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International Relocation for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: February 2015

Moving to a new country is an exciting prospect. However, you will quickly find yourself with a near endless moving checklist: apply for a visa, obtain a work permit, look for work, find accommodation, move belongings to your new home... It can be wearisome indeed dealing with bureaucracy in two countries and trying to arrange everything on time. However, the key is to familiarise yourself with what is required and start planning well in advance! In this respect, our Expat Briefing articles on Singapore offer a great starting point. 


Relocation Companies

In recent years, relocation companies have become very popular with expats moving to international destinations. Most of these companies do a lot more than merely arrange the removal of your belongings. For example, they can also help you to apply for visas and look for accommodation, fulfil administrative requirements and advise you how best to settle into your new environment. Using the services of a relocation company will save you a great deal of bureaucratic legwork and ensure that your relocation meets all rules and regulations in the destination country. Of course, they do want remuneration for their services, but they are certainly an option worth considering.

You can look for a relocation company in your home country or for one based in Singapore. It is best to take some time to shop around, getting quotes from different companies, as prices may vary significantly. In addition, make sure to check which additional services are included in the price. Some companies that offer relocation services to Singapore are:


Moving your Belongings

Packing is never much fun, so before you start, take a long hard look at your possessions. What do you really need? The more belongings you have, the more likely you are to need a removal firm. Furthermore, as these companies charge by volume (and by weight, for air removals), the more stuff you have, the more it will cost to move. So remember the old adage: if in doubt, chuck it out! Easy methods of lightening the load include donating to charity shops, Freecycle and selling goods online or to second-hand dealers.

As a cheaper option, you can simply use a relocation company to do the removal alone.  Equally, you can use the services of a specialist removal company to move your belongings. These companies are also able to move any pets and vehicles you have. Do not forget, however, to take out a good insurance policy. Specialist international removal companies operating in Singapore include:

If you still have some items left over, sending them might be an option. Most airlines will only allow one free piece of luggage when travelling into the country. Sending items via post or express delivery services such as DHL or UPS is only feasible for small items, as heavy parcels tend to have high price tags. On the other hand, parcels do normally have a maximum delivery cost.

Singapore has an extensive list of goods that are controlled or prohibited. Some fairly bizarre items are included – no chewing gum, for example. In addition, you will need to make a full inventory of all the items you are importing to avoid being charged Goods and Services Tax. In general, to be allowed into Singapore tax and duty free, household items and personal belongings must be owned for at least three months before they are imported.

For more information on how to move to Singapore with your family and pets, see Relocation with Families and Pets.


Importing your Vehicle

Singapore is a small country that has severe traffic congestion. The government has therefore done all it can to make vehicle importation a fraught and expensive process that only the very rich and very patient would attempt. The full list of procedures is nigh on Kafkaesque; what follows is merely the highlights.

First, you are only allowed to import vehicles less than 3 years old and they can only be right-hand drive. Next, your vehicle can only be imported if it meets the emission and safety standards pertaining to your home country. It must also pass the transport authority’s rigorous mechanical inspection.

Most significant are the taxes and other charges you have to pay. First, each imported vehicle incurs a surcharge of S$10,000. Second, there is a customs duty of at least 20% of the vehicle’s open market value, as calculated by the Customs & Excise Department. Third, the ‘Additional Registration Fee’ (ARF) will cost at least as much as your vehicle’s market value. When you de-register your vehicle, you do get up to 75% of the ARF rebated, but it is a significant sum to pledge in the meantime.

Finally, there is the Vehicle Quota System, which controls the number of new vehicles allowed on the road. You will have to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement then pay various fees to finally get your vehicle on the road. In a nutshell, earning the right to drive on Singapore’s crowded streets will take months and cost you up to twice your vehicle’s value.

Put simply, the government wants you to use the public transport system, and you are strongly advised to do so. Besides, public transport in Singapore is so good, and traffic congestion so bad, that few locals drive and very few expats hire cars. For more information on driving and public transport in Singapore, see Driving and Public Transport.


Arriving in Singapore

After successfully relocating to Singapore, you will have to take care of several administrative matters, such as opening a bank account, registering with a doctor and getting your Employment Pass endorsed. To find out more, have a look at other sections of our Expat Briefing Website and consult the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority’s webpages.




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