To immigrate to Singapore as a skilled worker, you normally need to get a job offer first. Check our article “IT companies in Singapore” to find a list of job websites and a list of local tech companies.
Many tech companies in Singapore offer relocation packages to foreign professionals. Packages may include plane tickets, transportation of personal belongings, the first month of rent, and sometimes even subsequent rent of an apartment.
With a job offer, you will need to wait until your employer applies for a work visa on your behalf. Once you get a confirmation, you can start working in Singapore.
1. Apply for an entry visa, if applicable
Citizens of several countries need to get a visa to enter Singapore. These countries include the following:
- Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen
- Europe: Belarus, Kosovo, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine
- Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia
To obtain a visa, you need to apply to one of Singapore’s embassies/consulates or visa centers within 30 days before arriving in Singapore. You will need these documents:
- Completed Form 14A
- Passport-sized color photograph taken within the last 3 months
- Copy of your passport page with personal data
Visa fees are S$30 per visa application. Your visa application can be processed within one working day (at least the Singaporean government’s website promises so).
2. Wait for your employer to apply for a work visa
An entry visa is not enough to be able to work and live in Singapore. Regardless of your citizenship, you need to obtain a work visa (also known as a work pass).
Visa for the main applicant
There are 3 main types of visas for skilled foreign workers in Singapore: Employment Pass (EP), S Pass, and Personalized Employment Pass (PEP).
1. Employment Pass (EP). It allows foreign professionals, managers, and executives to work in Singapore. Tech specialists usually receive a work visa of this type. You can’t apply yourself — your employer should do it on your behalf.
- Job offer in Singapore.
- The minimum salary is S$4,500 a month. The qualifying salaries for older and more experienced EP candidates in their 40s are around double the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest applicants. From December 1, 2020, the minimum salary for EP candidates in the financial services sector will be raised to $5,000 for new applications.
- University degree, professional qualifications, or specialized skills.
It takes about 3 weeks to process an application. The EP is issued for 2 years and can be renewed for another 3 years.
2. S Pass. It allows mid-level skilled staff (e. g. technicians) to work in Singapore. Like the EP, the S Pass is also tied to a specific employer. Employers are subject to a quota for S Pass employees (capped at 10% of the workforce starting January 2021).
- Job offer in Singapore.
- The minimum salary is S$2,500 a month.
- Degree or diploma, including technical certificates proving at least 1 year of full-time study, such as courses for qualified technicians or specialists.
- Relevant work experience.
- Medical insurance provided by the employer.
It takes about 3 weeks to process an application. The S Pass is issued for 2 years and can be renewed.
The EP and S Pass are tied to the employer. If you change the company, the old pass is canceled and you have to leave Singapore or obtain a new pass. The latter means that you’ll need to prepare the documents and undergo the verification procedure again.
3. Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) — for high-earning EP holders or overseas professionals (freelancers, entrepreneurs, and EP holders under the sponsorship scheme are not eligible). Its main advantage is that you’re not tied to a specific employer or sector and are free to change jobs. If you’re a PEP holder, you can remain unemployed for 6 months.
- The minimum salary is S$12,000 per month for current EP holders or S$18,000 for overseas professionals.
You can apply directly for a PEP (it will cost S$330). It takes about 8 weeks to process an application. The PEP is issued for 3 years and is not renewable.
Visas for family members
If you earn at least S$6,000 per month, your spouse and children can get one of the following passes:
- Dependant pass (DP) — for legally married spouses and unmarried children under 21, including legally adopted ones. Your spouse can work in Singapore if they receive a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the government.
- Long-term visit pass (LTVP) — for common-law spouses, unmarried step-children under 21, and unmarried handicapped children above 21. If you earn S$12,000 or more per month, you can get this visa for your parents.
Your family members can’t apply themselves — your employer will need to submit a separate application for each family member together with your visa application or separately.
Documents you will need to obtain passes for you and your family:
- Your passport (and the passport of your spouse if you’re relocating together)
- Company’s latest business profile or instant information registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
- Your educational credentials (degree certificate or diploma). If you’re from India, you also need transcripts for all semesters, indicating the college attended. If you’re from China, you’ll need a verification of your diploma or degree from China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHSI), China Academic Degrees & Graduate Education Information (CDGDC), Dataflow, or Risk Management Intelligence (RMI)
- Marriage certificate and birth certificates for your family members
- Translations of all documents that are not in English
Workers from several countries and territories (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan) might be eligible for a work permit instead of a work pass. However, a work permit does not allow the holder to bring their family to Singapore.
3. Find temporary accommodation
Before traveling to Singapore, it’s recommended to find temporary accommodation. Your employer might provide you with a temporary apartment or room for several weeks. Specify conditions in advance to learn what applies specifically to you. If your employer doesn’t provide you with temporary accommodation, you can find it on Airbnb or similar websites before you arrive in Singapore.
4. Come to Singapore
International shipping companies can help you bring your belongings to Singapore. Shipping times and costs vary depending on your country of origin.
5. Find a permanent place to live
You might have to allow several weeks to find a suitable apartment or a house. Remember that you will need a residential address in Singapore to get your pass card issued — the immigration authorities will send it to your address in Singapore.
