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Navigating Singapore's Freelance Visa Process: A Comprehensive Guide


Navigating Singapore's Freelance Visa Process: A Comprehensive Guide

January 2023

The Lanturn Team

Many self-employed people have turned to the internet to promote and sell their work. Most freelance jobs can be done without a visa since work nowadays can be done online. But if you plan on relocating to Lion City and making it your base of operations, you must have the necessary work visa before engaging in any employment. 

Singapore - The gateway to success in Asia

There are many advantages to working as a freelancer in Singapore instead of anywhere else. First and foremost, the country provides strong business and communication links with other countries. A solid international education system is also paired with excellent living and working conditions for expats. In addition, Singapore is an English-speaking city with good healthcare facilities and the safest country in Asia for 2022.

As one of the world's leading cities for creativity and entrepreneurship, Singapore is an ideal place for freelance work. In addition, several visas are available for those who wish to stay and work in the country long-term. Anyone planning on working as a freelancer in Singapore should have the necessary paperwork ready before attempting to do so. This guide will assist you in learning the work pass process and how you can start freelancing in the island nation.


Need a Singapore Work Visa? Here’s What You Need to Know

Foreign workers and professionals planning to work in Singapore will need a work visa. Determine the right work visa or permit you'll need in this article.

Freelancing in Singapore

Freelancing in Singapore is considered a form of self-employment by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). It includes providing services for monetary compensation, commission-based agency work, or running an online business. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), freelancers are considered “own account workers” who own and operate a business without hiring paid employees and constitute over half of the self-employed population.

To conduct freelance work in Singapore, they must fall within these parameters:

  • At least 17 years old

  • A citizen or permanent resident of Singapore or hold an Employment Pass

  • They are not prohibited from providing or receiving services under the law. 

Foreigners can only work in Singapore if they have an Employment Pass (EP), S-Pass, or Work Permit. Even those living in Singapore under a Dependant’s Pass (DP) or a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) may not work unless they have an Employment Pass, S-Pass, Work Permit, or Letter of Consent, which can be applied for through the Ministry of Manpower.

The Letter of Consent is specifically for DP and LTVP holders living in Singapore. The letter becomes necessary when their spouse’s or partner’s EP has expired and their own DP or LTVP is invalidated. Some expats have previously worked around this by registering a sole proprietorship company in Singapore and applying for a Letter of Consent under the new company. Still, there are rules to follow as a foreigner when registering a sole proprietorship company.

Singapore’s Work Visa

To work as a freelancer in Singapore, you must first understand how to obtain a visa for the country. Each type of visa has its conditions, benefits, and validity that you must follow if you plan on staying in the country long-term. Understanding the different types of visas before applying is essential so you can use them correctly and get your application approved quickly.

Work Visa


Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)

This pass is for highly skilled professionals with a minimum of 3 years of relevant work experience. To apply, the individual must have a job offer from a Singapore-registered company and meet the required salary set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass)

This work visa is for foreign entrepreneurs starting a new business in Singapore. Eligibility is based on meeting one of seven criteria, including intellectual property, a good business or investment track record, or backing from a venture capitalist or angel investor.

S Pass

The S Pass is a work pass issued by the Singapore government for mid-skilled foreign professionals such as technicians and specialists. It helps Singapore-based companies fill mid-level positions that Singaporeans or Permanent Residents cannot. Eligibility is determined by passing a point system that considers qualifications, salary, and job type.

Dependent Pass

With this pass, the dependents of Employment Pass (EP) or S Pass holders can live in Singapore while their spouse or parent is working. The pass holder must be able to support the dependent financially to apply for this. 

Work Permit

This permit allows unskilled or semi-skilled foreign workers to work in a specific sector and job in Singapore. It's recommended to consult with visa specialists to determine the best fit for your needs. It's valid for two years or the validity of the worker's passport, whichever is shorter. The worker can only work for the specific employer and occupation stated on the permit.

Where to look for freelance work?

Online platforms are an excellent way for freelancers whose skills and business can work with international clients to find job opportunities. By posting your profile and portfolio on these platforms, clients can easily find you. Here are some platforms you can check out:

If you prefer to find a freelance job within Singapore, you can browse the small ads on public notice boards or popular Singaporean forums and marketplaces such as:

The registration process for most of these portals is easy and a one-time effort. Furthermore, many of these portals offer consultation on the best skills to learn for freelancing, contract work, and more. Companies are increasingly outsourcing work to independent contractors, so these online portals are essential for any freelance professional.

Co-working spaces in Singapore

Singapore is a renowned hub for entrepreneurs and startups in Asia, known for its strong economy, business-friendly environment, and educated workforce. The city-state also offers a variety of co-working spaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups, providing an attractive and flexible alternative to working from home. These spaces offer high-speed internet, printing stations, scanners, copiers, and other business solutions.

Here are some of the top co-working spaces available in the Lion City:

These co-working spaces are also great for freelancers who want to meet up with clients physically to discuss essential details on projects or to collaborate with other freelancers on bigger projects.

