Singapore to introduce points-based work pass assessment framework

Out-Law News | 08 Mar 2022 | 4:01 am | 2 min. read

Singapore will introduce significant changes to its employment permit process from next year, including a new points-based assessment.

From 1 September 2023, new applications for an employment pass (EP) will need to obtain at least 40 points under the new Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). The assessment will be extended to renewals from September 2024.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) said that the new framework would “[enable] employers to select high-quality foreign professionals, while improving workforce diversity and building a strong Singaporean core”.

There are four foundational criteria to the COMPASS framework: the individual’s salary and qualifications; plus two firm-related attributes of diversity and support for local employment. 

A candidate will get 20 points if they exceed expectations on each foundational criterion. Ten points will be awarded for meeting expectations, and zero points if the candidate fails to meet expectations.

On the qualification criterion, a candidate who has a qualification from a top-tier institution will get 20 points. One who has a degree-equivalent qualification will be awarded ten points and one with no degree-equivalent qualification will not receive points. This criterion is not a mandatory requirement, a candidate who gets zero points in this part can still pass COMPASS if they obtain sufficient points on other criteria.

On the diversity criterion, a candidate will get more points if their nationality forms a small share of the firm’s profession, manager, executive and technician level (PMET) employees. Smaller firms with fewer than 25 PMETs will automatically be scored as "meeting expectations" on the two firm-related attributes.

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons said: “While there have been a number of refinements to the work pass criteria over the years, this new framework is undoubtedly the biggest change to the work pass application process in recent years. Parties should take note of and review the new framework requirements.”

COMPASS also include two bonus criteria including skills bonus for applications for jobs where there is a skills shortage, and a strategic economic priorities firm-related bonus for partnership with the government on innovation or internationalisation activities.

A candidate will get 20 bonus points if the job is on the shortage occupation list (SOL), but this will be reduced to ten points if the share of the candidate’s nationality among the firm’s PMETs is one-third or higher. Jobs on the SOL are those requiring highly specialised skills that are currently in shortage in the local workforce.

Candidates will be exempted from COMPASS if they have a fixed monthly salary of at least S$20,000. Overseas intra-company transferees under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to will also be exempted, as will those applying to fill a position on a one-month term or less basis.

The COMPASS assessment is the second part of a two-stage evaluation for EP applications. The candidate must first meet the minimum EP qualifying salary. From 1 September 2022, eligible EP holders need to be earning at least S$5,000 monthly salary in non-financial services roles, or S$5,500 monthly salary for financial services roles.

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