Singapore immigration guide

A business overview of residence schemes, work passes and citizenship

Singapore is one of the world’s leading financial centres and a strategic business hub in Southeast Asia. The city-state's robust economy, business-friendly environment and advanced infrastructure make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and companies worldwide.  

If you’re relocating to Singapore for business or investment purposes, you’ll experience the country’s high living standards, and diverse and safe society, backed by a stable and efficient government. A highly skilled workforce, as well as various work permits and schemes, also makes hiring for your operations relatively straightforward.  

This guide covers essential information on programmes and passes that will help you with your business and personal relocation needs. 

Passes and schemes for entrepreneurs and investors

If you’re an entrepreneur or investor, there are dedicated schemes and programmes aimed at supporting your relocation to Singapore.  

EntrePass

The EntrePass scheme is designed for foreign accomplished entrepreneurs, high-calibre innovators, or experienced investors, who wish to start a business and relocate to Singapore.  

The scheme is part of Singapore’s plan to become a global business hub by attracting top business talent and innovators to the country.  

EntrePass is open to all nationalities, but the qualifying criteria are stringent. Applicants must have started, or intend to start, a private limited company that is venture-backed or owns innovative technologies.  

Applicants must meet at least one of the following criteria: 

  • Raised at least SG$100,000 from a single funding round from investors for any past or current business 
  • The business is, or will be, supported by an incubator or accelerator that is either government-recognised or internationally renowned 
  • Founded and sold a business that is venture-backed or owns innovative technologies, evidenced by documents such as a sale and purchase agreement 
  • The registered business or proposed business holds intellectual property (IP) that is registered with an approved national IP institution 
  • The business has a relevant ongoing research collaboration in Singapore with at least one institute of higher learning or research institution 

A more detailed breakdown of the requirements can be found on the Ministry of Manpower website.  

A new EntrePass is initially issued for one year. It can be renewed, with the first renewal valid for one additional year, and all subsequent renewals valid for two years. 

Global Investor Programme

The Global Investor Programme (GIP) welcomes eligible global investors who intend to drive their businesses and investment growth from Singapore.  

The GIP is administered by Contact Singapore, a division of Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB), which advises entrepreneurs and business owners interested in relocating to and investing in Singapore.  

GIP grants Singapore PR status to successful applicants. You will need to have a substantial business track record and successful entrepreneurial background to qualify. 

Qualifying criteria is dependent on the profile of the applicant. For example, established business owners must possess at least a three-year entrepreneurial and business track record, and should currently be running a company with an annual turnover of at least SG$200 million in the year immediately preceding their application, and at least SG$200 million per annum on average for the three years prior to their application.  

Applicants must also invest a minimum set amount in a new business entity, expanding an existing business, a GIP-select fund, or a Singapore-based single-family office. 

More details on the eligibility can be found on the EDB website

Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass

Top talent across all sectors can consider applying for the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass (ONE Pass). This pass allows them to start, operate, and work for multiple companies at any time. 

To qualify, applicants must have earned a fixed monthly salary of at least SG$30,000 for the past 12 consecutive months or show that they will earn the same monthly amount under an established company based in Singapore. 

If you don’t meet the criteria above, you can still apply if you have outstanding achievements in sectors such as business, sports, arts and culture, or academia and research. Various agencies in Singapore review applications holistically based on the work and key achievements accomplished by each applicant. 

ONE Pass holders are allowed to bring their family to Singapore on Dependant’s Passes or Long-Term Visit Passes. 

The ONE Pass is renewable for five years each time, subject to meeting requirements. 

Work passes for your employees

All foreigners who intend to work in Singapore must have a valid work pass. If you intend to hire employees who aren't residents of Singapore, you will need to apply for work passes for them. 

Here are three main types of work passes.  

Employment Pass

The Employment Pass (EP) allows foreign professionals, managers, and executives to work and live in Singapore. Companies offering a job to these candidates will need to apply for a pass on their behalf.  

You can also be a business owner or director while holding an EP, by first setting up the company then employing yourself. 

An EP is usually valid for up to two years for first-time candidates and can be renewed for up to three years.  

To qualify, the candidate must earn at least the qualifying salary, which is benchmarked to the top one-third of local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) by age. This figure is regularly reviewed and adjusted by the authorities.  

Since 1 September 2023, a point-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) system has been used to assess candidates’ eligibility. Applications need at least 40 points to pass COMPASS. 

