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Expats Working in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2013

Permission to Work

This page gives details on the working conditions plus the work permits and other immigration procedures you need to complete before you will be able to work in Singapore. For more information on finding a job, starting a business and other work-related topics, see Employment and Business.

Before you are permitted to work in Singapore, you need to obtain some kind of work permit, known locally as a work pass. There are several types of work pass, categorised according to the income and qualification levels of the applicant. The employment pass (formerly the P and Q Pass) is for professionals and managers, that is, those with a degree or other professional qualification. As of 1 January 2014, you have to be earning at least S$3,300 per month (S$39,600 pa) to be eligible for an Employment Pass.  An Employment Pass is valid for one or two years, after which it can be renewed. Similar to this pass are the Personalised Employment Pass, which does not tie you to a specific employer, and the Entre Pass, which is for entrepreneurs.

If your dependants have one of these passes and want to work in Singapore, they need to apply for a Letter of Consent before they will be permitted to do so. If you have an S Pass, you can also apply for Dependant’s Passes, though your family members will need to apply for work permits or their own S Passes, as they will not be eligible for Letters of Consent.

At an intermediate level is the S Pass, which is for those who earn at least S$2,200 or have a reasonably high level of experience or qualifications (such as a technical diploma.) After four or five years or so, given a stable record of employment, S pass holders may be eligible for permanent residence. It is also possible to gain a dependency pass with an S pass. This pass costs S$50.

Other workers will be granted an R Pass, also known as a work permit. This is for skilled and unskilled workers whose salary is equal to or less than S$2,200. Otherwise, for short-term assignments, you will be issued with a Miscellaneous Work Pass.

You can start the application process before leaving your home country by applying at Employment Pass Online. Your prospective employer usually handles this part of it. The process can only be completed after you have arrived in Singapore, as the authorities will need to see your passport to verify your identity. Note that if you change jobs, you will need to apply for a new employment pass.

There is more information on work passes at the Ministry of Manpower website.


Overall, working conditions for most expats in Singapore are good. The top rate of income tax is only 15%, and most people pay far less tax than this. Furthermore, there are strict laws in place to protect workers.

However, there are laws against industrial action and other expressions of rights in the country. Also, more disturbingly, there is another side to Singapore’s miraculous success story. Many poorer expats working as housemaids or in other menial positions are paid poorly and live in degrading conditions.




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