Guide to Business Licenses and Permits in Singapore


Permits and Business Licenses in Singapore

This is a guide to the industry specific business licenses which are required for companies who want to conduct certain types of business in Singapore. There are a number of industries who require permits in order to operate, and any registered company can apply to attain one of these applicable license.

Industry-specific business licenses

There are a number of kinds of businesses in Singapore which require a license to operate. Obtaining one of these permit or licenses can take between two weeks and few months depending on the type of application. Some types of businesses which require permits for operation include:

  • Retail shops: In the retail sector, licensing requirements vary depending on the goods or services being sold.
  • Construction businesses: In addition to obtaining a license, companies must apply to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to obtain work permits which enable the hiring of foreign nationals.
  • Trading: Companies wishing to engage in trading activities (import / export) to / from Singapore, the company is required to register with Singapore Custom. Additional licenses or permits may be required if the company wishes to import goods into Singapore and whether the goods are defined as ‘sensitive’.
  • Hotels and boarding houses: There are a number of approvals and licenses which need to be obtained before an individual can operate a hotel or boarding house in Singapore. The principal permit which needs to be obtained is the Hotel-Keepers license as well as approval from the Hotel Licensing Board. Permits or licenses are also required for a variety of activities including housing TVs, playing copyrighted music or videos, selling tobacco products, operating a swimming pool, organising ad-hoc entertainment, and running a spa.
  • Spas: To run a spa, business owners need to obtain a Massage Establishment License which permits them to offer massage, foot reflexology, manicures, spa baths and other common spa treatments.
  • Western medical clinics: All health care institutions must obtain a Medical Clinic License in order to practice but depending on the type of services offered, they may also have to obtain licenses for managing hazardous chemicals, using irritating equipment, purchasing certain medical products and carrying out medical procedures like sterilisation, abortion, and liposuction.
  • Employment agencies: Businesses like these require the Employment Agency License to operate.
  • Travel agencies: The Travel Agency License is required by those wishing to operate in Singapore.
  • F&B businesses: There are many different licenses associated with establishing a restaurant or food retail outlet such as the Food Shop and Liquor licenses.
  • Shipping businesses: A shipping business requires a number of different permits for activities such as operating vessels within Singapore and outside its waters, hiring a crew, handling dangerous foods and operating communication equipment.
  • Event management companies: The kinds of licenses which an event management company has to obtain is dictated by the types of events that they organise. Examples of licenses the businesses in this industry may need to acquire include Animal Exhibition License, Trade Fair Permit, Arts Entertainment License, Copyright Permit and the Public Entertainment License.
  • Real estate agencies: A statutory board oversees the real estate industry with a view to lifting professional standards and representing consumer interests. There is a new licensing framework which has been introduced which stipulated compulsory licensing requirements for businesses in this industry.
  • Publishing: Companies that wish to establish themselves in the publishing industry need to obtain either the Newspaper Permit or the Printing Press License depending on the type of operation they are running.
  • Telecommunications: There are a number of licenses and permits which are associated with this industry. Each type of business activity requires a license and some even require multiples.
  • Private education: Licenses are required for a number of different forms of private education in Singapore including kindergartens as well as both academic and non-academic schools.

As part of Singapore’s continuing efforts to develop itself as a world commerce hub, many of the licensing application processes have been simplified and streamlined. Provided the applying company provides all of the relevant documentation and meets the eligibility requirements, the license will in all likelihood be approved. If you believe your business requires a license to operate, then its best to engage a firm such as Ottavia to ensure your application experience is streamlines and efficient.