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Recent and Upcoming Enhancements to Singapore's Work Pass Framework

Date: 15 September 2022
Singapore Labor, Employment, and Workplace Safety Alert

On 29 August 2022, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Communications and Information announced four key enhancements to Singapore’s work pass framework, namely:

  1. Introduction of a new Overseas Networks & Expertise Work Pass (ONEWP) for talents comparable to the top 5% of Employment Pass (EP) holders.
  2. Introduction of a new public benchmark for exemption from some existing work pass requirements.
  3. Changes to existing EP application processes.
  4. Option of a five-year EP for qualified tech professionals.

The purpose of these enhancements is to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.

Introduction of New Overseas Networks & Expertise Work Pass

The ONEWP is a personalised five-year work pass that allows holders to start, operate, and work for multiple companies in Singapore at the same time. Applications for the new ONEWP will open on 1 January 2023. The MOM has announced that there will be a few application routes, although it is not yet clear what the different application routes or process will be. Nevertheless, it has been established that applicants will typically need to have earned a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30,000 within the last year or will earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30,000 under their future employer based in Singapore. As an exception, candidates with outstanding achievements across the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia may qualify for an ONEWP even if they do not meet the S$30,000 minimum salary requirement.

Other key features of the ONEWP, as compared to an EP, are briefly summarized below:

ONEWP EP
Concurrent Employment Permitted. ONEWP holders may start, operate, and work for multiple companies in Singapore. Not permitted. EP holders can only work in Singapore for the employer who has sponsored their EP.
Letter of Consent for Spouses to Work Permitted. Not permitted.
Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) Job Advertising Requirement Not permitted. Required. Before an employer can submit an EP application, it must first advertise the vacancy on MyCareersFuture for at least 14 days.
Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) Not applicable. Applicable for new EP applications from 1 September 2023 and renewal EP applications from 1 September 2024.
Annual Notification to MOM of Professional Activities Required. ONEWP holders will be required to notify the MOM annually of their professional activities so as to ensure that they are using the flexibility afforded to them under the ONEWP to contribute meaningfully. Not required.

Introduction of a New Public Benchmark for Exemption From Some Existing Work Pass Requirements

Presently, EP holders who earn fixed monthly salaries of S$20,000 and above are exempted from the FCF job advertising requirement and the upcoming COMPASS. Individuals who fall under this category of EP holders are also eligible for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP), as an alternative to the EP. From 1 September 2023, to provide greater clarity on the MOM’s work pass framework for talent, the MOM will implement a new public benchmark for such candidates, namely:

  • The exemption bar for the FCF job advertising requirement and COMPASS will be raised from S$20,000 to S$22,500; and
  • The minimum salary criteria for the PEP will be raised from S$18,000 for overseas foreign professionals and S$12,000 for existing EP holders to S$22,500 for all PEP applicants.

Changes to Existing EP Application Processes

To enable employers to be more responsive to business needs, the MOM has implemented the following changes:

  • From 1 September 2022, the FCF job advertising requirement duration has been reduced from 28 days to 14 days.
  • With immediate effect, the MOM will improve processing time for all EP applications such that EP applications will be processed, or an update provided to employers, within 10 business days.

Option of a Five-Year EP for Qualified Tech Professionals

Presently, EPs may be granted for durations of up to two years for first-time candidates and up to three years for renewal candidates. From 1 September 2023, in order to allow Singapore to anchor tech capabilities and develop Singapore’s local pipeline, the MOM will offer the option of a five-year EP to candidates who:

  • are experienced professionals filling specific tech occupations on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List (which will be announced in March 2023);
  • earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$10,500 (with older candidates commanding higher salaries); and
  • pass COMPASS and score at least 10 points on the COMPASS Diversity criterion.

What This Means for Employers in Singapore

In view of the recent and upcoming changes discussed above, it is expected that employers in Singapore will be provided with more options in order to be responsive to their workforce needs, enhance workforce planning, and to better tap into the global talent pool.

What We Can Do to Assist

We can assist with advising on the details of the changes to Singapore’s work pass regime, as well as assisting employers with the relevant work pass applications.

Christopher Tan
Christopher Tan
K&L Gates Straits Law LLC
Singapore
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Charlotte Kouo
Charlotte Kouo
K&L Gates Straits Law LLC
Singapore
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This publication/newsletter is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting a lawyer. Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the law firm's clients.

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