Obtaining a work permit in Singapore or visa to stay can be a problem for expats living on this beautiful island. Often a lawyer with connections is needed to help deal with the paperwork and red tape associated with Singapore immigration. New COMPASS and ONE Pass applications are an exciting new development worth getting advice on too.
Fortunately, SULOCHANA UTHIRAPATHI of Transform Borders is here to help! She’s a lawyer who specialises in Singapore immigration matters of all types. She knows first-hand how stressful it can be when you have a work permit or immigration issue. And she’s all over the work permit requirements for the new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass (ONE Pass) and the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) that were both introduced for Employment Pass (EP) holders in 2023. We sat down with her to hear all about it.
Tell us about Transform Borders and how it began.
When I was studying law in Australia, I inadvertently overstayed my visa. Appealing to the authorities to re-instate my visa was a very scary and difficult experience. Thankfully, I was successful and ended up living in Australia for ten years as a lawyer. After returning home, I worked for a firm specialising in Singapore immigration. It wasn’t until I helped a good friend to obtain the correct visa for her business that I decided to strike out on my own as a lawyer. In 2017, I started Transform Borders, and it’s been a very satisfying and busy ride.
Who are your typical Singapore immigration clients and what work permit types do you help with?
I represent a wide range of individuals and businesses in the area of Singapore immigration. I see a lot of expats looking to apply for Permanent Residency (PR) and Letters of Consent (LOC), which have both become more difficult to obtain in recent years. For PRs wanting to take the next step to become Singapore Citizens, I help them to navigate the process.
Another popular service I offer is to obtain a work permit for highly qualified individuals not tied to a specific employer through a Personalised Employment Pass (PEP). Often this is a great way for a foreigner to stay in Singapore after a job loss. They can then look for a new position. My additional areas of expertise include assessing eligibility for an S Pass work permit for mid-level skilled workers, and Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP) for foreign spouses.
Many of my clients are expat business owners and entrepreneurs who are applying for an EP or EntrePass to work for their own business. Helping companies sort out their work permit needs, including hiring non-local employees, is a really enjoyable part of my job. It’s very rewarding to support entrepreneurs chasing their dreams.
What is COMPASS, and what does it mean for expats?
As of September 2023, EP candidates must pass a two-stage eligibility framework. In addition to meeting the stage one qualifying salary, EP candidates must also pass the points-based stage two: COMPASS. Put simply, COMPASS scoring is based on criteria including salary, qualifications, diversity (firm related) and support for local employment. There are also two additional criteria of skills bonus (shortage occupation list) and strategic economic bonus (firm related) for companies who can satisfy innovation or internationalisation benchmarks.
As you can see, the assessment under this new framework is more complex and overwhelming for companies that are looking to hire personnel on an EP work permit. As a Singapore immigration specialist, I’m happy to help clients navigate these tricky changes. With my team, I can provide strategic consultation on what clients can do to meet the requirements of COMPASS.
You also help process ONE Pass applications. How can it benefit trailing spouses?
Primary passholders who earn a monthly salary of $30,000 under an established company (or group of companies) within the last year or will earn the same under a future established employer in Singapore, may qualify for the ONE Pass. This is a five-year pass that allows flexible employment/business ownership options, and is renewable. Additionally your trailing spouse will qualify to obtain an LOC as an employee or business owner during this period. This is very attractive for many expat families who wish to have two working parents. If this sounds of interest, please reach out for a chat. As a lawyer, I’m here to help you pave the way to success!
Now we have your work permit and ONE Pass application questions answered, want to know where to live in Singapore? Read this article to help choose your new neighbourhood!
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