Working as an Expat in Singapore

Singapore is a Southeast Asian country that has quickly risen the ranks of desired expat destinations. One of the main draws of the country is its multitude of working permit options. This allows foreigners of all different qualification types to pursue a path towards legally working and living abroad in Singapore.

Employment Pass in Singapore

The Employment Pass (EP) is the most common and most applicable way to move abroad to Singapore to work. Obtaining this pass is done after you have secured a job in the country and before you have moved there. This permit will legally allow you to live and work in Singapore, dependent on the duration of your employment. There are three main subcategories associated with the Employment Pass:

  • P1:  Available to those with superior education and work experience, who have been offered a job with a monthly salary of around $5,800 USD per month.
  • P2: This work permit is available to those with extensive experience in a particular field, who have been offered a job with a monthly salary of around $3,500 USD per month.
  • Q1: Available for those with valuable skills who are recent graduates from respected educational institutions, with limited working experience. To qualify, you will need a job offer of at least $2,400 USD per month.

For an employer to be valid enough to offer a job worthy of qualification for an Employment Pass in Singapore, they must have a clean record of treatment of past employees, must be well-established in the country with sufficient capital, and must have advertised the job for a minimum of two weeks with no Singapore citizen applicant found suitable for the position.  

For an employee to qualify, beyond the income and experience requirements, they must have a valid passport and be under the pension age in Singapore (62). Certain countries require additional paperwork to apply for this Employment Pass, so check with the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore, or your nearest Singapore consulate to find out the specifics about your country of origin.  

Details of the Employment Pass

Obtaining an Employment Pass to work abroad in Singapore gives you the most preferred method for attaining permanent residency. The initial EP is valid for two years, after which it can be renewed for another three years depending on the status of your employment. The pass is also linked to the specific employer that hired you. Changing jobs requires the application Consumer Resource Guidefor a new EP. If your position provides you with at least $3,700 USD a month, you can bring any dependent children or spouse with you to Singapore. If your job pays you $7,300 USD per month, you can bring your parents as well. The entire process for application can take about a week if using a specialized online program called EP Online, or around 5 weeks if done independently.

Note: Those coming from a different Asian country looking to work abroad in Singapore can apply for something called a Work Permit. This is an easier and faster process for attaining the legal right to work in the country. There is also a form of work permit called the S Pass, geared towards foreign technicians in the fields of chemicals, construction, electronics, marine, or engineering .

Personalized Employment Pass

The most prestigious and freeing form of working permit in Singapore is something called the Personalized Employment Pass (PEP). For those deemed as highly qualified and top-bracket earners, the PEP grants you the same rights as the EP, but doesn’t tie you to a particular employer.

The qualifications for the PEP are the same as the EP, with a few additions:

  • Monthly income must be at least $13,000 USD ($12,000 USD if upgrading from an existing EP)
  • Applicants must show exceptional skills in their field, with comparable experience and documentation

Perks of the PEP (In Addition to Those of the EP)

  • Application can be started before finding employment in Singapore, allowing for a job searching process once arriving in the country.
  • Valid for 3 years. This is non-renewable, though consecutive PEPs can be applied for if qualifications remain met.
  • Holder’s have the ability to change employers freely. The visa remains active so long as you don’t exceed 6 months of unemployment between jobs.
  • Preferential treatment for hiring.

Note: None of the above mentioned working permits allow you to actively start a business in Singapore. For that, expats will need to qualify for the Global Investor Programme (GIP) (link to Singapore Invest).

Author Bio:

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.