Hiring foreign workers in Singapore is a great way to solve your labor shortage.

The country is well-known for being open to foreigners thanks to its pro-immigrant policies and robust labor programs. These policies and programs allow local businesses to tap into a diverse and skilled workforce.

However, employing migrants often requires careful consideration.

Especially if you’re new to international recruitment, the process can be daunting and time-consuming as it involves navigating through red tape and legal requirements.

But fret not! In this article, we set out 5 steps explaining exactly how to hire foreign workers in Singapore.


Foreign Workers in Singapore: 6 Steps for Successful Hiring


The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) closely governs the hiring of foreign workers in Singapore.

All foreigners coming to Singapore for work purposes need to have a valid work pass (also known as a work visa) before entering the country.

Even if you plan on hiring migrant workers on a short-term basis, you still need to obtain a short-term work pass on behalf of your employees.

You can find below all the steps you must take in order to successfully employ migrant workers for your Singapore-based company.


Step 1: Check If You and Your Future Employees Meet the Requirements


When hiring foreign workers in Singapore, it’s important to be aware of the quota on the number of foreign workers that a local company can employ.

In order to encourage companies to hire local workers, the Government of Singapore introduced the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) that limits the number of foreign nationals employed by a local company.

The Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) varies by industry.

If you’re not sure about the number of foreign workers you can employ, you can calculate your foreign employee quota here.

It is also important to note that work pass applications are typically accepted only from individuals aged 18-50.

However, there is an exception for Malaysian workers who have the opportunity to apply until the age of 58.

Additionally, specific requirements may be applicable to workers in specific industries. For instance, workers in the construction industry may need to pass the SEC(K) test.

SEC(K) stands for Skills Evaluation Certificate and refers to a certification program established by the Building and Construction Authority, designed to evaluate the competency and expertise of individuals in specific construction trades.

More information on how migrant workers in the construction sector can achieve basic-skilled status can be found here.

Do note that workers hired under the work permit for migrant workers (which is the most common type of work pass in Singapore) must come from specific source countries approved by the MOM.

These source countries vary by industry.


Source Countries Approved by the MOM


Depending on the industry you’re in, you can hire foreign workers in Singapore coming from the following countries or regions:




Bangladesh, Hong Kong (HKSAR passport), India, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand




Hong Kong (HKSAR passport), Macau, Malaysia, People’s Republic of China (PRC), South Korea, Taiwan


Marine shipyard


Bangladesh, Hong Kong (HKSAR passport), India, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand




Bangladesh, Hong Kong (HKSAR passport), India, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand




Hong Kong (HKSAR passport), Macau, Malaysia, People’s Republic of China (PRC), South Korea, Taiwan


Step 2: Check What Type of Work Pass You Need to Apply for


There are different types of work passes available in Singapore, depending on the employee’s qualifications and nature of work.

In order to comply with the current labor laws and legally hire foreign nationals in the country, it’s important to have a good grasp of these options.


Employment Pass


This type of pass is for managers and executives who earn a minimum monthly salary of $5,000 and successfully pass the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). This is an evaluation tool used to determine eligibility for this work pass category.


Personalized Employment Pass


This pass provides enhanced flexibility compared to the employment pass and it is tailored to high-earning employment pass holders or foreign professionals from overseas.


Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass


Individuals with exceptional skills in fields such as business, arts, sports, culture, and research can apply for this pass.


Work Permit for Migrant Workers


This pass is intended for migrant workers with skills ranging from skilled to semi-skilled, specializing in industries such as manufacturing, construction, marine shipyard, and various process and services sectors.


Work Permit for Confinement Nanny


This type of work permit is for Malaysian nannies employed in Singapore for a duration of up to 16 weeks.


Work Permit for Performing Artists


This permit is for entertainers employed in public entertainment venues like hotels, bars, and nightclubs.


S Pass


An S pass is designed for workers who earn at least $3,150 per month.


Work Holiday Pass


There are two types of work holiday passes. The first one is for students and graduates aged 18 to 25 who want to work in Singapore for a period of 6 months. The second one is for Australian students and graduates aged 18 to 30 who want to work in Singapore for a period of one year.


Miscellaneous Work Pass


This is a work pass for foreign speakers, religious workers, and journalists who are to work in Singapore for a period of up to 60 days.

Some short-term activities such as organizing conferences or performing as an actor, singer, musician, or dancer can be undertaken without the need to apply for a work pass.

However, the MOM must still be notified of these activities.

More information on the eligible activities for a work pass exemption can be found here.

