Singapore to Launch New Work Pass Next Year to Attract Top Global Talent

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To attract top global talent across sectors, Singapore on Monday announced that it will introduce a new work pass from next year that will allow high-earners and high-achievers to live in the city-state without having to secure a job first.

The Overseas Networks and Expertise Pass to be introduced from January 1, 2023 is meant for talent from any sector who earns a monthly salary of SGD 30,000 and above, which is comparable to the top 5 per cent of Employment Pass (EP) holders, or have outstanding achievements in the areas of science and technology, arts and culture, research and academia, or sports, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said.

The initiative is part of plans to ensure that Singapore can compete effectively in the global fight for top talent. This is among several initiatives to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global talent hub, Tan said. 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, The Straits Times newspaper cited Tan as saying.

“We are making targeted enhancements to our work pass framework, to better attract top talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortages,” he said at a media briefing. 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, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will work with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Communications and Information.

First, the new pass will 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 new 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 dependents, and their spouses will be allowed to work, after obtaining a Letter of Consent.

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 USD 500 million (SGD700 million) or annual revenue of USD 200 million. 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 pass, there will be changes to the existing EP scheme from September 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 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 salary benchmark will be adjusted from SGD 20,000 to SGD 22,500 a month, while the salary criterion for the personalised pass will be updated to SGD 22,500. The Personalised Employment Pass is for high-earning EP holders and overseas foreign professionals, and offers greater flexibility than an EP as it is not tied to an employer, and pass holders do not need to reapply for a pass if they change jobs.

To help companies respond to business needs, from September 1 this year, the Fair Consideration Framework job advertising duration will be cut from 28 days to 14 days. This means a job vacancy needs to be advertised for only 14 days before a company can hire an EP holder.

The duration was extended to 28 days in October 2020 amid a weak job market to give job seekers 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.

These individuals will need to meet a salary criterion of at least SGD 10,500. 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.”

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