Relocating To Singapore

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By Babita & MelindaIF YOU ARE LOOKING to start up a business in Singapore, the phrase “work pass” will soon become second nature to you. A work pass is essentially a temporary residency scheme allowing foreigners and their immediate family to relocate to Singapore.

All applications for work passes to operate in Singapore must be submitted to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and are subject to its approval.

Types Of Work Passes
How your business is structured will influence which pass is applicable to it.
There are two main passes for business Owners or Managers in Singapore:
1) EntrePass
2) Employment Pass (EP)

  • Both are renewable and usually issued for 1-2 years;
  • The pass holder will have to be paid a salary from the company and will be liable to pay income tax in Singapore based on annual salary.

The EntrePass is for those who are Founders of a new business (a private limited company). It requires significant investment and a proven track record.


  • Minimum S$50,000 paid up capital;
  • Not yet incorporated or less than 6 months old at time of application;
  • 30% Shareholder;
  • No stipulated salary requirement.

It is worth considering the renewal requirements for the EntrePass before deciding on which pass is most applicable for your business. The EntrePass will be granted for 1+1 years. After year one, the business will have to demonstrate progress as per the submitted plan to continue. The pass will then be renewed every 2 years.

To renew, the following must be met:

  • Local employees’ minimum requirement for past 12 months at time of renewal;
  • Minimum total business spend after 2 years of S$100,000 over past 12 months;
  • Other conditions may also be stipulated in the approval letter depending on the business category.

In addition to the above, ANY of the following minimum eligibility criteria for application as either an entrepreneur, innovator or investor must be met (as defined by the MOM):


  • Funding from a Government-recognized VC or business angel;
  • Incubatee at a Government-recognized incubator or accelerator;
  • Business network and entrepreneurial track record.


  • Holds intellectual property;
  • Research collaboration with an institute of higher learning (IHL) or research institute in Singapore;
  • Extraordinary achievements in key areas of expertise.


  • Investment track record.

The EntrePass scheme has been designed to encourage the launch of innovative businesses in Singapore. The applicant needs to demonstrate a significant concept/idea and a robust, measurable business model. Clear milestones of success should be included.

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Make A Business Plan
Along with the application form and supporting documents for the above, a business plan will also be required. This is an abridged version of the full plan showing three-year projections. This document will be key in demonstrating how viable your business really is.

Allow 6-8 Weeks For Processing
Processing of Entrepreneur Pass application on the average takes about 6-8 weeks.

Employment Pass
If the EntrePass criteria is not appropriate for the company, then an Employment Pass (EP) should be considered.

The EP is a type of work visa issued to foreign professional employees, managers, and owners/directors of Singapore companies. The EP will allow you to work for that company and in the role applied for only.

One main advantage of the EP is that no paid-up capital is required as for the EntrePass – more emphasis is placed on applicants’ educational qualifications. It is about individual and company credentials.

EP Requirements

  • Current salary minimum is S$3,600 a month. (An experienced professional would be expected to exceed this). The threshold is S$5,000 a month to apply for a family visa, known as a dependents pass. (This is deemed spouse and unmarried children).
  • Educational qualifications – tertiary degree or applicable trade qualifications.
  • High level of professional experience in their field.

If you are a shareholder of the company over 30%, the MOM may ask you to apply for the EntrePass. Processing time is usually 3-8 weeks.

Prepare Documents Properly
The MOM process is a clearly defined one and has strict guidelines. Official forms and all documents must be submitted in the prescribed format and on time. Ensure all copies of documents are good quality and legible.

Documents may be rejected for resubmission if even simple information is missing or illegible. There is an appeal process if an application is rejected, and depending on which pass it can take 3-8 weeks.

The advice from a registered and licensed agency can help expedite the submission process and reduce the lead time, enabling you to concentrate on managing your business.

About SES International

SES International is a registered and licensed agency that enables foreign businesses to set up in Singapore.

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