Ranked as one of the world’s best economies and safest nations, Singapore is a truly desirable destination for expats looking to retire abroad to Southeast Asia. Combine this with English as an official language, a high quality of life, first-world amenities, beautiful weather and landscapes, and a favorable exchange rate, and it’s clear why so many Western retirees want to call Singapore home for their golden years.
While Singapore is certainly desirable as a relocation destination, unless you are a high net worth individual looking to invest a sizable amount of money into the country in exchange for permanent residency, retiring in Singapore can prove to be a little tricky.
No Retirement Visa for Expats
While many nations want to promote foreign retirees coming to their country, through the offerings of perk-based retirement visas, Singapore is exempt from this list. This does not make it impossible to retire to Singapore, but you’ll need to take a longer or more expensive route to achieving your leisurely dreams.
In order to relocate long-term to Singapore, you’ll need to acquire permanent residency in the country. This can be done in one of three main ways: Employment Pass, Global Investor Programme, or Foreign Artistic Talent permit.
The Employment Permit can be achieved through qualified hiring by a Singaporean company. Expats holding this Employment Pass can apply for permanent residency after one year of living abroad and working in Singapore. Once permanent residence is obtained in Singapore, an employment pass is no longer needed to maintain working legality in the nation. Permanent residency is valid for 5 years before needing to be renewed.
The Global Investor Program (GIP) allows expat investors to receive immediate permanent residency in the country. The minimum starting investment is $2.5 million SGD ($1.85 million USD). Applicants are given 6 months to complete investment from time of permit approval. Unmarried dependents and spouses can achieve permanent residency after the applicant’s GIP has been received. Parents of the PR holder can be added to the residency program for an additional investment price of around $220k USD per parent.
Foreign Artistic Talent allows for those with exceptional talent in the arts, photography, dance, literature, music, or film to receive permanent residency in Singapore. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate that they have made significant contributions to Singapore’s art scene.
Unfortunately, unless you are willing to make a large investment into a company in the country or work for the required years necessary in Singapore to receive permanent residency, you’re options are limited.
For most Western nations, short term visas are offered for up to 90 days per 180-day periods, though this isn’t ideal for a long-term retirement.
Cost of Living
While Singapore does have a favorable exchange rate for many Western nations, the cost of living is still very high. Below are the country-wide averages (in USD) for living in Singapore:
- A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant: $45
- 1 liter of milk: $2.19
- Dozen eggs: $2.20
- 1 liter of gas: $1.53
- Basic monthly utilities (electric, heating, cooling, water): $110 (monthly)
- One-bedroom apartment in the city center: $2,185 per month
- Outside of the city center: $1,439 per month
- Three-bedroom apartment in city center: $3,845 per month
- Outside city center: $2,310
- Price per square meter: $19,218 (city center), $9,278 (outside center)
- Average monthly net salary: $3,120
Healthcare for Expats in Singapore
For those with the financial means to retire in Singapore, healthcare will likely be near the top of your list of priorities. Luckily, Singapore has a highly developed infrastructure with medical standards on par with Western nations. There are numerous top-rated hospitals and clinics scattered throughout the city-state, so finding one near your desired retirement destination shouldn’t be a problem. There is no national healthcare available for expat retirees in Singapore, so a private healthcare plan is necessary for anything beyond general doctor visits.
Pensions and Taxes
All Singaporean citizens and permanent residents working in the country must pay into the Central Provident Fund. Foreign workers who do not yet have permanent residency are not required to make payments into the fund, even if they are a tax resident.
You will be viewed as a tax resident in Singapore if you spend 183 days in a one-year period, though only income derived in Singapore will be taxed. Income tax in the country is progressive, and the 2017 rates range from 0% for your first $20,000 up to 22% for annual income exceeding $320,000.
Tyler Sorce is an American writer and digital nomad currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. In a past life he was a chef in Manhattan and Paris, follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.
“The 15 Questions You Should Ask When You Buy Properties Overseas”