Immigrating to Singapore? Pick an Immigration Path That Suits You

In recent years, apart from traditionally popular locations such as the United States, Canada and Australia, Singapore has also become a hotspot for immigrants. With its prime geographical location, stable political environment, top-notch infrastructure, diverse social culture, pro-business regulatory framework, abundance of medical and educational resources, low crime rate and extensive tax incentives, everything makes this garden city―located near the equator with an average temperature of 20-35°C all year round―an attractive relocation destination.

As the number of applicants for immigration to Singapore increases, the minimum requirements for successful applications have also increased in value by the Singapore government. The minimum threshold for family offices’ tax incentive applications rose from the initial, unwritten but customary S$5 million to a whopping S$20 million almost overnight as of 18 April this year. But does that mean that there is no hope for immigration? No. Let us explore some common immigration routes to Singapore.

Route 1: Apply for Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) status through an Employment Pass (EP)

A popular and straightforward route is to obtain a work pass in Singapore, followed by the application for PR status. All expatriates travelling to Singapore for work are required to obtain a valid work pass. Unlike China, Singapore has a wide variety of work passes, including the passes designed for professionals, namely the Employment Pass (EP), EntrePass and Personalised Employment Pass, and the passes designed for the skilled and semi-skilled workers (of which only the S-Pass can be used to apply for PR status in Singapore). The following will further explore into the three types of passes for professionals.

Employment Pass

Employment Pass applicants are usually foreign professionals, managers and executives with a job offer in Singapore. The applicant is required to have a fixed monthly salary of at least S$4,500. Applicants in the financial services sector need to make a minimum of S$5,000 a month. As for more experienced applicants, the minimum salary will have to match their qualifications and experience and hence be higher in order to qualify. According to the Singapore Budget 2022 released by the Ministry of Finance on 18 February 2022, the minimum monthly salary threshold for the Employment Pass will be raised from S$4,500 to S$5,000 in September, and for applicants in the financial services sector, the minimum monthly salary threshold will be raised from S$5,000 to S$5,500. The Employment Pass places a high premium on academic qualifications and generally requires a good university degree, professional qualifications or specialized skills. Upon clearance, applicants are generally granted a work visa valid for two years for the first visit and three years for subsequent renewals.

Tip: Family office investment professionals are also issued employment passes. This means that regardless of whether you invest S$20 million and apply for 13O (exemption of income of company incorporated and resident in Singapore arising from funds managed by fund manager in Singapore) or invest S$50 million for 13U (exemption of income arising from funds managed by fund manager in Singapore) in a fund company, you will only receive an Employment Pass and not PR status in Singapore.

What are the benefits of applying through a family office? Firstly, for applicants working as the investment professionals of the family office, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will look at their investment background rather than their academic qualifications hen vetting their Employment Pass. This is good news for applicants with significant investment experience but limited education credentials. Secondly, setting up a family office can be a great way to plan family wealth and even achieve wealth inheritance. It provides a high degree of privacy, and a fund management licence would even not be required under certain structures. Lastly, fund companies that are approved before 31 December 2024 will enjoy a lifetime exemption from fund taxes. Applicants who are looking to apply for an Employment Pass through a family office would need to expedite their applications.


Applicants for the EntrePass are mainly foreign entrepreneurs, innovators and investors with venture-backed or innovative technologies who wish to set up businesses in Singapore. A business is deemed to have investment backing or own innovative technology when it (1) raised funding from venture capitalists, corporates, family offices, business angels, etc.; (2) developed, produced or commercialised tech products, services or platforms; (3) registered patents with an approved national intellectual property institution; or (4) has an ongoing research collaboration with a research institution. Of course, the above criteria are only the basic requirements. For entrepreneurs, innovators and investors, the MOM has a set of more specific and in-depth criteria. Businesses such as coffee shops, food courts, bars, employment agencies, etc. will not be eligible for EntrePass. The advantage of the EntrePass is that there is no minimum salary requirement, but the applicant must submit a detailed business plan and is normally granted a work visa valid for one year the first term and one year for the first renewal at a later date, but two years for a further renewal.

Tip: The Tech.Pass, which is limited to 500 places, is a type of EntrePass. However, unlike the normal EntrePass, the Tech.Pass is approved by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and not the MOM. The Tech.Pass is designed to attract established tech entrepreneurs, leaders or technical experts from around the world to come to Singapore to perform frontier and disruptive innovations. To be eligible for the pass, applicants must satisfy any two of the following conditions: (1) have last drawn a fixed monthly salary (in the last year) of at least S$20,000; (2) have at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in a tech company with a valuation/market cap of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million in funding raised; or (3) have at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users or at least US$100 million annual revenue. Upon approval, the applicant normally will be granted a work visa valid for two years for the first term and two years for subsequent renewals.