Payment methods for Freelancing in Singapore

In Singapore, freelancers typically have several options for payment arrangements. These are:

1. Invoicing: Freelancers can issue invoices to clients for the services they have provided. It is a common method for longer-term projects or ongoing work.

2. Online Payment Platforms: Freelancers can use online payment platforms such as PayPal or Wise to receive payments from clients. It is a convenient option for international clients or small transactions.

3. Bank Transfer: Freelancers can ask clients to transfer payment directly to their bank account. It is a common method for larger transactions or for clients who prefer to pay via bank transfer. If you need help choosing the right bank, we have listed the top four banks for Singaporean businesses, which you can check out.

4. Cheque: Freelancers can also accept payment via cheque. It is less common but is still an option for some clients — especially if it involves a more considerable amount.

About Taxes

In Singapore, income earned through freelancing is subject to taxation. The rate at which it is taxed depends on the individual's tax residency status. Those who have stayed and worked in Singapore for 183 days or more in the previous year are considered tax residents and must pay taxes at a progressive rate, ranging from 2% to 22%, depending on income. Non-tax residents are subject to a flat withholding tax rate, which varies depending on the type of income. For freelancers working as professionals, the option to be taxed at either 15% of gross income or 22% of net income is available.

If you're looking for more information, here are some articles that could be helpful:

Singapore’s Self-Employed Scheme

As a freelancer in Singapore, it is mandatory to contribute to your Medisave account. The Medisave account is a medical savings program for citizens and permanent residents administered by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. It applies to earning over S$6,000 in net trade income per year. Contributions to CPF's Ordinary and Special Accounts are optional.

It is important to note that though Medisave and MediShield are both medical savings plans offered by the Singapore government, they serve different purposes. Medisave is a mandatory savings plan allowing citizens and permanent residents to set aside a portion of their income for medical expenses. While MediShield is a low-cost, basic health insurance plan that helps with hospitalisation and large medical bills. MediShield is optional, but citizens and permanent residents are strongly encouraged to have it. Medisave is primarily used for hospitalisation and day surgery expenses, while MediShield is used to pay hefty hospital bills that Medisave cannot cover.

The amount of contributions to Medisave is based on your age and annual earnings. You can use the Self-Employed Medisave Contribution Calculator to determine the amount. Contributions must be made within 30 days of receiving a notice from the IRAS or by May 31 of the following year if no notice is received.

About Business Licences

Singapore's freelancers must obtain specific business licences for certain trades, such as real estate, ride-sharing, and food sectors. However, as long as the freelancer operates under their full name, registration is optional for creative services such as writing, graphic design, and web development. It is recommended that freelancers register as business owners for validation and potential benefits from government tenders. Most freelancers register their businesses as Sole Proprietorships or Private Limited Companies.


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5 Tips for Freelancing in Singapore

The freelance workforce plays a vital role in Singapore's economy as companies increasingly prefer short-term contracts over permanent employees. Freelancing offers unlimited income potential but also comes with the risk of inconsistent pay. 

Here are five tips to help you succeed in Singapore's freelance market:

  1. Build a strong portfolio of work that showcases your skills and experience.
    Your portfolio can also serve as a valuable reference for clients considering hiring you. A well-made portfolio can also help you stand out from the competition and increase your chances of being chosen for a project. Include a diverse range of work and highlight your most impressive and relevant projects when creating your portfolio.

  2. Continuously learn and improve your skills to stay competitive in the market.
    Having a wide range of skills and knowledge can give you an edge over your competition. Sometimes, a client would prefer to work with you because you possess the knowledge and expertise to handle specific programs or software.

  3. Stay organised and manage your time effectively to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality work.
    Time management and organisational skills are beneficial to any professional freelancer. Set clear and achievable goals, create and follow an organised schedule, and utilise tools and resources to help you stay on track. By managing time effectively, individuals can increase productivity and efficiency, leading to greater success in their work.

  4. Market yourself by building a strong online presence.
    In a competitive market like Singapore, you must be able to market your skills and services. You can maintain a small website, be active on social media, and regularly update online profiles to showcase your skills and experience. A strong online presence can help increase visibility and credibility, leading to more project opportunities and clients.

  5. Network and build relationships with other freelancers, entrepreneurs, and potential clients.
    Freelancing can take considerable time to create a stable client base. Individuals can gain valuable insights, learn about new opportunities, and establish a support system by connecting with others in the industry. Networking with entrepreneurs and building relationships with potential clients can lead to increased business and long-term partnerships.

Lanturn’s Visa & Immigration Services

Are you afraid of navigating the complicated world of Singapore's immigration regulations for work passes or permanent residency on your own? Let Lanturn, a licensed agent by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), guide you through the process.
Our team of specialists can help identify the perfect visa for you and your employees and support you through every step of the application process, from preparation to submission and monitoring.

Contact us today to get started!

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