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Singapore introduces new work pass and fine-tunes existing work pass rules

Singapore has introduced a new work pass and modified the framework for some other work passes in an effort to attract global top talent and experienced tech professionals into skill shortage areas.

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons, said: “Like many other countries, Singapore is fighting the war for talent, and the recent amendments to the work pass rules are a recognition of this fact.”

The new work pass, called the Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass, is aimed at professionals earning at least S$30,000 per month, equivalent to the top 5% of Employment Pass (EP) holders, as well as those who have outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, and research and academia. The fixed monthly salary of S$30,000 must be from one employer.

For overseas candidates, the previous or prospective employer must have a market capitalisation of at least US$500 million or an annual revenue of at least US$200m, Singapore’s manpower minister Tan See Leng said in a ministerial statement.

Unlike the existing Tech.Pass, ONE Pass is open to candidates in all business sectors and for a longer duration of five years. The Tech.Pass is only available to tech sector candidates and has a two year duration. Spouses of ONE Pass holders can obtain a Letter of Consent (LOC) which will allow them to work in certain occupations.

To prevent abuse or fraudulent applications for ONE Pass, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will conduct back-end checks to filter potential cases of false salary declarations. This will include reviewing applications from companies with a limited track record and requiring more documents to verify that the salary declared will be paid.

For those planning to convert to ONE Pass from an existing EP, MOM will review their Personal Income Tax filings with Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to ensure they are consistent with their application. For overseas candidates, MOM will assess their company’s market value and revenue based on verifiable sources.

MOM will also engage with pass holders while they are in Singapore to maintain up to date records of their professional activities and annual income. These will be used as a factor to assess if they are qualified to renew the pass.

Under the announced changes to the existing work pass framework, MOM will set a new benchmark tied to the top 10% EP holders in four schemes granting an exemption from the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement, the new Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), and criterion for the Personalised Employment Pass. The threshold for exemption has been increased from S$20,000 to S$22,500.

The FCF advertising requirement means that companies in Singapore must advertise a job opening for a specified time before they can hire a non-local. COMPASS is a new points system for EP applicants that will be effective from 1 September 2023.

The FCF job advertising duration has been restored from 28 days to 14 days effective from 1 September 2022. In addition, experienced professionals filling tech occupations on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List will now be offered a five-year EP option.

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