International Businesses Can Hire Foreigners with These Work Pass Options in Singapore

Sep 29 2022
International Businesses Can Hire Foreigners with These Work Pass Options in Singapore

Global businesses often choose Singapore to expand into the Asian Pacific region because this island country is a hotspot for talent – not just local, but foreigners too.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore suffered from problems of slow down followed by the Great Resignation and decreasing foreign talent numbers as borders remain closed. The year 2022 is seeing an improving trend on this front, with Singapore opening its borders to most countries and business operations back in full force for all companies.

Companies looking to hire from the vast influx of talent pouring in from across the globe can make use of the following work pass options.

Hiring Top Talent Individuals

As part of a new initiative to ensure that Singapore can compete effectively in the global fight for top talent, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced a new work pass effective from 1 January 2023.

The new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass is targeted towards talented individuals from the Technology, Science, Business, Arts, Culture and Research sectors; those who earn a monthly salary of S$30,000 and above; or possesses “outstanding achievements” in the targeted sectors.  This Pass will allow both high-earners and high-achievers to live in Singapore without having to first secure a job.

Read more about it here.

Hiring Professionals and Mid-level Employees

Singapore’s evolving outlook towards its foreign manpower policies is geared towards ensuring that companies are able to hire foreigners for jobs that require superior skillsets and which will balance the local Singapore workforce. This would mean increasing costs for businesses as qualifying salaries for work passes are set to be raised sequentially in the coming years. Furthermore, sectors like construction and process will also see a decline in the dependency ratio ceiling (percentage of foreigners that a company can employ). Balancing out skill shortages across both high-end jobs in technology and data science as well as in mid-range jobs is a growing priority.

For global businesses looking to hire foreign talent professionals to take up executive or higher end jobs, there are range of options that can be considered:

1. Employment Pass (EP):

This work pass option is largely used for higher-end working professionals, executives, and managers. Important considerations for qualifying for an EP includes educational background and salary benchmarks. Individuals who have studied at one of Singapore’s recognised institutions for higher education is an added advantage in such cases. It is always advisable for the employers or appointed employment agents to use the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) to do an initial screening of whether the selected candidate qualifies for an EP. 

2. S Pass:

While this was previously considered for the semi-skilled labour force, the new policies geared towards increasing minimum qualifying salaries have made the S Pass more suited for hiring mid-level skilled staff that can include talents across a wider spectrum of executive level jobs. The goal is to eventually uplift the quality of S Pass holders to the top one-third of the local APT workforce. However, companies need to take note that this category is subject to a quota, which will be reduced from 18% to 15% of the total workforce for the manufacturing, construction, marine shipyard, and process sectors with effect from 1st January 2023. 

The increments stipulated by the MOM are as follows:

S Pass Worker Qualifying Salary Increments

Companies are also required to pay a monthly foreign worker levy for all S Pass holders. The rate for Tier 1 levies will be progressively increased from $450 to $550 from 1 September 2023 onwards. This is year-marked to hit $650 by the year 2025.

3. Training Employment Pass:

Companies can make use of this work pass option if they are looking to hire foreign students or trainees from their companies’ foreign branch offices or subsidiaries for a short period of up to 3 months. Such work passes cannot be renewed and must applied using the company’s own Corppass. They are typically students from approved institutions across a wide range of countries who meet the eligibility requirements set by MOM.

Working Exemptions for Foreigners on Visit Pass

Global businesses that are expanding to Singapore or have a local presence might often require their employees to travel to the country to attend conferences, seminars, company meetings, exhibitions and more. In such cases, Singapore allows companies to apply for work pass exemptions for short periods of time.

  • Miscellaneous Work Pass – Under this pass, foreigners can engage in short-term work assignments for up to 60 days. They must either be:
    • Organising or conducting a seminar/conference related directly or indirectly to a religion.
    • Covering a story as a journalist/reporter.
  • Work Pass Exemption Activities – This allows you to work in Singapore for a short duration (up to 90 days) without a work pass. The eligible foreigner will still require a Short Term Visit Pass to enter the country. However, he/she is not required to notify the Ministry of Manpower to:
    • Attend company meetings, conferences and related events.
    • Attend workshops, training courses and related events as a participant.
    • Visit trade exhibitions as an investor.
  • Work Pass Exemption for Foreign Students – Employees can also hire foreign students holding a student pass if they fall under any of the approved institutions listed under the MOM. This is suitable for companies that are looking to hire interns for their business.

Hiring Unskilled Work Force:

Companies looking to hire migrant workers for unskilled jobs have to apply for Work Permits for the various sector industries. Different sectors have different requirements that need to be carefully adhered to.

Some key elements of this permit are as follows:

  • Duration for up to 2 years; subject to passport validity, security bonds and working period.
  • Typically for manual labour workforce in the construction, manufacturing, marine, shipyard, process or services sector.
  • There is no minimum salary requirement that the employer needs to meet.


With an increasing demand for talent, global businesses have a wide variety of visa options to choose from when hiring foreigners. The year 2022 sees Singapore basing its policies on attracting higher-calibre foreign individuals that can add on to its existing workforce. This will allow it to continue positioning itself as a global talent hub while at the same time boosting local employment.

Businesses have to carefully consider all options available when hiring to ensure that eligibility criteria and government requirements are all met.

Does your business need help applying for Work Passes for your professional staff? Contact us.