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New 5-year work pass for top earners, shorter time to hire foreigners among moves to draw talent: MOM

SINGAPORE — In a bid to attract foreign talent to Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Monday (Aug 29) several changes to the Employment Pass scheme, including a new five-year pass targeted at foreigners earning at least S$30,000 a month.

The Ministry of Manpower on Monday (Aug 29) announced several changes to its Employment Pass framework as a way to attract top talents to Singapore.
The Ministry of Manpower on Monday (Aug 29) announced several changes to its Employment Pass framework as a way to attract top talents to Singapore.

Singapore

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  • The Government will introduce a five-year work pass that allows foreigners earning at least S$30,000 a month to start, operate and work for multiple companies in Singapore at the same time
  • It will halve the time required for employers to look for locals to fill a position before they can hire foreigners
  • The measures are part of the Manpower Ministry's efforts to attract top talent to Singapore
  • EP holders working in tech occupations that face a shortage of workers will qualify for a five-year EP, up from the usual two to three years
  • The processing time for EP applications will be reduced from three weeks to 10 days

SINGAPORE — In a bid to attract foreign talent to Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Monday (Aug 29) several changes to the Employment Pass scheme, including a new five-year pass targeted at foreigners earning at least S$30,000 a month.

The ministry is also halving the time needed for employers to look for Singapore residents to fill a position before they can hire foreigners, as well as introducing a new salary benchmark to exempt businesses looking to hire higher-earning foreigners from such job advertising requirements, among others.

Speaking at a press conference at the National Press Centre on Monday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said that the measures aim to assure investors that Singapore remains open to global talent as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We cannot leave any room for investors to doubt or have questions as to whether Singapore remains open.”

Dr Tan, who is also the Second Minister for Trade and Industry, added: "As a country with little or no natural resources, talent is our only resource and talent acquisition is an offensive strategy for us."

In an era where both businesses and talent are looking for safe and stable places to invest, live and work, it is now timely to “cement Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent”, he said.

The new measures came after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally on Aug 21 that the country needs to do more to attract and retain top talent in the midst of global competition.

He also revealed that the Government will be introducing new initiatives aimed at making "top talent everywhere sit up, pay attention, and think seriously about coming" here.

'SIGNATURE PASS' FOR TOP FOREIGN TALENT

From next year onwards, MOM will introduce a new work pass — called the Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass — to attract top foreign talent with valuable networks and deep skills and expertise from across all sectors.

Describing it as a “signature pass”, Dr Tan said that the One Pass has a longer duration of five years, when compared with a regular Employment Pass, which has two to three years' validity.

It also provides the holder the flexibility of playing multiple roles in Singapore’s economy, he added.

This means that successful applicants of the new work pass will be allowed to start, operate and work for multiple companies in Singapore at the same time.

To qualify, applicants will need to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30,000, comparable to the amount earned by the top five per cent of Employment Pass holders, MOM said in a press release on Monday.

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 cap of US$500 million (S$700 million) or annual revenue of US$200 million.

Unlike regular Employment Pass holders, One Pass holders will also not be subject to job advertising requirements under the Fair Consideration Framework. This means that employers will not need to advertise for a Singapore worker to fill the same role for two weeks before proceeding to hire a foreigner.

They will also not be subject to an upcoming framework that hires Employment Pass candidates on a points-based system called the Complementarity Assessment Framework, also known as Compass.

The One Pass will apply as well to those with outstanding achievements in other areas, such as arts and culture, sports and academia, even if they do not meet the salary criterion.

One Pass holders can bring in dependents, such as their spouse and children. Their spouses will be allowed to work by applying for the ministry’s Letter of Consent.

Dr Tan said that his ministry will “closely engage” One Pass holders during their time in Singapore.

"The flexibilities offered by this pass are meant to allow pass holders to contribute meaningfully to Singapore. It is not meant to be abused as a visit or travel document."

EASIER TO HIRE FOREIGNERS

The Government will halve the job advertising duration under the Fair Consideration Framework from four to two weeks, given that the labour market has “recovered strongly” since the duration was last increased two years ago, MOM announced on Monday.

This will take effect from Sept 1 this year.

In October 2020, the ministry doubled the duration for firms to advertise jobs on the MyCareersFuture.sg portal before they could apply for a new Employment Pass or S Pass for a foreign candidate, raising it from two to four weeks.

Dr Tan said that at the time, MOM wanted to give resident jobseekers more time to respond to job openings when the job market was weakened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With the strong economic recovery, the labour market has tightened considerably. There are more jobs than there are jobseekers. It is therefore timely to restore the original duration of 14 days for the Fair Consideration Framework job advertising requirement,” he added.

In response to a question from the media at the press conference, Dr Tan said the move was in response to companies which provided feedback that they had difficulty offering a job to potential candidates when they had to keep the advertisements open for four weeks.

This created a "bottleneck" for companies trying to fill vacancies, said Dr Tan. Hence the decision to reduce the duration for job advertisements to two weeks, he said.

The ministry will also reduce the processing time for Employment Pass applications with immediate effect following "technological upgrades" to its work pass systems.

Right now, around 85 per cent of online Employment Pass applications take three weeks to process. This will be reduced to 10 days.

“This means that within 10 business days of submitting an application, an employer can expect to hear a ‘yes’, a ‘no’, or a status update from MOM explaining that we need a bit more time,” Dr Tan said.

SALARY BENCHMARK FOR EMPLOYMENT PASS HOLDERS

From Sept 1 next year, Employment Pass applicants who earn a salary that places them among the top 10 per cent of such pass holders will be exempt from the job advertising requirements for the Fair Consideration Framework, as well as the upcoming Compass framework.

For now, foreigners earning more than a monthly salary of S$20,000 are granted exemptions from these requirements. The exemption bar will be raised to those who earn at least S$22,500 a month, as this represents the top of Employment Pass holders presently.

MOM will review these thresholds yearly against the benchmark, taking into account prevailing economic conditions.

Such Employment Pass applicants will also be eligible for a Personalised Employment Pass, which is a three-year pass meant for foreign professionals applying to work in Singapore and who earn at least S$18,000 a month overseas, or S$12,000 a month while already working here.

To align with the Fair Consideration Framework and Compass, MOM will also raise the Personalised Employment Pass salary criterion to S$22,500.

Holders of the Personalised Employment Pass are not tied to a specific employer and do not have to apply for a new work pass if they change jobs.

Using a single benchmark across these schemes will give companies greater clarity and predictability on Singapore’s work pass framework, Dr Tan said.

"With a benchmark, companies will know that future changes to the salary thresholds and criteria will be incremental," he said, adding that the changes will only kick in from September next year to give businesses and individuals time to adjust. 

WORKERS IN TECHNOLOGY SECTOR

Employment Pass durations now last between two and three years, but these pass holders working in specific technological occupations that face a shortage of workers here will be allowed to stay up for up to five years.

This will give greater certainty to experienced tech professionals as well as businesses in their workforce planning, MOM said.

Applicants will qualify for a five-year Employment Pass if their tech occupation is listed on the upcoming Compass Shortage Occupation List. The list will be announced next March.

The latest move follows several efforts by the Government to attract tech talent over the last few years.

Two years ago, it launched the Tech.Pass to attract tech industry experts with experience in established or fast-growing tech companies as an extension of the Tech@SG programme to support high-potential companies here. The pass does not require the applicant to be employed by or tied to a particular company to qualify.

Related topics

Employment Pass MOM foreign talent work pass Tan See Leng

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