LawFlash

Singapore Immigration Update: Changes to Work Pass Applications

October 03, 2022

Recently, Singapore has implemented planned changes and updates to its work pass regulations that will affect companies seeking to hire foreign talent moving forward.

Significant changes and updates have been implemented for applications for Employment Passes (EPs), which are work passes for foreign professionals, managers, and executives with a job offer in Singapore who meet the eligibility criteria imposed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Additional changes will be implemented on 1 January 2023 and 1 September 2023.

Changes Effective as of 1 September 2022

The following changes took effect on 1 September 2022:

Category

Material Change

Remarks

Minimum qualifying salaries (except financial services)

From SGD 4,500 to SGD 5,000

Budget speech, 18 February 2022

Minimum qualifying salaries for the financial services sector

From SGD 5,000 to SGD 5,500

Budget speech, 18 February 2022

Advertisement period under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)

Halved from 28 days to 14 days

14 days is the “optimal balance between giving jobseekers time to look for a job and making sure that companies could fill their vacancies in response to pressing business needs.” – Manpower Minister Mr Tan See Leng

Processing time for EPs

From 3 weeks to 10 business days

Processing time has been reduced due to recent technological advances to the MOM’s work pass systems.

 

The last two changes were prompted by a variety of factors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the advertising framework duration was extended to 28 days because of the slack in the labour market. As Singapore gradually eased restrictions, the labour market has become tighter and a 28-day advertising period is no longer necessary.

In addition, the faster processing of EPs is a welcome development in the global economy where prospective employees appreciate certainty and speed of application processing.

Read more details on these changes in this Factsheet on Work Pass Framework Enhancements issued by the MOM.

Changes Effective as of 1 January 2023: Overseas Network & Expertise Pass

From 1 January 2023, the MOM will introduce a new category of work pass called the Overseas Network & Expertise Pass (ONE Pass).

The ONE Pass is a personalized, five-year work pass that will allow holders to start, operate, and work for multiple companies in Singapore at any time. The ONE Pass can be renewed in five-year blocks closer to its expiration.

ONE Pass applicants must meet one of the following qualifying criteria:

  • Applicants must have earned a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 30,000 within the last year.
  • Applicants must show that they will earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 30,000 under their future employer based in Singapore.

In addition, an overseas candidate will need to demonstrate that they are working for an “established company” overseas or will be working for an “established company” in Singapore. For the purposes of the ONE Pass, an “established company” is defined as one that has a market capitalization of at least $500 million (SGD 716 million) or an annual revenue of at least $200 million (SGD 286 million).

In addition, individuals with outstanding achievements in specific fields such as arts and culture, sports, science and technology, research, and academia may also qualify for the ONE Pass, even if they do not meet the minimum qualifying salary.

Changes Effective as of 1 September 2023: Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS)

The MOM rolled out COMPASS, a new initiative that will apply for new EP applications as of 1 September 2023 and EP renewals from 1 September 2024.

Under COMPASS, EP applications will be “scored” based on the candidate’s and the employer’s performance in certain predetermined categories. Applications earn points on these categories if they meet or exceed expectations.

There are four foundational categories and two bonus categories:

  • Salary (foundational) – How the fixed monthly salary of the candidate compares to local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) by age
  • Qualification (foundational) – Whether the candidate has a degree from a top-tier institution, degree-equivalent institution, or no degree-equivalent institution
  • Diversity (foundational) – The share of the candidate’s nationality among the firm’s PMETs
  • Support for Local Employment (foundational) – The firm’s share of local PMETs within its subsector
  • Skills Bonus – Shortage Occupation List (bonus) – Whether the job is on the Shortage Occupation List
  • Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (bonus) – Whether the firm meets specific assessment criteria on innovation or internationalization activities

An application can earn up to 20 points on each of the foundational criteria. Potentially, another 30 points can be earned from the bonus criteria – but these are very fact and sector specific. A successful application will need to earn 40 points for a passing score.

It should be noted that the MOM has also distinctly specified that small firms with fewer than 25 PMET employees (earning at least SGD 3,000 per month) will score 10 points on the third and fourth foundational categories (Diversity and Support for Local Employment) by default. For example, if the employer employs only 10 PMETs, it is envisaged that COMPASS would automatically assign 20 points to the EP application and the application would need a combined score of at least 20 points on the Salary and Qualification criteria to obtain a passing score for the EP application.

A positive development, COMPASS heightens transparency in applications and definitively sets out the criteria that both the candidate and the employer need to satisfy to score sufficient points to pass the EP application.

Further details on COMPASS and its scoring system, including the number of points that a firm may potentially earn in any EP application and which scoring system the MOM will apply, can be found on the MOM’s website.

Changes Effective as of 1 September 2023 – Market Testing Requirement Exemptions

At present, under the FCF, a company is required to advertise positions on a job portal for 14 days before an EP application can be made to fill the vacancy. Currently, there is no requirement to advertise if the employer satisfies any of these conditions:

  • The company has fewer than 10 employees
  • The employee earns a fixed monthly salary exceeding SGD 20,000
  • The role is short term (i.e., not more than a month)
  • The role is to be filled by a local transferee
  • The role is to be filled by a candidate choosing to apply as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under either the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or an applicable free trade agreement to which Singapore is a party

From 1 September 2023, these exemptions will be modified as follows:

  • The current exemptions from market testing requirements will be removed if (1) the company has fewer than 10 employees; and (2) the role is to be filled by a local transferee
  • The minimum qualifying salary for an exemption from job testing requirements will increase from SGD 20,000 to SGD 22,500

The exemption for a short-term role remains unchanged.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following:

Authors
Daniel Chia (Singapore)*
Jonathan Tang (Singapore)*
Hong Kong
Shanghai/Beijing
Washington, DC
London

*A solicitor of Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC, a Singapore law corporation affiliated ‎with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP