On 29 August 2022, the Ministry of Manpower announced various measures to Singapore’s work pass framework, aimed at facilitating the employment of foreigners where required for employers in Singapore to fulfil their business and operational needs. Those measures will no doubt be welcomed by employers, including those looking to set up or maintain regional or global headquarters in Singapore and position Singapore as a strong hub for global talent.
(A) Introduction of a new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass for talents comparable to top 5% of EP holders
- This is a personalised, 5-year work pass that allows holders to concurrently start, operate, and work for multiple companies in Singapore at any one time
- Pass holders can sponsor dependants. Their spouses will also be able to work on a Letter of Consent.
- Applicants will need to:
- Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30,000 within the last year; or
- Show that they will earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30,000 from their future employer in Singapore.
- Overseas candidates will need to demonstrate that they are working for an established company overseas, or will be working for an established company in Singapore. An established company is defined as a company with a market capitalisation of at least US$500 million or an annual revenue of at least US$200 million
- Individuals with outstanding achievements in the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia, can also qualify even if they do not meet the salary criterion.
- The Pass is renewable for 5 years each time, subject to the candidate meeting eligibility criteria for renewal.
- Pass holders will not be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement and the upcoming new points-based system for EP applicants that is called the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS).
- Pass holders will be asked to notify MOM annually of their professional activities, to ensure that they utilise the flexibilities accorded to contribute meaningfully to Singapore.
- Timing: The Pass will be open for applications from 1 January 2023.
(B) Introduction of a new public benchmark that is pegged to top 10% of EP holders
- This group of EP applicants will continue to be exempted from the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement and COMPASS.
- They will also continue to be eligible for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP).
- To align to this single public benchmark, MOM will:
- Raise the exemption bar for the FCF job advertising requirement and COMPASS from S$20,000 to S$22,500; and
- Raise the salary criterion for the PEP from S$12,000 (for existing EP holders) and S$18,000 (for overseas foreign professionals) to S$22,500.
- Going forward, MOM will review these thresholds annually against the benchmark, taking into account prevailing economic conditions.
- Timing: These changes will be implemented from 1 September 2023.
(C) EP Applications
- To enable employers to be more responsive to business needs:
- MOM will restore the FCF job advertising duration from 28 days to 14 days with effect from 1 September 2022.
- MOM will improve processing time for all EP applications. EP applications will be processed, or an update will be given to employers within 10 business days. This will be implemented with immediate effect.
(D) Experienced tech professionals with skills in shortage
- MOM will offer the option of a 5-year EP to candidates who meet the following criteria:
- Fill specific tech occupations on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List (SOL);
- Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$10,500 (older candidates need higher salaries to qualify); and
- Pass COMPASS and score at least 10 points on the Diversity criterion.
- The typical duration of an EP is 2 to 3 years. A longer pass duration will give greater certainty to experienced tech professionals as well as businesses in their workforce planning.
- Timing: This will be implemented with effect from 1 September 2023.
The changes were foreshadowed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2022 National Day Rally speech where he had emphasized that Singapore should build up a “world-class talent pool” by developing its own workforce while continuing to attract talent from abroad – “We want to make top talent everywhere sit up, pay attention and think seriously about coming to Singapore”.
These new initiatives are a welcome change, in that they enable businesses to be more responsive to their hiring and operational needs and allow companies to bring in the best global talent and experienced tech professionals to compete effectively on the world stage. They also underscore Singapore’s commitment to remain open to foreign talent, rather than turning inwards and protectionist.
For further information, please contact:
Laure de Panafieu, Partner, Linklaters