiring at least 1 year of full-time study and relevant work experience $60 application fee
$80 for issuing pass
Work Permit N/A Semi-skilled foreign worker in construction, manufacturing, marine, shipyard, process or services sector, or foreign workers $30 application fee
$30 for issuing pass
Dependent’s pass N/A Spouse holds an Employment pass, earns a minimum fixed monthly salary of $6,000, or is sponsored by an established Singapore-registered company $60 application fee
$150 for issuing pass

 

How to get a work visa for Singapore?

The cheapest way to get work visa in Singapore is to apply for a job and get hired from the comfort of your home country.

However, this is might be easier for people with certain skill sets than others. If you’re working in a field where there is a shortage of qualified hires in Singapore, such as software engineering or fintech, you should have no problem. Perhaps hit up a recruitment agency to help you source for positions.

For those who don’t have terribly in-demand skill sets and who have not managed to land a job by applying online, there is the option of entering Singapore on a tourist visa to look for a job. There is no law that prohibits you from job hunting while on a tourist visa, although you will need to obtain a valid work visa before you can commence work.

 

What Singapore visas do expats need?

Most of the people living and working in Singapore are on one of the following visas:

  • Employment Pass: This is for professionals, managers and executives earning at least $3,600 a month. If you have a university degree and are applying for a job related to your studies, this is probably the visa for you.
  • S Pass: This is for mid-level skilled staff earning at least $2,200 a month, but who don’t qualify for an Employment Pass. You’re likely to be on this visa if you’re applying for a secretarial or administrative job.
  • Work Permit: If you’re working a technical, manual or service job, this is the visa for you. Work permit holders include construction workers and waiters.
  • Dependant’s Pass: You can live and work in Singapore if your spouse is here on an Employment Pass and earns at least $6,000 a month.

 

How to get an Employment Pass in Singapore?

In order to get a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Employment Pass, you will need to get a job offer paying at least $3,600 a month and be a graduate from an institution the Singapore government considers “good”. What they consider “good” can be quite arbitrary and there is no list of approved institutions.

Note that these are the goal posts for young, entry-level candidates. Older, more experienced applicants may need to demonstrate a higher salary before they are approved.

Once you’ve got a job offer, your employer will apply for your Employment Pass online on your behalf with your written consent, but won’t have any control over when it will be approved.

Your employer will be able to check your Employment Pass status here after submitting the application.

 

How to get an S Pass in Singapore

To secure an S Pass in Singapore, you will need to get a job offer paying at least $2,200 a month. You will also need to show you are qualified for the type of work you’re applying for with an educational qualification and work experience.

Getting an S Pass can be a bit trickier, as there is a quota of S Pass hires that employers cannot exceed. That means that if they’ve already hired too many S Pass holders, they won’t be able to take on one more.

In addition, they must pay a levy to hire each S Pass worker. This can result in employers offering lower wages than what they would to local hires to compensate. If one employer says they can’t hire you because they’ve reached their quota, move on to another.

There is another pathway to getting an S Pass, which is to first work in Singapore on a Work Permit. Your existing employer, should he decide to give you a promotion and raise, can then apply for an S Pass for you. You will be allowed to remain in Singapore until your S Pass is approved so long as your Work Permit is still valid.

Once you’ve secured a job offer, your employer will apply for your S Pass on your behalf with your written consent.

 

How to get a Dependant’s Pass in Singapore?

To qualify for a Dependant’s Pass, your spouse (or, if you are under 21 and unmarried, your parent) must have found employment in Singapore for a fixed monthly salary of at least $6,000 a month. Note that Singapore does not recognise civil marriages, thus de facto spouses will not qualify for Dependant’s Passes.

Once in Singapore on a Dependant’s Pass, you are free to search for jobs as you please. If you get a job offer, you can apply for a Letter of Consent which entitles you to work in Singapore.

It is your spouse’s employer who should apply for your Dependant’s Pass.

 

What’s the difference between a Dependant’s Pass and S Pass?

There are no restrictions on jobs for Dependant’s Pass holders in Singapore, so you can do any kind of work you please, whether on a part-time or full-time basis. There are also no educational qualification or work experience requirements. The only requirement is that your spouse continues to remain in Singapore on an Employment Pass and to earn at least $6,000 a month.

S Pass holders, on the other hand, are restricted to working in the jobs for which the visa was designed, ie. semi-skilled or technical jobs earning a salary of at least $2,200. They must have the necessary qualifications (usually a degree, diploma or certificate) and/or relevant work experience before being granted the S-Pass. What’s more, Employers can only hire them if they have not busted their quota of S-Pass employees.

Do you have any questions on work visas in Singapore? Leave them in the comments!

 

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.