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Types of visas available for business

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Starting a business overseas requires not only elaborate strategizing and counselling, piles of paperwork and undergoing the crucial registration but also developing the plan for relocation of the key staff to SG. The country that boasts the world-famous easiness in doing businesses offers quite comfortable relocation schemes that meet most corporate needs.

Key Principles of Business Relocation to Singapore

  • If a foreign individual or a corporate body registers a firm in Singapore, relocation of director(s) isn’t crucial as some business entities (for example, the Private Limited or the Subsidiary) require appointing Singaporean nominee directors: a new Singapore-based firm can be run from overseas with an assistance of local directors.
  • Foreign business owners can work on the territory of Singapore only as holders of appropriate business visas. However, brief business visits can be made using regular 30-day visas to Singapore (see Singapore’s entry requirements for your country).
  • There are two visas that can be used for entrepreneurship in Singapore: the Employment Pass and the EntrePass. They provide different suits of benefits and have different timelines for application:
    1. EntrePass can be processed before starting the company registration procedure or during half a year after the company was registered.
    2. EP can be processed only after the incorporation.
  • If the overseas business owner makes a decision to run his new Singapore-based firm from abroad, he can rely on local directors; however, the owner himself won’t have the authority to sign documents in such case. To take the full change of his firm, he needs to shift to Singapore using either the Entrepreneur visa or the EP (whichever fits his business situation) and replace the local executive.


This visa allows foreign businessmen to shift to Singapore before even starting the incorporation procedure. It is the only option for entrepreneurs who wish to participate in their new Singapore business from its very first steps and get the full set of powers in running the firm. The same business visa can be used if the entrepreneur wishes to join his company later (the visa is available until the company turns 6 months). Unlike the EP, the EntrePass has lots of business-specific requirements such as minimum share capital (50k SGD), involving investment (no less than 100k SGD) from “angels” or venture capitalists, and innovation-focused business plan.

Features of the EntrePass

  • This visa isn’t for all niches of the economy. For example, such niches as coffee shops, food centres, night clubs, massage facilities and employment agencies do not qualify. Please check the list of approved sectors before passing on to the application.
  • Businessman can initiate the application for this business pass on their own or using the backup of a visa professional.
  • EntrePass is a solution if the firm hasn’t been yet incorporated or less than 6 months have passed since its registration. If at the moment of application your firm isn’t yet incorporated, you must find out the result of the application before starting any incorporation procedures. If approved, this business visa gives the entrepreneur 30 days for incorporating a new firm. If the firm is older than 6 months, the entrepreneur can relocate to Singapore only on the EP.
  • Visa must be renewed annually. The renewal will be decided by the government based on meeting specific business requirements: hiring 2 locals within the past year and having the business spending of over 100k SGD. Please, be careful as for every next renewal, the business spending requirement may rise.
  • Businessman can bring his family members (children and an official spouse) to the country only after undergoing the first renewal (in 1 year), but to be permitted to do so, he has to provide more results than just for the renewal: creating 4 or more jobs for the locals and business spending of over 150k SGD.
  • Applying for the PR is possible after 2 years of successful entrepreneurial activity in Singapore.

Requirements for Obtaining the EntrePass

  • Firm isn’t yet incorporated or less than 6 months have passed since its registration.
  • Businessman’s entrepreneurship background is outstanding (must be proved with relevant documents).
  • Paid-up capital must be over 50k SGD, and the entrepreneur must hold 30% of the shares or more.
  • Choosing the Private Limited legal entity for the firm increases chances for the EntrePass approval.
  • Businessman must write and submit a particular business plan (in 10 pages) that unfolds the firm’s innovative approach, goals and their good influence on the economy and local employment of Singapore.
  • Businessman must fulfill one of these innovative requirements (the more the better):
    1. get his firm’s intellectual property registered by a professional IP firm in Singapore;
    2. involve a VC (venture capital) company or an angel investor that are ready to funnel 100k SGD or more into a new startup;
    3. be a participant of the government’s startup incubation program;
    4. collaborate with a university or the A*STAR.

As you can see, the government sets quite harsh requirements which can be challenging even for very successful entrepreneurs. Singapore aspires to very high standards in running business for which it is praised for several consecutive years. And, therefore, new foreign entrepreneurs who don’t have a positive representation at the government yet must build it from scratch through a well-strategized and professionally compiled documents and advanced business plan. To get your business ideas embodied in the form of acceptable documents, it is reasonable to seek professional visa advice. If the firm isn’t incorporated yet, applying for the EntrePass must be coordinated with the firm’s registration: getting the pre-approval, then the registration, and then re-submitting the documents for getting the final govt’s approval. For this reason, it is wiser to entrust your EntrePass application to the professional who handles your firm’s incorporation. This way, you save your time and energy and assure the highest quality of paperwork and meeting the deadlines which are crucial for the EntrePass. Usually, processing of the EntrePass takes 4-6 weeks. It requires a more complex consideration than the EP. Competently compiled documents (that will bear the MOM’s scrutiny and won’t require re-submissions) shorten the processing time, so you win if you enlist paperwork expertise of a visa consultant.

