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Hiring Foreign Talent: The Difference Between an Employment Pass and an S Pass

Author Francesca Del GiudiceFrancesca Del Giudice

5 min read
Better Business

Once you’ve registered your company in Singapore, and start looking to expand your operations. You might want to hire talent from overseas. Find out the difference between S-Pass and Employment so you can hire correctly and stay compliant.

Hiring Foreign Talent: The Difference Between an Employment Pass and an S Pass

After registering your company in Singapore and increasing the number of employees in your company, you may want to hire talent from overseas.

An Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass are two different work passes that allow foreign nationals to legally work in Singapore for a locally incorporated company. The S Pass is for mid-skilled staff and the EP is for highly skilled professionals.

If you’re wondering what the difference between an S Pass and an Employment Pass is, the answer is a few things, in fact. Though similar, there are some fundamental differences between these two types of work visas.

To help you along, we’ve broken down the eligibility criteria for an S Pass and Employment Pass and unpacked the minimum salary requirements and quota (for S Pass) so you can feel confident when planning which is best for you and your prospective new hires.

These rates are current as of March 2022. However, there are upcoming changes to the Employment Pass and S Pass that will start in September 2022. More changes will happen in September 2023 and September 2025.

Employment Pass Versus S Pass: Requirements & Eligibility

This table will come in handy if you ever need a quick reference to confirm Employment Pass and S Pass requirements, or to remind yourself of what the eligibility criteria is when you’re preparing for the application process.

It can get confusing so talk to us if you need to clarify things. We have in-house immigration consultants who ensure your company is compliant and updated with the latest changes.

Criteria Employment Pass S Pass
Who it is for

Highly skilled professionals with a job offer in Singapore should apply for an Employment Pass.

MOM has provided a list of standard occupations for EPs which you can find here.

Mid-skilled staff best suited to apply for an S Pass.
S Pass & Employment Pass Eligibility criteria for employees
  1. Have a job offer in Singapore
  2. Work in a managerial, executive or specialised job.
  3. Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $5,000 (older, more experienced candidates need higher salaries to qualify for an Employment Pass).
  4. Have acceptable qualifications, usually a good university degree, professional qualifications or specialised skills.
  1. To qualify for an S Pass, employees need to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $3,000 (older, more experienced applicants need higher salaries);
  2. Have a degree, diploma or technical certificate that requires at least 1 year of full-time study;
  3. Have relevant work experience.
Minimum salary benchmark S$4,500 minimum (as listed in criteria above). The salary will vary depending on the sector and years of work experience. S$2,500
Who can apply for an S Pass or Employment Visa?
  1. A Singapore-registered employer
  2. An appointed employment agent
  3. If the pass holder changes jobs, the new employer has to apply for a new pass.
  1. A Singapore-registered employer
  2. An appointed employment agent
  3. If the pass holder changes jobs, the new employer has to apply for a new pass. .
What’s the validity period for an Employment Pass and S Pass?

First-time candidates: up to 2 years

Renewals: up to 3 years

Does a quota apply to an S Pass or Employment Pass? There are no Employment Pass quota requirements that apply during the application process.

There is a quota. For all sectors, the S Pass quota will be counted within the Work Permit quota.

You cannot hire more S Pass holders than:

  • 13% of the company’s total workforce in the services sector.
  • 20% in all other sectors.

If you have exceeded this S Pass quota, you will need to increase their local workforce or reduce the number of foreign workers. You can calculate your S Pass quota here.

Is there a levy?

Yes, you’ll need to pay Skills Development Levy (SDL). This is payable for both full-time and part-time. foreign employees.

Your company will need to pay an Employment Pass levy up to the first S$4,500 of the monthly salary (0.25% of S$4,500 or S$2, (whichever is higher).

There is a foreign worker levy and Skills Development Levy.

As an employer, you must pay the levy for all your S Pass holders. The levy liability starts from the day the S Pass is issued and ends when the pass is cancelled or expires.

The minimum set of documents needed for applying

The following are requirements for S Pass and Employment Pass applications:

  1. Personal particulars page of the candidate’s passport;
  2. Company’s latest business profile or instant information registered with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA);
  3. Candidate’s educational certificates, e.g. degree certificate.

Tips

Requirements might change over time, here’s where you can read more about the most recent changes on S-Pass and Employment Pass.

You can also check your or your potential employee’s eligibility for an Employment Pass / S Pass using this free official Self-Assessment Tool.

How Much Levy Does My Business Need To Pay for an S Pass Holder?

For the services sector, the S Pass levy rate for businesses is as follows:

Tier S Pass Quota % of Your Total Workforce Monthly Levy Rate Daily Levy Rate
Basic / Tier 1 Up to 10% $330 $10.85
Tier 2 Above 10% to 13% $650 $21.37

For all others sectors excluding services, the S Pass levy rates are:

Tier S Pass Quota % of Your Total Workforce Monthly Levy Rate Daily Levy Rate
Basic / Tier 1 Up to 10% $330 $10.85
Tier 2 Above 10% to 20% $650 $21.37

What is the daily levy rate?

The daily levy rate applies only to S Pass holders who did not work for a full calendar month.

Here’s how you calculate it:  

(Monthly levy rate x 12) / 365 = rounding up to the nearest cent.

How To Apply For an Employment Pass or S Pass for an Employee

If your company needs to hire a foreign national, here’s how to apply for an Employment Pass or S Pass:

  1. Post a job ad on a government-approved website.
  2. The job advertised must match the occupation in the Employment Pass / S Pass application.
  3. The employer submitting the Employment Pass / S Pass application must be the same as the one in the job advertisement.
  4. The job ad must remain open for at least 28 days after publication.
  5. If you make amendments to job details during this period, the ad must stay open for another 28 days after the changes were made.
  6. On the 29th day, you can start your Employment Pass / S Pass application.
  7. You cannot submit an Employment Pass / S Pass application if it took more than 3 months to fill in the position advertised in your job posting.
  8. Apply for Employment Pass using this official online service.
  9. Apply for S Pass using this official online service.
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