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Agencies to identify exceptional achievers for new One Pass as part of S'pore's global talent 'offensive': Tan See Leng

SINGAPORE —  As part of a global talent "offensive", agencies such as the National Arts Council and Education Ministry will help identify not just high-earners but "exceptional talent" in fields such as the arts, sports and science, to qualify for a new five-year work pass, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Monday (Sept 12).

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng speaking in Parliament on Sept 12, 2022.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng speaking in Parliament on Sept 12, 2022.

Singapore

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  • The Ministry of Manpower will work with other agencies such as the National Arts Council and Ministry of Education to attract top foreign talent for a new five-year work pass
  • Manpower Minister Tan See Leng was giving details of the new One Pass in Parliament 
  • If Singapore loses top global talent to other jurisdictions, it may also lose its own top homegrown talent, Dr Tan said
  • There will be no quota set for the number of One Pass holders here
  • Allowing the spouses of One Pass holders to work here through a Letter of Consent will help top global talent choose Singapore, he added

SINGAPORE —  As part of a global talent "offensive", agencies such as the National Arts Council and Ministry of Education will help identify not just high-earners but "exceptional talent" in fields such as the arts, sports and science, to qualify for a new five-year work pass, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Monday (Sept 12).

These high-achievers will not need to meet the S$30,000 monthly salary criterion generally applying to the Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass, and will help push Singapore to “new frontiers, draw in greater investments… (and) create a very diverse range of opportunities for Singaporeans”, Dr Tan told Parliament.

“In the case of sports, for example, it would include current and former world-class top-ranked athletes who may wish to set up their commercial operations or training bases in Singapore, from which our own local athletes, coaches and sports ecosystem can benefit,” he said.

In the case of sports... it would include current and former world-class top-ranked athletes who may wish to set up their commercial operations or training bases (here), from which our own local athletes, coaches and sports ecosystem can benefit.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng

Other agencies that the Ministry of Manpower will work with to identify talent are the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Research Foundation, Dr Tan added.

He was delivering a ministerial statement on strengthening Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.

His statement came after Members of Parliament (MPs) filed 24 questions on the latest changes to the work pass framework, unveiled by MOM last month.

The changes include the launch of the One Pass, which targets foreigners earning at least S$30,000 a month and top foreign talent with valuable networks as well as deep skills and expertise from across all sectors.

Candidates with no recent employment history in Singapore will need to demonstrate that they have worked or will be working for an established company with at least a market value of US$500 million (S$700 million) or annual revenue of US$200 million.

Explaining the rationale for the introduction of the One Pass alongside other changes to the work pass framework, Dr Tan said that Singapore cannot play a “defensive game” when it comes to attracting global talent.

“The better we are at attracting and retaining the best talent, local and global, the higher the chances of securing our economic future, and (for us to) continually be able to generate good jobs for all Singaporeans.

The better we are at attracting and retaining the best talent, local and global, the higher the chances of securing our economic future, and (for us to) continually be able to generate good jobs for all Singaporeans.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng

"Conversely, if we don’t do this well, and we cede competitiveness to other jurisdictions, we may not even be able to hang on to our best Singaporean talent.”

NO ‘HARD LIMIT’ ON NUMBER OF ONE PASS HOLDERS

Providing details of the One Pass to the House, Dr Tan said the Government estimates that of the existing Employment Pass holders, about 8,000 of them, or 5 per cent, would meet the One Pass criteria.

However, there will be no quota on the number of One Pass holders because this would put “a hard limit” on how strongly Singapore can compete at the high end of the global economy.

"This ultimately hurts Singaporeans, who will then have fewer opportunities,” he added.

The highly selective nature of the One Pass scheme also means that there is no risk of a deluge of foreigners coming into Singapore with the pass, Dr Tan assured the House.

PREVENTING ABUSE OF ONE PASS

Responding to questions posed by several MPs on safeguards to prevent abuse of the pass, Dr Tan stressed that the pass is not meant to be abused as a visit or travel document.

Responding to Ms Hazel Poa, Non-Constituency MP from Progress Singapore Party, who asked why there is no time limit imposed on One Pass applicants to stay employed, Dr Tan said that the five-year period will provide foreigners the flexibility “to take risks, explore new frontiers and to make a big impact to benefit Singapore”.

“It is important to allow for some ramp-up period for that to happen, and not be too quick to jump to the conclusion that they are not contributing,” he added.

MOM reserves the right to cancel the pass if there are extended periods of economic inactivity with no good reasons.

There will also be other safeguards to prevent abuse of the pass.

For example, MOM will conduct back-end checks to sieve out potential cases of false salary declarations, just like it is already doing for all work passes.

For people seeking to convert from an existing Employment Pass, MOM will scrutinise their personal income tax filings with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore to ensure that they are consistent with their application.

For overseas candidates, they will be assessed further on their company’s market value and revenue based on verifiable sources, Dr Tan said.

The ministry will also engage One Pass holders during their time in Singapore to stay up to date on their professional activities and annual income. This will factor into MOM’s assessment on applicants’ eligibility for pass renewal.

SPOUSES OF ONE PASS HOLDERS 

Addressing questions posed by some MPs on why dependants of One Pass holders are allowed to work on a Letter of Consent, instead of being assessed on their own merits, Dr Tan said that this is due to the “stiff competition” for top talent posed by other territories.

Currently, MOM does not issue Letters of Consent to dependants of Employment Pass holders so as to hold them to a similar bar as all other foreigners. This policy remains unchanged, Dr Tan said.

“But when we are talking about top talent, we must be mindful of how global and mobile they are, and how stiff the competition is for them. Many other jurisdictions — including Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom — offer work privileges for dependants.

“When people make major relocation decisions, it is usually a family decision. Without certainty for the spouse, these talents may choose to go elsewhere.” 

And although only a “small minority” of potential One Pass applicants have working spouses, the signal given to top talent by allowing their dependants to work is “absolutely material and absolutely needle-moving”, Dr Tan added.

There will also be no restrictions imposed on the occupations that a holder of a Letter of Consent can pursue in Singapore, as is the case for all other work pass holders and their dependants who work here.

The five-year duration of One Pass, coupled with requirements allowing a holder’s spouse to work here, will give top foreign talent “additional assurance” when deciding whether to come to Singapore, Dr Tan said.

Related topics

MOM Tan See Leng foreign talent One Pass Jobs economy Employment Pass expats

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