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Why is it getting more difficult to secure employment pass (EP) nowadays?

Singapore Immigration Service

In recent years the number of rejections in Employment Pass applications have continued to rise. Singapore has tightened its hiring guidelines to consider its citizens fairly for higher-quality jobs. The country saw the largest drop in the number of foreigners who possess work visas in 2017. There was a decline of more than 30,000 and it was ten times more than the decline in foreign workers in 2016.

The country’s ambitious economic growth has been impeded by an ever-shrinking pool of manpower. The tiny city-state has a declining fertility rate which is currently at a seven-year low of 1.16 and this is the main reason why there is a need to bring in foreign talent from all over the globe to supplement the decreasing number of the local resident workforce.

What is an Employment Pass and Who Is It For?

The Employment Pass is a work visa issued by the Ministry of Manpower which allows foreigners to work in Singapore in certain specialized, executive or managerial positions. It allows you to work and live in Singapore, as well as enter and exit the country without the need for additional visas.

Usually valid for 1-2 years, it can be renewed thereafter. People who possess EPs also have better chances of getting their permanent resident (PR) applications approved.

How do you qualify for an Employment Pass?

To qualify for an Employment Pass, you need the following:

  • Works in a specialized, managerial, or executive job
  • Possess a degree from a reputable university, has a strong employment history and high salary
  • Earn a minimum fixed salary of at least $3,600 per month for young graduates. Foreign talent who have more experience may need higher salaries.

Reasons on why It Is Getting More Difficult for Foreigners to Secure Employment Pass Nowadays

There are a variety of reasons why it is now more of a challenge for foreign workers to get an Employment Pass in Singapore. Some of the common reasons are discussed below.

Stagnancy of Local Salary

In the past, the majority of local companies used EPs to hire foreign executives who have a wealth of talent and experience, who are willing to work for much less compared to locals. However, nowadays, employers are forced to increase the minimum salary for foreign workers in order for them to be on par with locals. If their salary is too low, there is a very big chance that their EP application will get rejected.

Unjustifiable company practices to hire foreigners

Companies now undergo rigorous assessment on their eligibility for hiring foreigners. Companies that make excuses to hire foreign talent without any real businesses will be immediately barred from EP privileges.

Quality of applicants

Only foreign talent that is at least mid-executive and above or candidates with skill sets that cannot be sourced locally are qualified to apply for EP.

Can companies still hire foreigners if they have new vacancies?

The key reasons companies should hire foreigners on an employment pass is when their positions are more senior or niche and/or there is no local worker is suitable for the position for which they are hiring. There are certain exceptions for hiring Junior executives on an EP to replace locals but it is of utmost importance to be very cautious with the justification reasons on the need to hire a foreign applicant as EP can easily be rejected for the wrong reasons. In extreme case, your privileges for Employment Pass may be revoked. In such a case when you are blacklist by the authority, it would be significantly much harder to gain approval for your next EP.

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