Relocating your employees to Singapore

If there is one country in the world that is suitable for expats, it is Singapore. Due to its liberal immigration policy, it has been welcoming foreigners for years. Enormous economic growth in the past decade, combined with a low fertility rate, has made it necessary to bring foreign workers to relieve the tight labor market. As a result, almost a third of the total workforce is made up of foreigners. Also, Singapore is seen as the perfect location for (mostly) Western companies as a jumping board to the Asian markets. Planning to expand your business activities in this region and relocating your current employees to Singapore? We provide you with the most important information.

Immigration requirements

As mentioned, Singapore has very liberal immigration policies. There are several options for foreign employees that start working at a Singapore’s company. There is also an Intra-Company transfer option for international companies that want to relocate their current employee(s) to a branch, affiliate or subsidiary company in Singapore.

  • Intra-Company Transfer

Application via this route can be a popular choice. The employer is, in contrast to the routes mentioned below, not required to advertise the position on Singapore job portals before getting approved to hire a foreigner. The transferee must have worked for the company for at least one year before the relocation. However, employers and candidates must understand that family members are usually not eligible for dependent passes or long-term visits. Therefore, using the ‘normal’ route makes better sense in most cases.

  • The Employment Pass

The most common route to get a permit to work in Singapore is via the Employment Pass. The Employment Pass allows professionals such as managers, executives and specialists to work for an employer from Singapore. The application must be done by the employer and the employee must at least earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $4.500.  In the financial sector, the applicant must at least earn $5.000.

The initial permit is for a period of two years but can be renewed for as long as the foreigner works for the same employer.

  • The EntrePass

Singapore is very welcoming towards startups since they generate employments for locals. Therefore, the EntrePass is executed. This pass is made to attract entrepreneurs to come to Singapore to start or broaden their business. There are some requirements to get approved. For example the startup must have funding or the entrepreneur must have a significant business experience or network. The permit is awarded for one year.

  • The S Pass

In contrast to the Employment Pass, the S Pass allows mid-level skilled workers to work in Singapore. They must earn at least $2.500 and have relevant work experience. The employer must apply for the employee. There is a quote for employers for the number of S Pass holders in the company. Mostly, this is around 10% of the total staff.

  • The Personalised Employment Pass

The Personalised Employment Pass is an extension of the regular EP. In contrast to the EP, this Pass is not tied to a particular employer. The applicant must at least earn $12.000 (when already in Singapore) or $18.000 (when still abroad). The holder is more flexible in finding a job and can also stay in Singapore for up to six months without working while he or she seeks employment opportunities.

What about the employee’s spouse and children?

In contract to many other countries, spouse and children are only allowed to live in Singapore when the employee has a particular visa or earns a higher salary. For example, with regard to the EP, spouse and children can only apply for a dependent pass when the salary is at least $6,000 a month. If the salary is higher than $8.000, parents are allowed as well.

The partner of the employee can, in fact, try to find a job in Singapore themselves and get a permit for that.

Relocation management


Singapore has a scarcity of land. Therefore, rents and house prices can be expensive. Most expats live in high-rise private condominium complexes. These accommodations are modern and equipped with security and amenities, such as swimming pools or sport facilities. Rent varies between $3.000 and $15.000 a month. Renting semi-detached-houses is extremely expensive. Buying a house as an expat is not an option since you have to be a permanent resident for that.

For expats on a budget, public housing is the best options. These are flats specifically built for public housing by the government. Although they are a lot cheaper, they have high standards. The only difference is that these do not come with luxury amenities.


Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world. Most children of expats go to public schools, where English is a regular language. There are also several options for private or international schools, but they are expensive. Make sure children apply for education in time, since there are long waiting lists for specific schools.

Other points of attention

Singapore has an amazing network of public transportation by bus or metro. This is also way cheaper than owning and driving your own car. Private car use is heavily taxed by the government to avoid smog in the city.

Also, alcohol is taxed at a high rate, so maintaining a social life in the bars or restaurants can be expensive. To have a television, you must also pay a tax.

Healthcare has very high standards and is ruled by the government. In order to use healthcare, you should have insurance for this. For EP holders, the employer must arrange this for the employee. Other pass holders, like the PEP and EntrePass, should arrange and pay healthcare by themselves.


Costs of relocating an employee to Singapore

Visa costs

Obtaining a work permit or Pass will cost some dollar that has to be paid to the Singapore government. However, in most cases this is not too expensive. However, the whole process for Singapore companies to get approved to hire an employee from abroad, can be expensive or time consuming. They have to arrange many paperwork and must, for example, prove that they did their best to find a local to fill the position.

Shipment costs

Singapore is located on a island. Their only neighboring country in Malaysia. Therefore, all household goods and effects that have to be transported from abroad, come by ship or plane. This will drive up the costs. Keep in mind that many private rent houses or apartments are already furnished, so that costs on shipping big furniture of items can be spared. Price of the total shipment is dependent on the time of arrival, total m3 and additional services such as packing and unpacking, insurance or installation.

Flight tickets

Singapore has one main airport. This airport is also one of the biggest and most modern airports in this part of the world. Singapore is used as a ‘hub’ for many flight operators, since it has a central location in Asia and on route between Europe and Australia. Flight tickets, therefore, can be (if you do good searching) relatively cheap.

Costs of living in Singapore

Singapore has a high standard of living. That comes, of course, with a price. Singapore is said to be one of the top ten most expensive cities to live in. However, salaries, especially for expats with high positions, are also very high. Rents, healthcare and education is pricy, but daily life things such as food, groceries and public transportation is quite reasonable. Also, dining out can be surprisingly cheap when finding the right places in the city.

Get in touch with a relocation manager

Although Singapore is one of the most liberal countries if it comes to relocation and foreign workers, there are many things to consider. Living in Singapore is expensive and has high standards. Therefore, it can also be costly to relocate employees to Singapore. But, given their central location in the Asian region and great opportunities for business, most of the time the investment will work out. Make sure that your employees start to feel at home in this luxury and sometimes crazy city soon by finding a professional relocation manager. This relocation professional supports with everything that comes with the move and relocation: from house searching to visa approvals.

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