EP holders who have a fixed monthly salary of at least SG$6,000 are eligible to have certain family members join them in Singapore on a Dependents Pass or Long-Term Visit Pass, if requirements are met. 

S-Pass

The S-Pass (SP) is for skilled workers who may not meet the criteria for an EP.  

As with an EP, SP candidates also need to meet a minimum salary. The amount is benchmarked against the top one-third of the local associate professionals and technicians (APTs) salaries by age. This figure is regularly reviewed and adjusted by the authorities. 

Unlike with an EP, employers submitting SP applications are subjected to a quota and levy, which varies across sectors. Employers must also provide medical insurance for SP holders. 

An SP is valid for up to two years and can be renewed upon expiry.  

S-Pass holders who have a fixed monthly salary of at least SG$6,000 are eligible for a Dependents Pass for their spouse and children. 

Work permit

The Work permit (WP) is for skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers from approved source countries/regions in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, or services sector. 

If you are hiring employees under a WP, note that permit holders are limited by a quota for their industry, and you must pay a monthly levy for each WP holder. You must also provide these workers with medical insurance.  

There is no minimum qualifying salary for WP application and a permit is usually valid for up to two years in most cases. 

Passes for your family

Here are some other passes that may be relevant if you’re relocating to Singapore and intend to bring your family with you.

Dependent’s Pass

A Dependent’s Pass (DP) allows eligible family members of EP, EntrePass and SP holders to live in Singapore. Passes are available to a legally married spouse and unmarried children under 21, including legally adopted children. 

Valid for up to two years, the pass can be renewed and is tied to the validity of the main work pass. 

DP holders can get an EP, SP or WP if they wish to work in Singapore. Eligible DP holders who want to operate a business can apply for a Letter of Consent.  

Long-Term Visit Pass

The Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) is for a common-law spouse of an EP or SP holder, who earns a minimum fixed monthly salary of SG$6,000. This can also extend to a child with disabilities or stepchild. Parents of an EP or SP holder earning a fixed monthly salary of at least SG$12,000 are also eligible to hold a LTVP. 

Valid for up to two years, the LTVP is renewable and is tied to the validity of the main work pass. 

Eligible LTVP holders may also be able to work in Singapore.  

Foreign spouses of Singapore citizens may be eligible to hold an LTVP+, which comes with a longer period of residency. LTVP+ holders are also eligible for healthcare and employment benefits. 

Becoming a Singapore resident

If you enjoy living in Singapore and are ready to call this cosmopolitan city your permanent home, then you may consider becoming a Permanent Resident (PR) or Singapore citizen.

Permanent Resident

A Permanent Resident (PR) is a foreigner who has been granted residence status, allowing him/her to live in Singapore on a permanent basis.  

You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence if you are an EP or SP holder. For details on eligibility, please refer to Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA)’s webpage

PRs aged 15 and above will be issued with a Singapore blue Identity Card (IC) along with a re-entry permit (REP)  

A valid REP is necessary whenever a PR travels out of Singapore. It allows you to retain your permanent residence status while away. If you leave Singapore or remain overseas without a valid REP, you will lose your permanent residence status and be assessed for entry into Singapore as a foreign visitor. 

PR status does not expire but an associated REP needs to be renewed. All REPs are valid up to a maximum of five years. 

Singapore citizenship

Singapore citizenship allows you to live and work in Singapore with the fewest restrictions. Singaporeans also enjoy the highest level of flexibility and subsidies in housing, education, healthcare, and other government benefits. 

You are eligible to apply for Singapore citizenship if you have been a Singapore PR for at least two years and are aged 21 and above. For details on eligibility, please refer to Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA)’s webpage

A Singapore passport is well recognised worldwide and provides visa-free access to more than 190 countries. This can be useful if you’re a frequent business traveller to various destinations.  

Note that holding dual citizenship is not allowed in Singapore, so you will need to renounce any other citizenship if you become a Singapore citizen.  

When it comes to approvals for PR and citizenship, the authorities assess the applicant's ability to contribute to Singapore and integrate into the society, as well as his or her commitment to sinking roots in Singapore.  

One crucial point to note: under Singapore’s Enlistment Act, all male Singapore citizens, and permanent residents, unless exempted, are required to serve National Service. 

Next steps

If you are considering relocating to Singapore, or your employer is suggesting it, it’s essential that an application is made for the pass that is most suitable for you. At Hawksford, we help companies and individuals navigate Singapore’s immigration regulations for you, your family, and your employees.  

We can provide customised advice, supporting you every step of the way, as you to embark on your Singapore journey. 

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