Personalized Employment Pass

Applicants for Personalized Employment Passes (PEPs) are mainly high-earning Employment Pass holders or overseas foreign professionals. Compared to the Employment Pass, it is more flexible and does not even require the applicant to have a job in Singapore when applying. Applicants are only required to find a job within six months of receiving the PEP. In the event of a change in employment, applicants are only required to notify MOM of the change without having to reapply for the PEP. Applicants can apply for the PEP if they meet one of the following two criteria: (1) be an overseas foreign professional and a last drawn fixed monthly salary overseas of at least S$18,000; or (2) be an EP holder earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$12,000. Upon approval, applicants are generally granted a nonrenewable work visa valid for an initial period of three years. The advantage of this pass is that instead of looking for a job before applying for an Employment Pass, highly paid individuals who are currently overseas can apply for a PEP and thereafter find a job that pays more than S$12,000 within six months upon arrival in Singapore.

Route 2: Apply directly for PR status through the Global Investor Programme

The Global Investor Programme (GIP) is an EDB-administered immigration programme that aims to attract established business owners, next-generation business owners, founders of fast-growth companies and family office principals to become permanent residents in Singapore by making investments in the country. To apply for the GIP, applicants need to meet the following criteria after selecting the appropriate investment option:

There are three investment options:

Option A: Invest S$2.5 million in a new business entity or in the expansion of an existing business operation.

Option B: Invest S$2.5 million in a GIP fund that invests in Singapore-based companies.

Option C: Invest S$2.5 million in a new or existing Singapore-based single family office having assets under management (AUM) of at least S$200 million.

Established business owners, next-generation business owners and founders of fast-growth companies are free to choose option A, B or C while family office principals are only allowed to choose option C. Upon approval, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will issue an Approval-in-Principle (AIP) status to the applicant. The applicant will then be required to make the necessary investment under the selected investment option and provide supporting documents to EDB within six months of the validity of the AIP. After the EDB has confirmed that the relevant documents are in order, including the relevant undertaking and certifications, ICA will then issue a final approval letter to the applicant. With the final application letter, applicants can travel to Singapore within one year to complete the relevant procedures and formalise their Permanent Residence status and obtain the “blue card”. Upon the formalisation of the PR, applicants will be issued a Re-Entry Permit (REP) that is valid for five years. This REP will be renewed for another three or five years subject to satisfy of the REP renewal conditions. It is important to note that under the GIP, Singapore PR status will be granted not only to the applicant, but also their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. It is a one-off procedure.

Route 3: Other ways to apply directly for PR status in Singapore

In addition to the GIP, if the applicant is (1) a spouse of a Singapore citizen or PR; (2) an unmarried child 21 or younger, born within the context of a legal marriage or legally adopted by a Singapore citizen or PR; (3) an aged parent of a Singapore citizen; (4) a student studying in Singapore; or (5) eligible for the Foreign Artistic Talent Scheme, they are eligible to apply for PR status in Singapore as well.

ICA considers factors such as the individual’s family ties to Singapore, economic contributions, qualifications, age, family profile and length of residency to assess the applicant’s ability to contribute to Singapore and integrate into Singapore society, as well as his or her commitment to establishing roots in Singapore.

After meeting certain requirements, applicants who have been granted PR status can apply for Singapore citizenship and eventually receive the Singapore Identity Card (the “pink card,”) the Singapore Passport and the Certificate of Citizenship.

Immigrating to Singapore is not only about the transfer of citizen status, but also related to tax declarations, family assets and compliance issues.

For More Information

If you have any question, please contact Irene Bao or any of the attorneys in our firm with whom you are familiar to consult on this matter.

About Duane Morris & Selvam LLP

Duane Morris & Selvam LLP (DMS) is a joint law venture between international firm Duane Morris LLP (DM) and Singapore-based firm Selvam LLC. DMS runs a unique Latin American-Asian practice out of Singapore, with a team of international lawyers qualified in multiple jurisdictions including Singapore, the US, the UK, Canada, Mexico and Colombia, with substantial experience in international transactions and disputes. DMS also has a wide cooperation network with some of the best Latin American and Asian law firms.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm’s full disclaimer.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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