The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has recently announced several enhancements to the work pass regime to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent. These changes come at a time when many countries are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, and seek to ensure that Singapore businesses will be able to respond swiftly to their operational needs, and continue to compete effectively.

Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass

MOM will introduce a new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass, which is targeted at foreign talent comparable to the top 5% of Employment Pass holders. This pass is renewable every 5 years and will grant greater employment flexibility than the standard Employment Pass. Notably, holders will be allowed to start, operate and work for multiple companies in Singapore concurrently. Holders will also be exempt from the upcoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), and employers who hire them will not be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement. Spouses of pass holders will be able to work in Singapore on a Letter of Consent.

To qualify for the pass, applicants will need to earn a fixed monthly salary of SGD 30,000 or above. Overseas applicants who do not have an existing work pass must also show that they have been working for an established company that meets certain minimum qualifying criteria.

Alternatively, individuals with outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, or research and academia, may also qualify for the pass even if they do not meet the salary criterion.

On a yearly basis, pass holders must notify MOM of their professional activities and the annual salary earned from such activities, to ensure that they utilize the flexibilities of the pass to contribute meaningfully.

Applications for the pass may be made from 1 January 2023 onwards.

For more information on the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass, please refer to the MOM’s website.

New public benchmark for top 10% of Employment Pass holders

To give companies greater clarity and predictability on Singapore’s work pass framework, MOM will introduce a new public benchmark pegged to the top 10% of Employment Pass holders. Applicants in this group will continue to be exempted from the upcoming COMPASS the FCF job advertising requirement, and will continue to be eligible for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP).

To align to this single benchmark, MOM will raise the exemption bar for the FCF and Compass from SGD 20,000 to SGD 22,500. MOM will also raise the salary criterion for the PEP to SGD 22,500.

These changes will come into force on 1 September 2023, to give businesses and applicants time to adjust. MOM has indicated that it will review these thresholds annually against the benchmark, taking into account the prevailing economic conditions.

Changes affecting all Employment Pass applications

To enable companies to be more responsive to business needs, MOM will make two changes for all Employment Pass applications.

First, MOM will restore the FCF job advertising duration to 14 days with effect from 1 September 2022. The FCF job advertising duration was increased to 28 days in October 2020 to give jobseekers more time to respond to job openings in a weak labour market brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the economy and the labour market have recovered strongly, MOM is restoring the original duration of 14 days for the FCF job advertising requirement.

Second, MOM will improve the processing time for all Employment Pass applications with immediate effect. At present, 85% of Employment Pass applications are processed within 3 weeks. In view of recent technological upgrades to MOM’s work pass systems, MOM has stated that EP applications will be processed, or an update will be given to employers, within 10 business days.

Five-year Employment Pass option

MOM will provide the option of applying for a five-year Employment Pass to experienced professionals that meet the following criteria:

  1. fill specific technological occupations that are listed on the upcoming COMPASS Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is presently being compiled with input from industry associations, businesses and stakeholders. The first SOL will be announced in March 2023;
  2. earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 10,500. Older candidates need higher salaries to qualify, up to a maximum of SGD 13,500 at age 45 and beyond; and
  3. Pass COMPASS and score at least 10 points on the Diversity criterion, which is scored based on the share of a candidate’s nationality among a firm’s professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

The five-year duration of this Employment Pass is significantly longer than the typical Employment Pass duration of two to three years. MOM has indicated that a longer pass duration will give greater certainty to experienced tech professionals as well as businesses in their workforce planning, and allow Singapore to retain tech capabilities while a local pipeline of tech professionals is being developed.

For more details on the five-year Employment Pass, please click here.

We would like to thank our trainee Aniq bin Anzari for his contribution to this post.