Singapore Overhauls Expat Visas

Singapore Overhauls Expat Visas

Using Points-based system for Employment Pass (EP) applicants

Singapore will introduce a new work permit approval system beginning 2023, its manpower minister announced on 4th March 2022.

The Southeast Asian financial hub has long been a popular location for foreign firms to base their regional headquarters. This move will mean a new points-based system will ensure a "high quality diverse workforce" by using foreign talent that "complements" locals

Foreign labour has long been a thorny issue in Singapore and pandemic-related job cuts and business closures have heightened concerns about employment opportunities among the local population. The proportion of non-residents among Singapore's 5.5 million population has increased from about 10% in the nineties  to nearly 30 % today, according to government statistics.

The new rules for EPs, which are typically granted to high-paid professionals will take effect in September 2023. Employment Pass holders made up about 14% of the country’s nearly 1.2 million foreign workers as of June, according to government data. The manpower ministry has earlier warned some companies against hiring too many professionals of a single nationality and urged them to diversify their workforce and hire more local staff.

Under the new system, applicants would be awarded points based on how many other workers of their nationality are hired by their employer and how many other foreigners work there in relation to local staff. This would be on top of the existing criteria like applicants' qualifications and salary.

Introducing a points-based visa system for some of the highest-paid foreign workers, including scores for how the applicant’s nationality contributes to the diversity of firms. There would be bonus points for candidates with skills that are scarce in the country, like in the information technology sector. The city-state will increase the minimum salary requirement for Employment Pass applicants to S$5,000 in most sectors and S$5,500 in the finance sector from September 2022 and for existing visas renewals from September 2024.

In addition to factors such as how salaries compare to local peers, education and skills, the new system, known as Compass, will also grant points for whether the nationality of the candidate improves the diversity of their company or if the company is hiring more local staff. The Asian business and trade hub has sought to arrest a drop in the expat population during the pandemic and signal that it continues to be open to foreign talent and investment, as well as meeting shortfalls in key growth sectors like technology, biotech and finance. Unhappiness over foreign labor has been a longstanding issue in Singapore, and perceptions that hiring has been unfair to locals helped lead to the worst electoral showing for the ruling People’s Action Party in 2020 since independence.

The government has made efforts to sell the case for why Singapore remains open to foreign labor. Finance Minister Lawrence Wong addressed the issue in parliament, saying: “We must never let anti-foreigner sentiments take root here or give the impression that we are becoming more inward looking.”

The framework will mean the local workforce can be confident that t foreign professionals are “of a high caliber and will better complement their teams, “And that their employers will also take efforts to develop their local pipeline and to maintain workforce diversity seriously”

Gemini in Singapore can recruit local or overseas talent and assist in visa and EP processing call