Home / News / World /  Explained: Singapore's new work visa rules

Singapore is changing its immigration policies in an effort to draw in international labour and loosen up a competitive labour market that is pushing up wages and costs.

The announcement is the latest in a series of steps taken this year to address a still-tight labour market and to attract foreign investment to sustain the city's objective state's status as a global financial powerhouse, following a fall in white-collar foreign workers during the epidemic era.

Pay hikes have been implemented this year in a number of economic sectors in an effort to attract talent. This has sparked worries that the Central bank may have to tighten monetary policy as a result of the growing cost of living contributing to headline inflation, which has already risen to a 14-year high.

The Tech Pass, a new work visa launched by Singapore in January 2021, permits technology enterprises to hire overseas workers with a monthly salary of at least SG$20,000 (around 11.5 lakh).

Who is eligible?

The new regulations would enable foreigners to obtain a five-year work pass with a clause allowing their families to look for a job if they make a minimum of S$30,000 (about 17 lakh) each month, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

However, under the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass, which will go into effect on January 1, 2023; exceptional applicants in sports, arts, research, and academia may also be eligible for the long-term visa even if they do not fulfil the minimum salary requirement.

Candidates with no recent employment history in Singapore must show that they have worked for, or will work for, a reputable business with at least a $500 million market value or $200 million in annual revenue.

Employers don't have to wait two weeks to hire a Singaporean employee for the same position before hiring a One Pass holder.

How will Singapore benefit from the new rules?

While the country deals with COVID-19 and the need to revitalise industries like hospitality and food and beverage that suffered disproportionately due to social mobility limitations that are finally all but eliminated, Singapore has had to deal with particularly difficult labour-market issues.

The new regulations will help Singapore catch up with Australia and the UK, which have comparable global talent visas, and compete better with rival economic hotspots like Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. In 2021, more than 700 finance experts relocated from Hong Kong to Singapore.

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

Why Is Singapore focusing on top talents from across the world?

Singapore aspires to attract more elite talent in order to increase the number of job possibilities in cutting-edge industries like tech and science. High achievers in the arts, sports, and academia will also be eligible to apply without having to meet the salary requirement.

Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng earlier said, "As a country with little or no natural resources, talent is our only resource and talent acquisition is an offensive strategy for us."

“This is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation’s success," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earlier said. “We need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent, in the same way we focus on attracting and retaining investments."

Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak Mukhopadhyay, who also goes by the name Sounak Mukherjee, has been producing digital news since 2012. He's worked for the International Business Times, The Inquisitr, and Moneycontrol in the past. He's also contributed to Free Press Journal and TheRichest with feature articles. He covers news for a wide range of subjects including business, finance, economy, politics and social media. Before working with digital news publications, he worked as a freelance content writer.
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