Singapore to launch new work pass to attract global top talent; $30k monthly pay among criteria

SINGAPORE – A new work pass – the Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass – will be introduced from Jan 1 next year, to attract top talent across all sectors.

Applicants will need to earn a fixed monthly salary of $30,000 and above, which is comparable to the top 5 per cent of Employment Pass (EP) holders.

This is among several initiatives to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global talent hub, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday (Aug 29).

Other changes planned include updated job advertising requirements under the Fair Consideration Framework, and adjustments to the existing EP scheme.

The changes are to allow businesses to respond quickly to their operational needs, so that they can compete more effectively as Singapore and the world emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Tan said.

He said at a media briefing: “We are making targeted enhancements to our work pass framework, to better attract top talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortages.”

Dr Tan noted that as countries emerge from the pandemic, amid economic and geopolitical uncertainties, some are turning inwards while others are going out of their way to compete for global talent.

“In this climate, we need to be clear about where Singapore stands. We cannot leave any room for investors to doubt or have questions as to whether Singapore remains open,” he said.

To roll out the new plans that will cover four areas, MOM will work with the Ministry for Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Communications and Information.

Firstly, the One Pass will also grant pass holders the flexibility to concurrently start, operate and work for multiple companies in Singapore at any one time.

This is unlike the typical EP, which is tied to the specific job that the pass holder is doing.

The One Pass is also a five-year work pass, which is longer than the typical EP that lasts two to three years.

Pass holders can also sponsor dependants and their spouses will be allowed to work, by obtaining a Letter of Consent.

To apply for the new pass, applicants will need to earn $30,000 and above. Overseas candidates with no recent employment history in Singapore also need to show that they have worked, or will be working for an established company, with a market cap of at least US$500 million or annual revenue of US$200 million.

But individuals with “outstanding achievements” across the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia can also qualify even if they may not meet the salary criterion, Dr Tan said.

He added: “MOM will closely engage Pass holders during their time in Singapore.

“The flexibilities offered by this Pass are meant to allow Pass holders to contribute meaningfully to Singapore. It is not meant to be abused as a visit or travel document.”

Apart from the new One Pass, there will also be changes made to the existing EP scheme from Sept 1 next year.

A new benchmark will be introduced and pegged to the top 10 per cent of pass holders, such that this group will be exempt from Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirements or the upcoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (Compass).

Compass is a points-based framework that evaluates EP applicants based on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes. It will apply to new applicants from Sept 1 next year.

The benchmark will be adjusted from $20,000 to $22,500, while the salary criteria for the personalised pass will also be updated to $22,500.

The Personalised Employment Pass is for high-earning EP holders and overseas foreign professionals, and offers greater flexibility than an EP.

To help companies respond to business needs, the FCF job advertising duration will also be cut from 28 days to 14 days, from Sept 1 this year.

The duration was extended to 28 days in October 2020 amid a weak job market to give jobseekers more time to respond to openings, Dr Tan said. He noted that the economy has recovered strongly since then.

The processing time for EP applicants will also be hastened, from about three weeks now for 85 per cent of online applications, to within 10 business days, with technological advances allowing a swifter and more decisive response.

The MOM will notify employers if it needs more time to deliberate on whether to issue the EP.

Finally, MOM will offer the option of a five-year EP to experienced professionals filling specific tech occupations on the Compass Shortage Occupation List – a list that is still being compiled based on input from the industry, trade associations and other partners.

In line with their experience, these individuals will also need to meet a higher salary criterion of at least $10,500.

They should also pass Compass, among other criteria.

Dr Tan said: “This enhancement will provide greater certainty to experienced tech professionals when making major decisions on relocating to Singapore, and allow us to anchor tech capabilities even as we develop our local pipeline.”