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3 Main Challenges of Getting a Singapore Work Visa Approved

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Professionals seeking to work in the Lion City must have a valid pass or work visa in Singapore. There are many different work passes in Singapore – but for foreign professionals, managers, and executives, the work passes they can usually secure are an Employment Pass (commonly known as EP).

But the process of obtaining a work pass isn’t always smooth. We’ve prepared a list of the most common hurdles companies face when getting a Singapore employment pass or work visa approved.

The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) has been tightened

The FCF is not new. It was passed in 2014 and instituted to prevent discrimination based on age, gender, nationality, or race. It includes discrimination against Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (e.g., favouring a foreigner over a local for non-job-related reasons).
In June 2021, however, the FCF was significantly tightened:

When Singapore-based companies want to hire foreign employees, they must first advertise the position on MyCareersFuture, a government-run job portal. The advertisement must stay on the National Jobs Bank for at least 128 days. This guideline applies to all companies with ten or more employees and positions below $20,000 per month.

Harsher penalties are in place for employers deemed to be violating the FCF. Companies favouring foreigners cannot apply for new work passes for 12 to 24 months (the last penalty was just six months). These firms also cannot renew existing work passes.

In addition, MOM will prosecute errant employers or critical personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly. Employers convicted of false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act will face imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

The minimum salary for an S-Pass has increased to $2,500 per month. An S-Pass is a work visa for mid-skilled employees (see point 3).
While most firms are happy to be transparent and adhere to the FCF, this still places administrative demand on businesses. For example, if you’re a business owner, the onus is on you to ensure your hiring managers or Human Resource staff keep to the FCF.
As such, you’ll have to ensure your hiring staff (or yourself) are rigorous in documenting all their interviews and hiring procedures.

In addition, great care has to be taken in writing job ads for MyCareersFuture. You can see these extensive guidelines detailing phrases to avoid. Making later changes to the ad, such as changing the pay range, will require you to keep the ad open for another 14 days.
You can read more about the FCF here.

Singapore Work Visa Approval Rate

In 2022, Singapore saw the most significant drop in foreign worker numbers in 12 years. The number of work permit rejections has risen as the government grows more stringent.

This issue is compounded by rising fees for work pass applications, like the fee for Employment Pass and S-Pass applications is now $105. Following approval, the cost of issuing the passes can be up to $255 for Employment Passes and $100 for S-Pass.

As such, you should be prepared to write more appeal letters and better screen your candidates (so you don’t waste money on an application likely to fail). Bear in mind that repeated rejections and applications mean mounting costs. For more on this, see point 3 below.

Also, processing an appeal against a failed application can take three weeks. In addition, MOM does not entertain in-person appeals. You will have to spend time writing the required appeal letters and filling in forms which can result in significant work delays, so account for the impact on operations (e.g., your company may be down a programmer or delivery driver for an extra month if you need to appeal).

Special Appeals for Unusual Job Roles

MOM typically looks at a prospective worker’s educational background and experience regarding a role. This procedure is straightforward for typical positions like accountants, IT professionals, procurement officers, etc.

However, if your business has experimental elements (e.g., an e-commerce start-up that needs a designer for gamification), then paper qualifications may not apply. MOM is willing to look beyond this if appropriate skills and experience matter—but you must be prepared to explain the concept to them. So for employees with unconventional skill sets, approval for their work pass may be more complex.

On the flip side, be aware that having the right academic qualifications also doesn’t mean automatic approval. MOM may ask for proof of your worker’s past projects or questions about their degree, doctorate, etc. You may need to consult your worker on these. 

S-Passes and Work Permits

Lanturn specialises in Singapore work visas for PMETs (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) and can handle applications for Work Passes. We do not, however, process work pass applications for Work Permits and Domestic Workers.


Foreign Worker Quotas – Levies and Restrictions

There are different types of work passes in Singapore. The three general types are the E-Pass (professionals and managers earning at least $4,500 per month [$5,000 in the Finance Sector]), S-Pass (technicians and mid-skilled workers earning at least $2,500 per month), and work permits for foreign workers (semi or unskilled labour, from a provider recognised by MOM).

There are restrictions on how many pass holders of each type you can employ based on your service sector. You can check the quotas online with MOM. There are also foreign worker levies that you have to pay to hire foreigners. You can check the amount on the MOM website.
 

Work Permit Security Bond

A security bond of $5,000 is required for each non-Malaysian foreign worker (the worker in question cannot be asked to pay the bond). Buying the bond from a bank or insurer before your worker arrives would be best. The processing time for this bond takes around three days.

If something goes wrong and the bond is not processed on time, you must pay to send your workers home when they arrive. As such, you need to be sure that all the relevant paperwork is in place, especially if you’re employing multiple foreigners arriving at different times throughout the year.

If you want to learn more about the different requirements for Singapore work passes, we’ve written this simplified guide on work pass requirements to help you get started.

Lanturn, Your Immigration Partner

There are many details you would need to consider when hiring foreign workers. One mistake can cost you a lot of money and inconvenience your foreign hires.

Contact our experts today and save yourself the time and hassle of doing this alone! Our immigration experts can consult you on all the required documents you need to secure and will be there to help you every step of the way to ensure nothing is left out.

Thinking about becoming a Permanent Resident instead? Check out the benefits of becoming a Singapore Permanent Resident here.

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