A work pass for Singapore is valid for two years, contingent upon the worker’s passport validity and agreed employment period.


Step 3: Apply for a Work Pass


When hiring foreign workers in Singapore, you have to apply for a work pass on behalf of your future employee.

To do so, you must take the following steps:


1. Declare Your Business Activity


You must declare your business activity if you are applying for a work permit for the first time. This is an important step so that the MOM can assign your company to the relevant industry and therefore determine the number of foreign workers you can hire.

The process can be completed online by logging in to the Work Pass Account Registration (WPAR). The processing time for the application is two working days.

You can find more information on how to declare your business here.


2. Get Written Consent to Apply for a Work Pass on Behalf of the Foreigner


Before applying for a work pass on behalf of your future employee, you must get written consent from them.

Any document indicating a worker’s agreement to work for the employer is regarded as written consent, including a signed employment contract.


3. Fill Out the Online Application


You can do this by logging in to Work Permit (WP) Online for businesses and employment agencies.

When filling out the application, you must pay a $35 fee.

You will also need to submit supporting documents such as:

  • Photocopy of the worker’s passport


  • Copies of the worker’s education diplomas and professional certificates


  • A copy of the company’s profile from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)


  • Evidence that the company is paying employees’ CPF contributions


Please note that this list does not encompass all the required documents. If deemed necessary, the competent authorities may request additional documents when applying for a Singapore work permit.

Typically, you can expect to receive an answer regarding your work permit application after one week. However, this timeframe could be extended if there is a need for additional documents.

To check the status of your work permit application, please refer to the following link: https://www.mom.gov.sg/eservices/services/check-work-pass-and-application-status.


Step 4: Get Ready for the Arrival of Your Employees


To get ready for the arrival of your foreign workers in Singapore, make sure you complete the following steps:

  1. For non-Malaysian workers, you must submit a pre-entry housing check form. Depending on the house type, the processing time may take 6 weeks or longer.


  1. After the competent authorities process pre-entry housing check application, you must book a slot at the Onboard Center.


  1. If you have applied for a work permit on behalf of non-Malaysian workers, you must purchase a security bond. This is an agreement to remit funds to the government in the event of any violations of the law. The security bond must be valid upon the worker’s arrival. Failure to do so may result in their denial of entry into Singapore.


  1. Next, you must purchase medical insurance and a Primary Care Plan (PCP). The PCP is a mandatory requirement for workers staying in dormitories or working in the Construction, Marine, and Process (CMP) sectors.


  1. For all employees engaged in manual labor and those earning $2,600 or less per month, you must secure work injury compensation insurance.


  1. Within two weeks of their arrival in Singapore, your workers must complete a medical examination.


  1. All non-Malaysian workers in the CMP sectors must complete a residential onboarding program at MOM’s Onboard Center and attend the Settling-in Program (SIP) to learn about their rights at work.


  1. Complete and sign the security bond form.


  1. Use the OFWAS service to register your worker’s residential address and phone number.


  1. Print the work permit application form and the in-principle approval (IPA) letter for migrant workers you get after receiving a positive answer on your work permit application.


Step 5: Get the Work Permit Issued


After completing all of the above steps, you can get the work permit issued. To do so, you need to log in to WP online and submitting a request.

You will receive a notification letter valid for one month. Your worker can use the notification letter to move in and out of Singapore while they await the issuance of their work permit card.

The notification letter will also specify whether or not the worker needs to provide their fingerprints and photo.


Step 6: Pay the Foreign Worker Levy


When hiring foreign workers in Singapore, it’s important to be aware that employers may be subject to a foreign worker levy.

This means that you must pay a levy for each foreigner you employ. The amount you must to pay depends on the worker’s qualifications and the number of foreign workers you hire.

In most cases, the monthly levy ranges between $300 and $700.

The obligation to pay the levy begins on the date when the work permit is issued. Then, it concludes upon the cancellation or expiration of the permit.


Hiring Foreign Workers in Singapore: Final Considerations


The challenge of hiring foreign workers in Singapore is much more complex for international workers than domestic ones, and red tape may seem a hindrance to your company’s success.

However, you can take proactive steps towards meeting all the legal requirements.

The procedure is not always straightforward, but there are resources like this one that can assist you in gaining a clearer comprehension of the steps to take and ensuring you follow them correctly.

If you are considering hiring foreign workers in Singapore, VideoWorkers is offering highly qualified and competent candidates to meet your needs. Create your free company account today and gain access to the largest pool of top-notch candidates and personalized support to help you make the perfect hire. 

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