Singapore Announces Five-Year Work Pass for Expats, Ends Talent Crunch

Singapore Announces Five-Year Work Pass for Expats, Ends Talent Crunch

The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore has announced new rules for long-term work visas, which are set in place to attract the foreign workforce and release pressure from the tight labor market that directly contributes to wage and price pressure. According to new visa rules, foreign workers earning S$30,000 a month or more will be eligible to receive a five-year work pass. Also, these new rules will allow the dependents of foreigners to seek employment. 

Under the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass, exceptional candidates in arts, science, sports, and academia, who don’t meet the salary criteria, will also be eligible for this long-term visa policy. 

While announcing the decision, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said, “Both businesses and talent are searching for safe and stable places to invest, live and work in. Singapore is such a place. It is, therefore, time to leverage this opportunity to cement Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.”

When asked about the benchmark for ‘outstanding achievements,’ Dr. Tan said that the work pass is for the top 5% or even 2-3% of the talent across the world. 

Post the pandemic era, this is the latest announcement in the string of other decisions made to address a still-tight labor market and drive international business to make Singapore a global financial hub. In an attempt to lure talent, many employers have also increased the pay of their employees. 

From September 1, 2023, Singapore will exempt jobs in comparison to the ones held by the top 10% of Employment Pass holders. This would be conducted under a system called Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), and the advertisement for these jobs would be done locally before hiring foreigners. The duration for FCF advertisements would be halved to 14 days, and the processing time for the Employment Pass (EP) would be reduced to 10 business days from the current tenure of a maximum of three weeks.

Amit Gupta, president of the global non-profit organization TiE Singapore, said, “It feels like Singapore is really addressing the gap at the top end of talent, not just in terms of salary, but capabilities. Talent, globally, is quite mobile, and there’s a number of competitive hubs that are trying to get access to that global talent.”

This change in visa rules will facilitate Singapore to compete with rival business hubs like the United Emirates and Hong Kong and even catch up to countries like the UK and Australia, which have similar global talent visas. 

After struggling with labor-market dilemmas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore’s hospitality and food and beverage industry have suffered the most, and the city-state plans to revive the affected sectors. 

Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research & Strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., said, “The new rules are targeted at the very high-end foreign talent segment. It will not be in significantly large numbers that will move the needle for all industries, just for the very specific high growth industries.”

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