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Visa and Work permits
The Singapore government controls all immigration matters through the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). The ICA monitors and controls the passing of people and goods over Singapore’s borders and is responsible for various immigration and registration functions including the issue of immigration passes and permits to foreign nationals as well as the issue of travel documents and identity cards to Singapore citizens.

Under Singapore’s immigration policy, a visa is required by foreign nationals from countries such as the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Middle East states, China and some north African countries. Apart from India and Bangladesh, residents of the Commonwealth, Europe, the United States, Canada and South America generally do not require visas to enter Singapore.

Visitors are generally granted either a 14-day or 30-day social visit pass on arrival, provided they hold passports with a validity of at least six months, sufficient funds to cover their stay in Singapore, confirmed onward/return tickets and entry documentation for any onward destination. A social visit pass permits short stays, enabling attendance at job interviews, short business negotiations, discussions or meetings. For longer stays, see below.

Any person wishing to be employed or to work under a contract of service or employment (or any similar agreement) for a prolonged period in Singapore must obtain an employment pass.

Business visitor
A person visiting Singapore for business negotiations or discussions and who needs to stay longer than the 14 or 30 days permitted under a social visit pass may apply for an extension of their pass. The company with whom the business visitor is dealing is required to sponsor the application for the extension, provide details of the applicant’s business visit and guarantee the business visitor’s maintenance and repatriation. If an application is successful, the social visit pass may be extended for up to a further 30 days. All applications are processed by the Visitors’ Services Centre at the ICA, usually within two days.

The Singapore government strongly supports new investors/entrepreneurs in establishing business activities in the country. Through the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the Global Investor Programme (GIP) for foreign investors has been developed under which foreigners are allowed to enter and stay in Singapore through the following means:
  • multiple journey visa (MJV)
  • long-term visit pass for entrepreneurs (lTVP)
  • EntrePass.
An MJV (which is issued for periods of one, two or five years) is normally granted to a foreign individual who frequently travels into Singapore for the purpose of exploring business opportunities or to attend to business and investment matters. An MJV allows the foreign individual to stay in Singapore for up to 30 days per visit and can be renewed. A letter of introduction is required from a Singapore-registered company in support of a MJV application.

An lTVP enables a foreign individual to stay in Singapore for six months for the purposes of conducting feasibility studies, exploring business opportunities or completing negotiations and may be renewed for up to one year. In order to obtain an lTVP, a letter of support in the prescribed form must have been issued in support of the application by the EDB.

An EntrePass, with an initial validity period of up to two years, is targeted at foreign entrepreneurs who:
·are ready to start a new business/company in Singapore and who will be actively involved in the operation of the business/company
·own a business which must have been registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) for a maximum of six months at the time of submission of the EntrePass application.

All new EntrePass applicants must register their companies as private limited companies with at least S$50,000 paid-up share capital and hold at least a 30 per cent shareholding in the company. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board are responsible for processing applications for EntrePasses.

Employment pass
Employment pass holders are allowed to live and work in Singapore for periods of up to three years at a time. The employer is required to sponsor the application for the pass made by the applicant and applications are usually processed within two weeks by the MOM. The following types of employment passes are available to foreigners seeking professional, managerial or executive and specialist jobs:
  • P1 pass: for foreigners earning a fixed monthly salary of more than S$7,000
  • P2 pass: for foreigners earning a fixed monthly salary of more than S$3,500 and up to S$7,000 and who possess recognized qualifications
  • Q1 pass: for foreigners earning a fixed monthly salary of more than S$2,500 and who possess recognized qualifications.
The S pass is available for mid-level skilled foreigners earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of S$1,800 who possess recognized qualifications.
Apart from obtaining an employment pass, foreigners can also apply for dependant passes and/or LTVPs for their immediate family members.

The personalized employment pass (PEP) is available for employment pass holders who have worked in Singapore for some time or overseas foreign professionals whose last drawn fixed monthly salary overseas was at least S$7,000. The PEP allows the holder to remain in Singapore for up to six months between jobs to evaluate new employment opportunities and its validity is not conditional upon the PEP holder keeping his job with the same employer, unlike an employment pass.

Permanent residence
There are a number of schemes under which permanent residency can be granted, depending on an applicant’s skills and qualifications. These include the Professional, Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme, the Landed Permanent Residence Scheme, Approval-in-Principle for Permanent Residence Scheme (for Hong Kong applicants), the Foreign Artistic Talent Scheme, and the Global Investor Programme.

Permanent residence applications can be lodged either in Singapore with the ICA or, if the applicant is currently residing overseas, an application can be submitted to the Singapore mission in the resident country. Processing usually takes three months.