As a foreigner, to be able to work and have a valid stay in Singapore, your employer will need to apply for a work visa (also known as a work pass) on your behalf. There are several types of work passes, Employment Pass (EP) being one of them. Below is all the information you need to know about the EP.
Among the various types of work visas available, the Employment Pass (EP) is the highest level of work visa you can qualify for. It is issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), generally issued to foreign professionals in managerial or executive positions. With an EP you are able to travel in and out of country freely, without applying for travel permits or entry visas.
Many foreign professionals aim to obtain an EP as it is the highest level of work visa available. It is often considered a stepping stone towards eventually obtaining permanent residency (PR) in Singapore, through the PTS scheme PR application.
Directors or owners of Singapore companies also usually aim to obtain an EP, if they cannot meet the eligibility criteria for a PR application under the GIP scheme. as it allows them to make investments and purchase properties in Singapore.
The Employment Pass is a renewable work visa that is usually valid for 1-2 years. Applications are open for all nationalities, however there are criteria that you have to meet before you can be approved for an EP.
(As applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, you may still qualify without a tertiary degree if you have significant professional track record or substantial employment history.)
The screening process is complex and the authorities do not reveal the process behind the approvals. You may still qualify without meeting the above criteria, and similarly, meeting the above criteria does not guarantee approval.
If you have exceptional artistic talent or have made significant contributions towards Singapore’s arts and cultural landscape, you may want to look into making a PR application under the ForArts scheme instead.
MOM recommends applicants and employers to use the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) on the official MOM portal to assess and gauge eligibility of potential candidates.
Unlike other types of work visas, there are no quotas or limits set on the number of EPs granted to a Singaporean company.
However, as part of the Fair Consideration Framework, employers may be required to advertise job openings on the Government’s Jobs Bank portal for at least 14 days before submitting EP applications for foreign nationals. This is part of the Singapore Government’s effort to avoid discriminatory hiring practices and to provide Singaporeans with fair job opportunities.
Candidates and employers will need to prepare the following list of documents:
Aside from the documents listed above, other supporting documents may be required when submitting the application. MOM may also request for additional documents after the application has been submitted, to properly review the application.Note that all non-english documents have to be officially translated to English, and both the original and translation versions of the documents have to be submitted.
Employment Pass applications are usually done online via MOM’s Employment Pass Online (EPOL) portal, by the employer or an approved employment agent (EA) contracted by the employing company.
A manual application is possible but not recommended, as the processing time is much longer.
The processing times are not absolute, and it will vary for each application due to a variety of factors. Some applications will take longer to process, while others might be processed faster.
(Note that the employing company may be required to advertise the job opening on the Jobs Bank portal, which may add to the waiting time for candidates’ EP applications)
Fees (paid for by the employing company) for Employment Pass applications are:
(Fees will be increased from 1 April 2019 onwards for all work visa applications. You can see the changes here.)
After the application has been submitted, you will either be given a rejection or an approval.
In the case of a rejection, MOM will provide a rejection letter along with a reason and advisory for the rejection. You may be able to use the rejection reasons as a reference point to improve your profile and look for other job openings in Singapore. You have the option to appeal against the rejection as well.
If your Employment Pass application is approved, MOM will first issue an In-principle approval (IPA) letter. The IPA letter is valid for 6 months from the date of issuance, which means you and your employer will need to proceed with the rest of the procedure within 6 months before the IPA letter expires.
After receiving the IPA letter, you will need to come to Singapore and present a copy of the IPA letter at the immigration checkpoint. Upon arriving in Singapore, your employer needs to logon the EPOL portal and request for issuance of your Employment Pass, paying the necessary fees. When the Employment Pass successfully issued, MOM will issue a notification letter, which is valid for 1 month. The notification letter allows you to start work and travel in and out of the country freely, while you wait for your EP card.
Next, your employer will need to make an appointment for a visit to the Employment Pass Services Centre (EPSC), where you will register your fingerprints and photo. Upon making the appointment, an appointment letter will be generated for you. You are to prepare and bring along the follow list of documents for the EPSC appointment:
Once you have completed your appointment at EPSC and registered your fingerprints and photo, MOM will take some time to verify the documents submitted and your Employment Pass card will be delivered in 4 working days to the address input in the system. A notification will be sent via SMS or email at least 1 working day before the delivery.
Note that the card will be delivered via a courier, and you or an authorised recipient will need to collect the card in person. If the delivery is unsuccessful, do not worry, you can bring along your passport and notification letter make a visit to the EPSC to collect your card.
If you have successfully obtained an Employment Pass in Singapore, you are able to apply passes for your family members for them to stay in Singapore. However, this option is only available to Employment Pass holders who are earning a minimum fixed monthly salary of S$6,000.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of EP holders are able to apply for a Dependant’s Pass (DP), which allows them to stay and travel in and out of Singapore freely.
Common-law spouse, unmarried handicapped children above 21, and unmarried step-children under 21 of EP holders are able to apply for a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP). Similarly to a DP, it allows them to stay to and travel in and out of Singapore freely. Parents of EP holders, however, can only apply for a LTVP if the EP holder is earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000.
There are no separate eligibility criteria for your family members and DP/LTVP applications are usually approved automatically, save for exceptional cases. DP/LTVP applications can be done together along with the EP application or after approval of the EP application. The applications have to be done by your employer for each family member separately. The validity of DPs and LTVPs are tied to the EP and will expire at the same time.
In the case of a rejection, thankfully MOM does provide the reasons for rejection and advisory on what you can do next.
Within 3 months of the rejection, you are able to appeal against it. Candidates themselves cannot submit appeals however, and it can only be done through the EPOL portal by the employing company or an authorised third party such as an Employment Agent (EA).
Appeals take longer than applications, usually more than 3 weeks.
You must take note of the rejection reasons carefully and determine if you are able to address the issues that led the rejection.
This could mean submitting additional supporting documents to prove your capability as a working professional, or it could also mean your employer submitting documents regarding the company, such as their financial statements and bank statements.
Making an appeal blindly without addressing the reasons stated in your rejection letter will not be effective, and in some cases it may negatively affect your chances for future EP applications.
As the Employment Pass usually is valid of 1-2 years, you will need to renew your EP every 1-2 years.
You are able to apply for renewal of your EP up to 6 months before the expiry date. Additionally, 3 months before the expiry date of your EP, MOM will notify your employer via post, in the form of an Employment Pass renewal form.
We recommend employers to renew their employees’ Employment Passes via the online EPOL portal, as the processing time is shorter (within 3 weeks).
Note that renewals are not guaranteed and the application will be evaluated similarly to a new EP application.
Similar to a new EP application, upon approval of the renewal MOM will issue and In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter, valid for 3 months.
You and your employer will need to follow the steps similar to a new EP application, such as getting the pass issued and visiting the EPSC for fingerprint and photo registration. The new EP card will be delivered to you and you will have to return your old EP card during your visit to the EPSC.