Employment Pass

Business owners whose Singaporean business is already incorporated can use the EP relocation scheme. In this case, they can obtain the visa on the basis of being hired by their own firms as directors. The pass has lots of requirements that apply to both a new company and its director such as the salary, paid-up capital, employment activity among the locals, education, and skills. This pass is provisional (1-2 years) but can be extended for 3 years each time. The pass enables a foreign businessman to get the permanent base for his business by obtaining the permanent residence in Singapore.

Features of the EP

  • Visa has no nationality and age restrictions. Older businessmen must show a more extensive expertise, and, therefore, be paid a higher salary.
  • EP entails neither a quota restriction nor a foreign worker levy. The company is free to relocate as many directors as it needs.
  • E Pass is granted for 1 to 2 years (duration for each pass is decided individually). The company can extend the visa for its director for another 3 years before it is going to terminate. Such renewals are possible until the director reaches the retirement age.
  • Director can bring his children and a legal spouse to SG if his salary is higher than 5k SGD. Other family members can join him using the long-term visit pass with the same salary requirement. Inviting parents is possible if the director’s salary is higher than 10k SGD.
  • EP provides the highest chance for obtaining the permanent residence. The due time for the application is unique for every situation and requires strategizing to avoid a false start.
  • Director cannot apply for this pass on his own. The application can be submitted to the Ministry of Manpower only by his company or by a specialised visa agency.

There is another way how a company can be started in SG on the EP: if a foreigner opens his own firm in Singapore while being the holder of the EP issued for another company. He can be a shareholder and even the only owner of his firm, but he cannot “work” in his firm while he continues to hold his current EP issued for another employer. In such case, the director (EP holder) cannot sign documents in his own firm; local nominee directors will do it for him. If he wants to change the situation and take the full charge of his own firm, he needs to give up his current job (on EP) and get hired by his own firm on a new EP as a director.

Requirements for Obtaining the EP

  • Salary.The pass has 3 subclasses that start from a certain salary benchmark:
    1. the lowest Q1 (for young, less experienced graduates): salary starts from 3.3k SGD;
    2. P2 (for educated and experienced): from 4.5k SGD;
    3. P1 (for educated and experienced): from 8k SGD.
  • The businessman pursuing the EP must qualify for the visa subclass that corresponds with their age, level of experience and skills (usually, it is P1 or P2). The company will be checked for ability to pay its director the declared salary.
  • Education. The businessman must hold a degree (MBA or relevant to the business niche) or diploma from a well-established institution.
  • Skills & expertise. Over 3 years of business-related expertise are required. The businessman must possess skills that are valuable (in demand) for the Singapore’s economy.
  • Business plan isn’t required; however, you boost your chance for approval if you come up with the one.
  • Business owner’s passport must be valid.
  • Company must have a good business track record and sufficient paid-up capital as well as represent itself as a reliable employer on the local job market. Although there is no required minimum for the firm’s paid-up capital, the larger it is, the stronger the chance will be.

Foreign businessmen should bear in mind that owning a firm in Singapore doesn’t guarantee them getting the visa as the government’s requirements are quite stringent. You may be a talented and successful businessman, but as the authorities know almost nothing about you, your profile must be built in the way to stand out in Singapore. Involving an expert migration consultancy is especially beneficial for such task. It is crucial to represent advantages of both the company and its director in the form of well-considered and correct documents as the MOM is very demanding to the quality of documentation. A company puts its application on the front foot if it confides all application-related paperwork to a visa professional. There are 2 ways how the application for the EP can be lodged: online (processing takes up to 7 days) or manually (the result will be announced in 5 weeks). If you have difficulties with online submissions, it is better to confide this task to a visa team in order to save the time.

Summary. Singapore welcomes new businesses and offers tremendous benefits such as low taxes, full support of the govt, top-notch manpower, and premium infrastructure; however, foreign entrepreneurs need to take care of the winning representation of their business ideas in order to get welcomed by the government. Most of the new firms involve professional visa and incorporation consulting to ensure smooth and quick relocation of their key staff and preparing an effective and solid foundation for their businesses.

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