The Singapore Employment Pass Scheme

The Employment Pass (EP) is a form of work visa that is issued to foreign managers, professional employees and executives of Singapore companies. No quota system is maintained for the EP, meaning that there is no limit to the number of passes that can be issued to a company. Ottavia has written this guide to provide those interested in working in Singapore with detailed information about the eligibility requirements, application procedure, standard processing timeline and other relevant details about the Singapore Employment Pass. For the purposes of this guide, the terms ‘Employment Visa’ and ‘Employment Pass’ are used interchangeably.

Ordinarily, the Employment Pass (EP) is issued for a period of one to two years at a time and is renewable beyond this. Holders of an EP are entitled to live and work in Singapore as well as enter and leave the country without needing to apply for entry visas. Possessing an EP also means that individuals may be able to apply for Singaporean Permanent Residence in due course. Read Ottavia’s guide to learn more.

Employment Pass Eligibility Restrictions

Applicants must currently be earning greater than S$3,300 per month to apply for the Employment Pass.

From 1 January 2017 onwards, the salary threshold will increase to S$3,600 a month. The website of the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) provides more detail.

Key facts and requirements pertaining to the Employment Pass:

  • The applicant’s prior work experience and educational qualifications will also be assessed by the MOM as part of the application process for the EP in addition to the minimum salary threshold.
  • The possession of professional experience for the industry relevant to the sough after passion as well as a tertiary degree from a reputable university are critical for the application process. Applicants are required to be educationally qualified to be granted and qualifications must come from a reputable institution. Where the applicant lacks a good quality education, strong professional employment history and the possession of a good salary may compensate. The proposed employment in Singapore must relate to the applicant’s prior education and experience.
  • The minimum salary threshold of S$3,300 are usually applicable to fresh graduates from respected educational institutions. Older applicants with experience will most likely need to command higher salaries to qualify for the Employment Pass.
  • With effect from 1 January 2017, the salary threshold for the Employment Pass is to increase to $3,600 a month. Refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s website for further information.
  • No official quota system is maintained for the Employment Pass. Each applicant is scrutinised by the authorities purely on their credentials and the credentials of the employing company.

The above is to be considered a general guideline only, and the ultimate outcome of an Employment Pass application is at the discretion of the Ministry of Manpower. Successful applicants will be permitted to emigrate with their families, and whether a specific family member is considered to be eligible will depend on the salary threshold of the Employment Pass holder.

Immediate families (considered to be spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) are permitted where EP holders clear an enhanced salary threshold of S$5,000. EP holders may then apply for a family visa called a Dependant’s Pass. Generally, a Dependant’s Pass (DP) application will automatically be approved if and when the EP application is approved. DP applications may be submitted at the same time as the EP application or at any time after the EP application has been approved. The expiry date of the DP is tied to the expiry date of the EP.

Certain other family members such as common-law spouses, unmarried handicapped children over the age of 21 and unmarried step-children under the age of 21 will require the EP holder to clear the same enhanced salary threshold of S$5,000. EP holders may not apply for a Dependant’s Pass and may instead apply for a variety of long stay visa referred to as a Long-Term Visit Pass. For parents of an EP holder, the EP holder will be required to clear a salary threshold of S$10,000 in order to apply for the Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP). In the same manner as the Dependant’s Pass, an LTVP application may be submitted at any time after the EP application has been approved, and the expiry date of the LTVP is tied to the expiry date of the EP.

Required documents for Employment Pass applications

Applicants will be required to submit the following documents to the Ministry of Manpower upon application:

  • EP Application Form This form is to be completed and endorsed by the Singapore company employing the applicant.
  • A copy of the applicant’s resume detailing their relevant work experience.
  • A copy of the applicant’s educational certifications/qualifications. Certificates awarded by universities in India must be accompanied by mark sheets / transcripts. Verification proof is required if the degree or diploma is awarded by a university in China.
  • A copy of the personal particulars page of the applicant’s passport.
  • Copies of past employment testimonials
  • A copy of the Singapore company’s business profile.
  • A detailed description of the duties the applicant will perform in their employment.
  • A detailed description of the products sold or activities performed by the company.
  • The Ministry of Manpower may require additional supporting documents to be provided as needed.

