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Singapore is changing its work visa rules for foreign employees

15 April 2022

Raj Keloth

Senior Director, Corporate Services, Intertrust Singapore

Raj Keloth

Senior Director, Corporate Services, Intertrust Singapore

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A shake-up announced in the 2022 Budget means foreign workers must earn more to qualify for employment passes

Foreign white-collar workers taking new jobs in Singapore will face new requirements to qualify for the popular Employment Pass (EP) from later this year. They will need to receive a higher minimum salary and meet a minimum skill points threshold. The changes, announced in the March Budget, will apply to new hirings from September 2022.

Applicants must currently be paid a minimum of SGD 4,500 per month. This will rise to SGD 5,000 from 1 September. The threshold will be even higher for prospective workers in financial services, rising from the current SGD 5,000 to SGD 5,500. This reflects higher-than-average salaries in the sector.

The EP qualifying salary may be gradually increased until September 2025 and will be benchmarked to the top-third of Singaporean salaries in the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) sector.

Who can apply for a Singapore Employment Pass?

EPs are open to foreign employees of all nationalities. The minimum salary requirement is only one of the criteria that must be met to qualify. Candidates must also:

  • Have a job offer in Singapore
  • Work in the PMET sector and have a managerial or executive role
  • Show they have a university degree and/or professional qualification

What do the Singapore Employment Pass changes mean for employers?

All employees must have a valid EP before they start work in Singapore, which employers must apply for on their behalf.

Employers will have to ensure that existing EP holders will meet the higher salary threshold from September 2023.

Budget changes also affect foreign workers applying for an S Pass, which is designed for mid-level skilled technical staff. New applicants for the S Pass must earn at least SGD 3,000 a month from September 2022.

The levy rate for the S Pass will also increase, up from the current SGD 350 to SGD 450 in September 2022, rising progressively to SGD 650 from September 2025.

What is Singapore’s COMPASS system?

From September 2023, new EP applicants will also have to score highly enough under a new COMPASS (Complementarity Assessment Framework) points system to work in Singapore. This will also apply to EP renewals from September 2024.

The COMPASS points system requires basic criteria to be met, but employees and employers can earn extra or alternative points in several ways.

Individuals must meet the salary requirements and have relevant qualifications. To earn bonus points they must be a candidate for a job where skills shortages exist. Relevant professional qualifications do not have to include a university degree.

Employers should be able to show that the foreign hire will improve nationality diversity in their firm and that they employ a higher proportion of local people in managerial roles than their peers. They can earn bonus points if they are involved in an innovative or international partnership with the government.

Candidates are exempt from the COMPASS criteria if they are on short-term assignments or earn more than SGD 20,000 a month.

What are the work visa rules for older employees in Singapore?

For foreign workers in their mid-40s and above, the EP salary requirements will rise to SGD 10,500 per month, up from SGD 8,400. The minimum monthly salary rises progressively depending on age. For those in financial services, the wage threshold for middle-aged workers will increase, up to a minimum of SGD 11,500 per month, depending on an age-related scale.

Employment Pass salary threshold changes at a glance

Sectors Current minimum qualifying salary Revised minimum qualifying salary
(except financial services)
SGD 4,500
(SGD 8,400 for candidates in mid-40s)
SGD 5,000
(SGD 10,500 for candidates in mid-40s)
Financial services SGD 5,000
(SGD 9,300 for candidates in mid-40s)
SGD 5,500
(SGD 11,500 for candidates in mid-40s)

Source: Ministry of Manpower

How Intertrust Group can help in Singapore

In Singapore, Intertrust Group’s highly-specialised teams can guide companies through every aspect of employment law, setting up and running companies, trusts and investment vehicles. They have extensive knowledge of the region’s rules and regulations.

We offer the expertise required to manage complex regulatory and reporting requirements and can help navigate the complexity of hiring foreign staff to work in Singapore.

 Why Intertrust Group?

  •  Intertrust Group is a publicly listed company with more than 70 years’ experience providing world-class trust and corporate services to clients around the world.
  • Our 4,000 professionals work together across 30 jurisdictions to offer undisputed global reach, deep local knowledge and an extensive international network to help clients achieve their strategic goals.
  •  Intertrust Group provides a wide range of financial and administrative services to clients operating and investing in the international business environment. We help companies to expand globally, offering support with restructuring, outsourcing and further developments.