Here are popular Singaporean and Asian property websites:
The cost of rental housing in Singapore depends on various factors such as the area and distance from the city center, the type of housing, year of construction, the quality of furnishings and repairs, as well as additional amenities such as a swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, security, etc.
There are several types of rental housing in Singapore:
- Rental rooms: S$500 – 1,800 per month. Remember that the “master room” means a room with an individual shower and the “common room” is a room with a shower and toilet shared by several people
- Housing Development Board (HDB) apartments: more affordable state housing (S$2,200 – 3,000) for lower-income families (high-earning tech professionals normally are not eligible, and there’s also the non-citizen quota set at 8% at the neighborhood level and 11% at the block level)
- Condominiums (condos): apartments in residential complexes with various amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts, playgrounds, and more; rental costs are S$3,000 to S$10,000
- Landed properties: single-family houses or townhouses with plots; rental prices start from S$5,000
- Serviced apartments: furnished apartments with services such as cleaning; rental costs are S$7,000 – 14,000
To rent a property in Singapore, you will need the following documents:
- Copy of your pass card, if you already have one (you might need to show your employment contract instead)
- Copy of your passport
- Letter of intent (LOI): a letter stipulating your intentions to sign a tenancy agreement with the landlord
When renting an apartment or house in Singapore, you will have the following expenses:
- Rent for the first month
- Good faith deposit (a booking deposit): one month’s rent for a 12-month lease or double for a 24-month lease
- Broker’s fees: 50% or 100% of the rent for the first month
- Stamp duty: 0.4% of the total rent for the period of the lease
Utility costs are S$150–600 per month in total:
- Electricity and water: S$100–120 per month
- Natural gas: S$40 per cylinder
- Air conditioners repair: S$30–40 every 3 months
- Internet: S$30–35
- Mobile phone: S$40–100
6. Get your pass card issued
You’ll get your pass issued within 6 months of approval (in case of the EP or PEP) or within 60 days (in case of S Pass).
Your employer will request your pass card to be issued on your behalf. You must be in Singapore by that time. As a result, your employer must give you a printed notification letter. It will allow you to start working and be able to travel in and out of Singapore while waiting for the pass card. The notification letter is valid for 1 month and can be extended.
To get your card issued, you need to provide your employer with the following:
- Your passport details
- Your address in Singapore where the card will be delivered
- Disembarkation/Embarkation card
- Completed medical examination form or health declaration form
- Completed declaration form
- Details of medical insurance and work injury compensation insurance (if your employer applied for an S Pass)
7. Register fingerprints
You might have to register to have your fingerprints and a photo taken. Whether you need this will depend on what is written in your notification letter.
If your notification letter states you must register to have fingerprints and a photo taken, you need to do this within 2 weeks after your pass is issued (within 1 week if you obtained an S Pass).
Your employer must make an appointment for you, and you need to visit the Employment Pass Services Centre (EPSC).
You should bring along these documents for the appointment:
- Your passport
- Appointment letter
- Notification letter
- Documents listed in the in-principle approval (IPA letter) and notification letter
8. Receive your pass card
Within 4 working days after registration, you’ll get your pass card delivered to your address. If you don’t need to register, you’ll get your card within 4 working days after the authorities check your documents.
You can apply for a permanent residence permit (PR) in Singapore as soon as you obtain your pass. However, there’s an annual quota, and you might have to wait several months or even more than one year to get it. Think twice before you apply for a PR: sons of permanent residents must serve two years in the Singapore army.
9. Buy a SIM card
If you don’t have your work pass yet, your only option is usually prepaid tourist SIM cards. Once you’re officially a pass holder, you can get a contract from one of these 3 major mobile providers: M1, Singtel, or Starhub. Prepaid SIM cards cost S$12–50. Contract prices are usually between S$40 and S$100 per month.
You can buy a SIM card at the airport, in 7-Eleven stores, Cheers convenience stores, FairPrice supermarkets, post offices, or from the mobile operators’ stores in most malls across the city.
The Singapore government requires that all SIM cards are registered at the time of purchase so you’ll need to present your passport or card to the clerk or to enter your ID number online to activate the SIM card on the operator’s website.
10. Open a bank account in Singapore
To get your salary in Singapore and pay for your rental home, you need to have a bank account in the country. Many other payments also require a local bank account.
Here are the most popular banks in Singapore:
- Bank of Singapore (bankofsingapore.com)
- DBS (dbs.com.sg)
- Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) Bank (ocbc.com)
- POSB (Part of DBS Bank)
- United Overseas Bank Limited, UOB (uobgroup.com)
In addition, there are foreign and international banks in Singapore such as Bank of China, Citibank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered Bank, and others.
To open a bank account in Singapore, you will need the following documents (the complete list of documents depends on the bank, and some of the documents may be optional):
- Your passport
- Your work pass (e. g. the Employment Pass or S Pass)
- Bank statements from your local bank
- Proof of your address in Singapore
- Employment contract
- Rental agreement
- Tax or national insurance number
- Recommendation or reference letter from your home bank
Without an EP, S Pass, or PEP, you might not be able to open a bank account in Singapore. Until you get your pass, you can transfer money via TransferWise or its alternatives.