Any documents not written in English are to be officially translated into English.

Application procedure and projected timeline

Completed applications are to be submitted to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower along with all required documents. The Ministry of Manpower is the government body that processes all Employment Pass applications. The application may be filed online  thru EP Online Account. The online application is generally quick, but does not allow for submission of all supporting documents.

Upon filing, an online application has a standard processing time of between 1 and 10 working days contingent on the qualifications of the applicant and the credentials of the employing company. The Ministry of Manpower’s processing time can range from anywhere between three and six weeks for manual applications from the date of submission.

Please keep in mind that the timeframe for the overall application procedure can vary greatly from between a few days to a few weeks, contingent upon a number of factors such as whether the application required additional documents from the applicant or employer, and / or required internal inputs from various economic agencies in Singapore.

Approval and collection process for the Employment Pass

Upon approval of your Employment Pass visa application, the Ministry of Manpower will send an In-Principle-Approval (IPA) letter to the business address provided for the employing company on the completed application form. The letter is valid for a period of six months, and applicants are required to collect their Employment Pass before this time expires. This period may be extended for a period of one month a single time. Requests for extension must be made no later than a week prior to the letter’s expiry. Successful applicants are required to collect their Employment Pass in person in Singapore.

To issue the Employment Pass, the Ministry of Manpower requires a copy of the In-Principle-Approval letter, a medical exam report (if applicable), and your passport, as well as any other documents specifically requested in the IPA letter. Your In-Principle-Approval letter will indicate whether you are required to undertake the medical test, and if so will specify the tests required. If medical exam is required, you are required to produce the resulting report and the medical declaration form endorsed by a Singapore- registered general practitioner or hospital when issuing your Employment Pass.

All new applicants (without prior work pass records with MOM), are required to be in Singapore physically to issue their Employment Pass. The applicant will need to visit the MOM service centre to register his / her fingerprint and photograph and verification of documents specified on the IPA letter. An appointment has to be arranged prior to visit to MOM. Upon successful registration and document verification, the EP card will be delivered to the appointed card delivery address after 4-5 working days.

Should you reside overseas and require an entry visa to collect your Employment Pass, a one-time entry visa will be issued as part of the In-Principle-Approval letter allowing you to enter Singapore. If you had applied for Dependant’s Passes and/or Long-Term Visit Passes for family members, you may collect these at the same time as you collect your EP.

It is to be noted that an Employment Pass application is not approved as a matter of course. Each application is subject to review and approval by Ministry of Manpower authorities. Therefore, applicants are advised not to make any relocation plans until they have received the In-Principle-Approval letter.

Managing rejection of Employment Pass applications

The fact of the matter is that the Ministry of Manpower does not approve all Employment Pass work visa applications. The Ministry takes into account the qualifications and work experience of the applicant and the credentials of the employer when considering to reject or approve applications. Should the initial application be rejected, Ottavia can explore the reasons why it was rejected, and – where appropriate – file an appeal addressing the issues raised in the rejection. If the additional details provided are deemed to be satisfactory to the Ministry, your application is likely to be approved. It can take between four and six weeks to process an appeal application.

Renewing an Employment Pass

In general, three months before the expiry date of an Employment Pass, an Employment Pass Renewal Form will be sent to the registered address of the employing company. If the company has an EP Online account, the renewal can be done 6 months prior to the expiry date of the current pass. Should the renewal application be approved, your employer will receive an approval letter. In general, registration of the new EP card can be done via EP Online but some applicants are required to visit the Ministry of Manpower office to re-register their fingerprint and photograph. Upon successful registration of EP card via online or MOM counter, the new EP card will be delivered to the appointed card delivery address 4-5 working days later.

For more information about the Employment Pass Scheme, please refer to the Employment Pass FAQs and the website of the Ministry of Manpower.

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