Work Permit guide for employers

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?

A work permit is also a kind of work visa, allowing people from other countries to work in Singapore. For the work permit, the target group are semi-skilled migrant workers in the following sectors: construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, and services. 

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?

There is a quota, also known as a dependency ratio ceiling, for the maximum number of S Pass and Work Permit holders that a company can employ. This differs from sector to sector, and also depends on the total number of local employees + S Pass holders + Work Permit holders there are in the company. 

For example, in the manufacturing sector, the quota is 60%. This means that in the manufacturing company’s total workforce, up to 60% can consist of S Pass and Work Permit holders. 

Do note that there are some updates from the recent Budget 2022 for the construction and process sectors:

  • The ratio of work permit holders that a company can employ, will be reduced from 1:7 (current ratio) to 1:5. Seen in terms of percentage, this means that the maximum number of work permit holders in the construction and process sectors will be reduced from 87.5% to 83.3%.
  • These changes will take place from 1 Jan 2024. 

Is there a Work Permit quota calculator?

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?

Application for a Work Permit must be done by the employer, or appointed employment agent. 

Before applying for a Work Permit:

  1. Familiarize yourself with work permit requirements for your sector. You may refer to MOM’s article on “Sector-specific rules for Work Permit”.
  2. Get familiar with the quota and levy required. For more information, see MOM’s article on “Foreign worker levy”. 
  3. Declare your business activity (if you are a business employer doing a first-time application for S Passes or Work Permits).
  4. 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 Work Permit worker arrives in Singapore:

  1. Apply for the work permit. This may be done via WP Online. At this point, you will need to pay $35 for each pass.
  2. Buy a $5,000 security bond (applicable for non-Malaysian workers). This may be bought from an insurance company or bank.
  3. Buy a medical insurance plan for each migrant worker. The medical insurance coverage must be at least $15,000 per year, and it should insure 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”.
  4. 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 to learn about their employment rights, and other information such as Singapore’s social norms. 

After Work Permit worker arrives in Singapore:

  1. Non-Malaysian workers (from construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard and process sectors) have to proceed to attend the Setting-in Programme.
  2. Register your worker’s address
  3. Send your worker for a medical examination 
  4. 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.
  5. Register worker’s fingerprints and photograph
  6. Receive the work permit card (will be delivered to given address)

How to check 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. 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 quota 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”. 
  • You need to pay $35 for each renewal
  • The outcome of the application is immediate

How can I renew the Work Permit for my employee?

  1. At least 1 hr before renewing the pass online, you need to register the worker’s residential address and mobile number, using the OFWAS (Online Foreign Workers Address Service).
  2. 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)
    • Medical insurance
    • Work permit renewal notice and application form (available from WP Online)
    • Address and details for card delivery (if worker is getting a new card) 
  3. Follow the instructions on the renewal notice and application form in WP Online. 
  4. Pay for the renewal ($35 for each work permit)

Do I have to pay 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 requirements differ by sector. For more information on sector-specific requirements, please refer to MOM’s article “What is the foreign worker levy”, and under the heading “Levy rate and quota”.

In addition, the levy rate also depends on:

  • The worker’s qualifications (workers who have relevant qualifications may qualify for higher-skilled worker levy).
  • The number of work permit or S Pass holders hired in your company

How do I pay the foreign worker levy (FWL) for Work Permit holders?

You need to pay the foreign work levy for Work Permit via GIRO (General Interbank Recurring Order). Here are the detailed instructions on how to pay the levy via GIRO.

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 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.

What are the differences among Work Permit, Employment Pass and S Pass?

  Employment Pass S Pass Work Permit
Target group Foreign professionals, managers and executives Mid-level skilled/ technical staff Semi-skilled migrant workers in the following sectors:

  • Construction

  • Manufacturing

  • Marine shipyard

  • Process

  • Services


 
In addition, there are also Work Permits for: 

  • Migrant domestic workers

  • Malaysian confinement nannies

  • Foreign performing artistes

  • Process

  • Services


You may refer to the MOM website on “Work passes” for more information.
Minimum monthly salary required for pass holders Currently:

  • 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)

Currently:

  • 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)

No minimum salary required 
Are family members provided passes? May apply for a Dependent’s Pass for family members, if they meet this eligibility criteria No
Is levy required? No Yes Yes
Is there any quota? No Yes Yes
Does the employer need to provide insurance? 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. With our Payboy payroll & HR software, you can actually set work pass expiry reminders so that you will never miss the pass renewal dates, giving you a peace of mind! If you have any questions or would like more information, please don't hesitate to sign up for a demo and we'll be happy to help.

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Reach out to us if you are keen for a free demo on how we can help you save hours and give you some peace of mind on payroll and other HR matters so that you can focus on your business and people.
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