*This guide was first published in April 2022 and has since been updated as of July 2023.
Are you an employer in Singapore looking to hire foreign workers? If so, you will need to know about the Work Permit process and what you need to do in order to get your new employees working in Singapore. Find out more in this guide as we walk you through everything you need to know about obtaining Work Permits for foreigners in Singapore.
What is a Work Permit?
The Work Permit is a type of work visa primarily for low-skilled or semi-skilled foreign workers in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, marine, and domestic work. It is tied to a specific employer and is valid for up to 2 years.
What is the minimum salary requirement to apply for a Work Permit?
There is no minimum qualifying salary for work permit holders.
Is there any quota for Work Permit?
Yes, the quota for Work Permit holders varies across different sectors, as seen below:
Quota (from 1 Jan 2023 onwards)
This quota indicates the maximum number of S Pass and Work Permit holders that a company can employ. It depends on the total workforce, which equals the number of local employees plus S Pass holders plus Work Permit holders in the company.
For example, the quota is 60% in the manufacturing sector. This means that up to 60% of that manufacturing company’s total workforce can consist of S Pass and Work Permit holders.
Do note that for the manufacturing and services sectors, the Work Permit quota for workers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is as follows:
Yes, there is a Work Permit quota calculator, available on MOM’s page “Calculate foreign employee quota”. This is meant to guide the planning of the number of S Pass and Work Permit holders your company can hire.
If you are checking for your company’s existing workforce and quota, please check Work Permit Online instead.
What is the application process for a Work Permit?
The application for a Work Permit must be done by the employer or appointed employment agent.
For the construction, process, and marine shipyard sectors, there are some additional steps to take. For example, for construction and process, you need to apply for man-year entitlement. For more information, please refer to MOM’s article on “Key facts on Work Permit for migrant worker”, under the heading “Pass map”.
Before a Work Permit worker arrives in Singapore:
Apply for the work permit. This may be done via WP Online. At this point, you will need to pay $35 for each pass.
Buy a $5,000 security bond (applicable for non-Malaysian workers). This may be bought from an insurance company or bank.
Buy a medical insurance plan for each migrant worker. The medical insurance coverage must be at least $15,000 per year, and it should cover for inpatient care and day surgery. This includes hospital bills for conditions that may not be work-related. Submit the details of the insurance plan online. For more information, you can check out MOM’s article on “Medical insurance requirements for migrant worker”.
Register your worker for the Settling-in Programme (SIP). This is applicable for non-Malaysian work permit holders in the following sectors: construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard and process. The SIP helps your workers learn about their employment rights and other information, such as Singapore’s social norms.
After a Work Permit worker arrives in Singapore:
Non-Malaysian workers (from construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard and process sectors) have to proceed to attend the Setting-in Programme.
Register your worker’s address
Send your worker for a medical examination
Get the work permit issued (for details, please refer to MOM’s article on “Apply for a work permit”, and see under the heading “Get the permit issued”). At this point of time, you need to pay $35 for each work permit issued.
Register worker’s fingerprints and photograph
Receive the work permit card (will be delivered to given address)
How do I check the Work Permit application status?
You may check the application status of a work permit through the WP Online system.
Can I renew my employee’s Work Permit?
Yes, you can renew a work permit 7 to 12 weeks before it expires. To view the list of workers who are eligible for work permit renewal, you can check WP Online. Please take note that:
Work permit holders must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
You (the employer) need to check that you have enough work permit quotas for your sector.
You need to extend the worker’s security bond (for non-Malaysian workers) and medical insurance.
You can renew a work permit 6-8 weeks before it expires. In addition, if your worker plans to leave Singapore/travel overseas just before his work permit expires, you should ensure that the work permit is renewed before he leaves Singapore.
The renewal is usually valid for 2 years. However, this also depends on whether the worker’s passport and security bond are still valid for the entire 2 years. This also depends on the maximum employment period of your workers. For more information, please refer to MOM’s article on “Sector-specific rules for Work Permit”.
Login to WP Online. Upload the following required documents:
Personal particulars pages of the worker’s passport (scanned copy). Ensure that the worker’s passport will be valid for the entire duration of employment.
Security bond (for non-Malaysian workers)
Work permit renewal notice and application form (available from WP Online)
Address and details for card delivery (if worker is getting a new card)
Follow the instructions on the renewal notice and application form in WP Online.
Pay for the renewal ($35 for each work permit).
What happens after a work permit expires?
An employee whose work permit expired or was cancelled can stay for 30 days or 1 month in Singapore under “social visit stay”. Beyond 30 days, an overstaying fine may be imposed, which you can appeal to refund overstaying fines on the MOM’s website. It is therefore crucial to renew your employee’s work permit early before it expires.
What should I do as an employer if a work permit is lost?
As an employer, if a work permit is lost, damaged, or stolen, it is important to take the following steps:
Apply for a replacement: You need to apply for a new Work Permit card for your worker within 1 week of the loss, damage, or theft. This can be done by either yourself as the employer on WP Online or through an appointed employment agent (EA).
File a police report (for stolen cards): If the card has been stolen, it is necessary to file a police report in addition to applying for a replacement. This helps document the incident and ensure the appropriate authorities are informed.
