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Understanding Singapore Work Permits and Visas for Overseas Workers

With a workforce that is made up of nearly 40% non-residents, Singapore is tightening their rules and standards for work permits and visas for overseas workers.  The result is that Singapore work permits are both harder to obtain and work permit processing times are longer than in the past, meaning that global mobility professionals have to plan ahead to comply with the requirements.

Immigration and Work Visa Requirements in Singapore

There are a number of different work visas available in Singapore and a full list of visa types and required documents can be found here. 

One of the core requirements now being enforced more strictly is the rule that an employer with more than 25 employees has to advertise the position to locals before applying for a visa for a foreign worker.  Also, qualifications and documentation will be closely reviewed and checked against the records of both local government and overseas agencies.  All employers assigning staff in Singapore should be ready to meet these work visas requirements.

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Singapore Work Permit Processing Time

This increasing restriction of Singapore work visas has led to delays in processing times, as the immigration authorities have increased scrutiny while reviewing applications.  Online applications that used to take one week for the most popular work permit the Employment Pass, will now take up to three weeks.  In person applications can take longer than 5 weeks.

This is especially true in the IT sector, where Singapore along with the US and Australia have cracked down on issuing work visas to Indian IT outsourcing companies.  Typical 2-4 week processing times now have increased to several months in some cases, if there is a comprehensive review of the application to make sure that local workers are not being passed over.

Singapore Work Permit Cost

Work permit cost in Singapore has increased in recent years to reflect the effort of more intense application review.  For the Employment Pass, the application fee ranges from $30 to $70 and the issuance fee is an additional $30 to $150.  While these costs are not prohibitive, a foreign company has to factor in the staff time required of HR departments to post and monitor applications.

Many companies just entering the Singapore market will rely on a local employer of record through Shield GEO to handle all immigration and work permit sponsorship and applications.  This can alleviate the burden on global mobility professionals, and given the new level of complexity for work visas, having a local expert in Singapore can save lots of time and money when deploying staff.  Our in-country specialists can simplify all aspects of employment and immigration in Singapore, and can advise you on the best work visa for your overseas workers.  

Here’s everything you need to know about employing an overseas worker in Singapore. 

Please contact us if you have questions about immigration and work permits for any country where you are assigning staff.

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