The Singapore Employment Pass (EP) is a work visa that allows foreign professionals with an opportunity to work in Singapore in certain specialized, managerial or executive positions. Generally speaking, it is one of the 3 types of professional work passes where employers are not required to hire any local staff before the Singapore Employment Pass visa can be approved.
Due to this concession and flexibility, the Ministry of Manpower has imposed strict yet subjective criteria in terms of the quality of the candidate and the background of the employer eligible to hire foreigners holding such a pass.
The other 2 passes are the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP), and Entrepreneurial Pass (EntrePass) have an even more stringent requirements than the Singapore Employment Pass.
Recently Introduced criterions for Singapore Employment Pass (EP)
In recent years, the application process for Singapore Employment Pass has been made stricter by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Nevertheless, well qualified foreigners in terms of academic qualification with specialized skills and experience are still welcome and able to qualify for the Singapore Employment Pass (EP) work visa. Since 1 September 2023, the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) has been introduced. Under this new framework, a wider range of criterion will be taken into consideration when assessing each application. Apart from the usual salary and education criterion, the new framework introduced a few other criterion, namely the foreign employee diversity of employer, the ratio of foreigner vs local employees, shortage occupation list and strategic economic priority bonus.
The latest assessment framework further emphasises that it is not only the candidate who would be assessed. The hiring companies are also evaluated in terms of their local headcount and nature of business activities. The Singapore authorities will scrutinize whether the company have hired any Singapore citizens or plans to hire Singaporeans in their business operations. Companies with a disproportionately large numbers of foreigners would be disadvantaged compared to those that have shown commitment to hiring or giving opportunities to locals.
Companies are evaluated in terms of their capital structure and ability to pay the salaries of EP holders. Documentary evidence such as payslips and income tax statements would be required for verification during the approval process. In situation where there are doubts, the employment pass if approved, it may be for a shorter term period then applied for, typically for one year period.
In situation where companies have a healthy ratio of Singaporean employees, they will find their application process smoother. The goal of the Singapore Employment Pass policy is to encourage companies to hire more locals, provide training opportunities and develop them for the roles within the companies as they grow so that companies can reduce their dependence on foreign talent over the long term.
There are no restrictions on the nationality of applicants for Singapore Employment Pass as Singapore is opened to accepting high level talents from anywhere around the world. The key factor is whether such talent are available locally and the justification provided when applying to hire foreigners for a particular role.
With effect from November 2020, employers with 10 or more employees are required to advertise their job vacancies at the government administered portal known as https://employer.mycareersfuture.sg/ for at least 14 days before they can submit an application for Singapore Employment Pass for foreign candidates in the event they are not able to find any suitably qualified local candidates.
Alternative Work Passes to Singapore Employment Pass
In situation where a foreign applicant is not eligible for Singapore Employment Pass work visa, he or she can explore other forms of work pass to work in Singapore. These are quota based work pass which means that the company must hire a certain number of local staff before such work pass can be approved.
For example, foreigners may be able to qualify for S Pass work visa which requires lower salary, less stringent academic qualification and skills criterions.
The S-Pass work visa is for mid-level skilled foreign employees from any country. Candidates need to earn at least SGD2,400 a month and meet the assessment criteria. The hiring companies are subjected to a quota of how many S-Pass work visa they can apply for depending on their local head count numbers. Salary offered should reflect length of work experience and academic qualification, higher salary requirements for candidates with more years relevant work experience than fresh graduates or junior employees. Other than diplomas, technical certificates, such as courses for qualified technicians or specialists can be considered in the assessment for eligibility process. These certifications should preferably include at least 1 year of full-time study. The relevance of applicant’s work experience is also taken into account in the evaluation process as this is a skilled work pass.
Work Permits (WP) are work passes for foreign workers from approved source countries working in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or services sector. The Work Permit visa is generally meant for lower skill or unskilled labor or blue collar workers but can also be used for certain professional staff as a form of work visa to work in Singapore.
Personalised Employment Pass (PEP)
The is the highest pass category for highly skilled and high income foreigners earning in excess of the equivalent to SGD18,000 per month. No employer sponsor is required unlike all other types of work passes. The approved individual is basically a self-sponsor pass holder and has the flexibility to choose to work for any employer but cannot be unemployed for more than 6 months. Personalised Employment Pass can only be issued once for a maximum period of 3 years and thereafter the applicant needs to convert to EP or other types of visa. Existing high income EP holders earning in excess of SGD12,000 per month can also convert to PEP. Holders of PEP is not allowed to be directors of or start their own company.
Entreprenuerial Pass (Entrepass)
As the word suggest, this is a category of pass targeted at business persons or entreprenuers. There is no minimum salary requirement and educational qualification criteria is less important. However, the applicant needs to demonstrate that he or she is worthy of the Entrepass. The approving criteria is varied and stringent and includes some of the following:
- Applicant can demonstrate successful business track record in high value and scalable businesses.
- Applicant has special expertise not available locally and has been recognized internationally.
- Applicant is willing to invest substantial funds, grow the business by hiring local professional staff.
As there are many types of work passes to suit different foreigners, employers are encouraged to discuss the various options with professional human resource consultants specializing in work pass and employment pass applications in Singapore. With the support from competent HR professionals, the application process can be expedited and approvals assured.