Inform authorities if lost overseas: If the worker lost the card while overseas, it is crucial to inform the relevant authorities immediately. In such cases, the authorities will issue a letter that the worker can use to enter Singapore.
Pay the applicable fees: For a damaged card, the fee for replacement is $60. In the case of a lost card, the fee is $100 for the first loss and $300 for subsequent losses. It is important to note that these fees are non-refundable.
Expected processing time: In most cases, the replacement application is processed immediately. Once approved, the new Work Permit card can be collected within 4 working days.
By following these steps promptly and accurately, you can ensure that your worker receives a replacement Work Permit card in a timely manner, minimising any disruptions to their employment.
Can I apply for an S Pass for my employee who currently holds a Work Permit?
Yes, it is possible to apply for an S Pass for an employee who currently holds a Work Permit in Singapore. However, there are considerations to keep in mind:
Check eligibility: First, ensure that the employee meets the eligibility criteria for the S Pass by using the S Pass self-assessment tool provided by the MOM. This tool helps determine if the employee qualifies for an S Pass based on factors such as salary, educational qualifications, and work experience.
Proceed with the application: If the employee meets the S Pass requirements, the employer can proceed with the application for S Pass. It is recommended to apply for the S Pass well in advance, as processing times may vary. The application should be submitted while the Work Permit is still valid, and there is no need to cancel the Work Permit before the S Pass application is approved.
Stay in Singapore during the application: The employee can remain in Singapore while the S Pass application is being processed, as long as the Work Permit is still valid.
Request an extension of Work Permit: If the Work Permit expires before the outcome of the S Pass application is known, the employer can request an extension of the Work Permit. However, this extension is subject to approval by the MOM.
It's important to note that the success of the S Pass application depends on various factors, including meeting the eligibility criteria and fulfilling the requirements set by the MOM.
Do I have to pay the foreign worker levy (FWL) for Work Permit holders?
Yes, employers need to pay a monthly levy for each worker who is a Work Permit holder. This begins when the work permit (or temporary work permit) is issued and ends when the work permit is cancelled or expires.
The levy for Work Permit holders in Singapore is structured in tiers, considering factors such as the worker's skill level, sector, and quota. Below is a table illustrating the tiers and levy rates applicable to different sectors:
Each month's levy will be deducted on the 17th of the following month from your bank account (or the next working day if it falls on a weekend or public holiday).
Before the deduction date, make sure you have adequate money in your account. Your bank may charge you a failed transaction fee if the GIRO deduction fails.
What happens if I forget to pay the foregn worker levy (FWL) on time?
If you don’t pay the full levy on time, you may face these penalties:
A late payment penalty of 2% each month or $20, whichever is greater, will be assessed. The total amount of your late payment penalty will be capped at 30% of the outstanding levy.
Your existing Work Permits will be revoked. You can only apply for new Work Permits after you've paid off your arrears and fines. Do note that your Work Permit holders must obtain new Work Permits before they may continue working.
You won’t be allowed to apply for or issue Work Permits, or renew existing Work Permits.
You could risk legal action if you don't pay the levy.
If you, your partners, or your directors run other businesses, these businesses may not be eligible to apply for Work Permits.
How long is the validity period for a Work Permit?
The standard validity period for a work permit in Singapore is 2 years. However, the validity period may be shorter based on certain factors:
If the worker's passport expires in less than 2 years, the permit is valid until 1 month before the passport expiry date.
If the validity of the security bond is less than 26 months, the permit is valid until 2 months before the bond expires.
The validity of the work permit may also depend on prior approval, if applicable.
The maximum employment period for workers in specific sectors, as per the Work Permit requirement, can impact the validity period.
To obtain the full 2-year duration for a work permit in Singapore, it is therefore recommended to renew your worker's passport and security bond before renewing the work permit. This ensures that the work permit can be extended for its maximum duration, avoiding any potential gaps in validity.
What are the differences among Work Permit, Employment Pass and S Pass?
Foreign professionals, managers and executives
Mid-level skilled/ technical staff
Semi-skilled migrant workers in the following sectors:
- Marine shipyard
In addition, there are also Work Permits for:
- Migrant domestic workers
- Malaysian confinement nannies
- Foreign performing artistes
You may refer to the MOM website on “Work passes” for more information.
Minimum monthly salary required for pass holders
- At least $4,500
(older candidates need higher salary to qualify)
For new applications from Sep 2022 + Renewal applications from Sep 2023:
- At least $5,000
- At least $5,500 (for financial services)
- At least $2,500
(older candidates need higher salary to qualify)
For new applications from Sep 2022 + Renewal applications from Sep 2023:
- At least $3,000
- At least $3,500 (for financial services)
Employers can choose whether or not to provide medical insurance for EP holders
Employers must buy and maintain medical insurance for S Pass holders. The insurance coverage must be at least $15,000 per year and cover inpatient care and day surgery.
Employers must buy and maintain medical insurance for Work Permit holders. The insurance coverage must be at least $15,000 per year. This insurance should cover inpatient care and day surgery, including hospital bills for conditions that may not be work related.
Thanks for reading! We hope this article has helped you understand the process of applying for a Work Permit in Singapore.
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