If you’re keen to work while you’re in Singapore, for yourself or for an employer– this guide is a great place to start! Whether it’s regulatory info you’re after, or a handy list of helpful websites, organisations and networking events, we’ve got it covered!
Thinking of starting a business?
Many expats come to Singapore with a host of fresh business ideas; others discover an entrepreneurial streak once they’ve settled in. So if you do have a great business idea, how do you turn it into a real-life proposition?
First you’ll need to apply for an EntrePass through the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). This involves writing a detailed business plan and financial projections; plus, your business needs to meet certain requirements (see mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/entrepass/eligibility). The application fee is $70, and successful applicants are issued an Approval-in-Principle letter within six weeks. The business must also be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) as a private limited company with at least $50,000 in paid-up capital. This can be done simply online using a SingPass (apply at singpass.gov.sg). Fees for registering a company are $15 for the name application and $300 to incorporate the company. The registration is usually approved within 15 minutes for online applications.
Useful Websites for setting up a business
- Ministry of Manpower: mom.gov.sg
- Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority: acra.gov.sg
- Singapore Personal Access (SingPass): singpass.gov.sg
- Entrepreneur’s Resource Centre: erc.com.sg
- Enterprise One: entrerpriseone.gov.sg
- International Enterprise (IE) Singapore: iesingapore.com
- Economic Development Board: edb.gov.sg
- Money Matters for Expats: moneymatters.com.sg
Are you looking for work as the ‘trailing spouse’?
Looking for work if you’re accompanying your spouse or partner on a posting, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether or not to work here.
You might decide to further your present career or perhaps now’s the time to explore something new? English teachers, for example, are in perennial demand, and a short course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) can start you on that path. Conversely, recent changes in employment laws with an emphasis on hiring local Singaporeans might mean that your skills are in less demand than they were at home.
Search firms, online sources, classifieds and expat associations can all be helpful when it comes to finding work, although many jobs are found through networking. The American Association’s Career Resource Center for Expatriates (CRCE) is particularly useful, offering advice on resumes, workshops, and career counselling.
Women seeking a job or developing a business can meet and network at professional associations, including The Athena Network and PrimeTime. The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) is a national coordinating body of women’s organisations and groups in Singapore that acts on their behalf.
- CRCE | aasingapore.com/about-crce
- Mums@Work | mumsatwork.net
- Careermums | careermums.com.sg
- PrimeTime | primetime.org.sg
- Athena | theathenanetwork.com.sg
- ANZA Career Centre | anza.org.sg
- LinkedIn; many successful job-seekers suggest connecting directly with potential employers | sg.linkedin.com
- Lean In Circle; facilitated group-coaching sessions focusing on career support and development for women | synovations.com
- Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations | scwo.org.sg
10 Top Tips for getting a job
- Make sure your resume is up-to-date, and tailor your references to suit the job you’re going for. These should reassure the hiring manager that you truly have the right skills for the role.
- Make sure you have all your official documents including birth certificates, personal identification and university transcripts at the ready. Singapore-based employers will likely ask for these and you may need to provide original copies.
- Put together a portfolio showcasing your relevant skills and experience. This can be hard copy, digital or on a website.
- Find out which recruiters are specialists in your field and go straight to them. See which company is posting jobs you’re interested in and call them. You’ll have a much better chance of breaking through the noise if they’ve met you and identified you as suitable talent.
- Get out and start networking. Many expats find jobs through their networks rather than applying for jobs blindly.
- Be realistic about your salary. Remember that Singapore’s low tax rate will often offset a lower base salary.
- Spend time searching for a job every day until you get one. Searching can be a full time job in itself. Stay determined and active.
- Attend interviews, even if you’re not 100 percent sure you want the position. Many companies can create roles for the right person, but they have to meet you first.
- Don’t be surprised if you’re asked personal questions, including your religion and whether you have children, at interviews.
- It’s common to be asked to submit a photograph with your resume.
Tips from EL Readers
“I found a full-time job working as a musical theatre teacher, teaching drama, dance and singing to students from 18 months up to 13 years. I wish I’d known that it’s really hard to get a job on a Long-Term Visit Pass over here; it took me a long time to secure the right job and get my EP.”– Jenilee
“Network! It’s always easier to find jobs through people you know. It’s also much easier to get approved for a LOC (Letter of Consent) than your own Employment Pass.” – Michelle
“I’d recommend securing a job before you come to Singapore. I made the mistake of attempting to find work once I was over here and spent about a year before finally securing something. Recruiters tend not to be as active as back home, though I did manage to find a couple of gems who helped me significantly.” – Jeanette
“When I first arrived I was asked two questions which I had to say no to: ‘Do you speak Mandarin?’ and ‘Have you got experience working in Asia?’ A friend suggested that I should just take any job so that I got experience in Asia and then it would be a lot easier to find the next job. For me this was true. Also, the expat network can help you get a job so make sure you let people know that you’re looking, and put yourself in situations where you will meet people who can help you.” – Penny
Need to know: rules and regulations
The Fair Consideration Framework allows affirmative discrimination and employers are required to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders.
A quota system regulates the ratio of foreign and local workers in the workplace.
Dependant’s Pass holders are entitled to work once they have a Letter of Consent, which their employer can apply for. It’s a relatively straightforward process and applications are generally processed quickly by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
While it’s not impossible, those on visitor passes hoping to apply for EPs may find it more of a struggle to get a job.
For a preliminary indication of the likelihood of obtaining an EP or S Pass, use the online Self-Assessment Tool prior to submitting the application.
New and noteworthy: From 2014, the MOM has placed a strong emphasis on the quality of the educational qualifications and institutions that the applicant has attended when assessing applications.
This article first appeared in the EL City Guide, 2015/2016. To read the current issue click here.