Singapore's Government recently announced enhancements to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent, including the introduction of a new Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass. In this article, Varun Kalsi, Director, Head of Legal & Business Solutions and Neeti Relan, Associate at Lighthouse Canton analyze the Singaporean government’s recent introduction of the ONE Pass regime, its impact on the existing work permits, implications, and the way forward for individuals considering a move to Singapore.
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The Overseas Networks & Expertise (“ONE”) Pass
In his speech of August 21, 2022, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong categorically mentioned how Singapore intends to attract and retain top international talent especially in the technology space. The idea being to make Singapore the hub of innovation, entrepreneurship, and growth. In typical Singapore efficiency, on August 29, the Minister of Manpower Dr. Tan See Leng announced the initiative, which would strengthen Singapore’s position as a global talent hub, i.e., the Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass.
“ONE” Pass vs existing Employment pass “Epass”
The first question that came to the mind of several expatriates in Singapore was how is this any different from the existing employment pass (“Epass”)?
The answer is quite simple. The Singapore government would like both the Epass and the One Pass to co-exist while making the latter a more premium work pass. Therefore, the criterion for issuing a ONE Pass is distinct from that of the Epass. The objective is to attract top foreign talent by carving out a special category that is pegged at either the remuneration, skill set or achievements of a foreigner.
Accordingly, the ONE Pass will allow passholders to concurrently commence, operate and/or work for multiple companies. Unlike the Epass, a ONE Pass-holder need not be tied to one employer and will be able to switch employment with the same ONE Pass.
While the Epass restricts the employment categories to managerial, executive, or specialized jobs, a ONE Pass-holder has no such restrictions and can work across sectors and industries.
Typically, the duration of an Epass is 2 years, which would normally be renewed for a period of 3 years thereafter. In case of the ONE Pass, the validity period will be 5 years and a renewal will begin with a 3-year period.
While an Epass holder will need to meet the remuneration thresholds of S$6,000 and S$12,000 per month respectively for procuring a dependent’s pass or a long-term visitor’s pass for one’s parents, there are no such conditions applicable to a ONE Pass-holder. Furthermore, a ONE Pass-holder’s spouse will not need an Epass or similar work permits and can work in Singapore on the basis of a “Letter of Consent”. However, the spouse of an Epass holder will still need an Epass or requisite work permits from the Ministry of Manpower (“MoM”), Singapore.
Making Singapore attractive to top international talent
As the ONE Pass is a novel move, there are bound to be some uncertainties in the practical aspects of procurement of the pass. Notwithstanding this, the government’s intentions are clear. It wants to make Singapore attractive for top international talent. One indication is the waiver of the minimum salary requirement of S$30,000 per month for the ONE Pass provided that the individual has “outstanding achievements” in either of “arts and culture, sports, science, technology, academia and research”. Interestingly, individuals who do not have history of working in Singapore shall work only for a company, which has a market capitalization of US$500 million, or an annual revenue of US$200 million. The MoM will continue to monitor and regulate the activities of all ONE Pass-holders like it does for the other permit holder, perhaps, with greater or lessor vigor. But that, time will tell.
For clarity, Epass holders (including Singapore family office personnel) can continue to re-apply for an Epass under the aegis of their family office and shall remain unaffected. On the other hand, the ONE Pass looks like a promising window of opportunity for foreigners who seek to enter Singapore. Not only does it prescribe a remuneration threshold and alleviate several restrictions associated with an Epass, but it also makes an exception for a certain category of people. Of course, MoM will continue to exercise its discretion for applicants when the standard applied is not remuneration based.
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