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

Once you’ve registered your company in Singapore, and start looking to expand your operations by increasing your company’s staff count, you might want to hire talent from overseas. Employment Pass and S Pass are two different documents that allow foreign nationals to legally work in Singapore for a locally incorporated company. They are designed for mid-skilled skilled staff and highly skilled professionals.

However, you might think they are really similar and wonder what the difference is between these two types of work visas. We’ve broken down the criteria, minimum salary requirements, and quota of these passes you can have for your company.

Employment Pass versus S-Pass

Here’s a comparative table with key facts and differences between Employment Pass and S Pass in Singapore:

Criteria Employment Pass S Pass
Who it is for

Highly skilled professionals with a job offer in Singapore.

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

Mid-skilled skilled staff
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 $4,500 (older, more experienced candidates need higher salaries).
  4. Have acceptable qualifications, usually a good university degree, professional qualifications or specialised skills.
  1. Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,500 (older, more experienced applicants need higher salaries to qualify);
  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 SGD 4,500 minimum. The salary will vary depending on the sector and years of work experience. SGD 2,500
Who can apply
  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. .
Duration

First-time candidates: up to 2 years

Renewals: up to 3 years

Is there a quota? No quota.

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 the quota will need to increase their local workforce or reduce the number of foreign workers.You can calculate your quota here.

Is there a levy?

Yes, You’ll need to pay SDL (Skills Development Levy), payable for the foreign employees, both full time and part time.

Company needs to pay a levy up to the first S$ 4500 of the monthly salary (0.25% of S$ 4500 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
  1. Personal particulars page of the candidate’s passport;
  2. Company’s latest business profile or instant information registered with ACRA;
  3. Candidate’s educational certificates, e.g. degree certificate.

Take note that requirements might change over time. Read more about the most recent changes on S-Pass and Employment Pass here.

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 do I need to pay for an S-Pass holder?

For the services sector, the levy rate is as follows:

Tier 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 levy rate is as follows:

Tier 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 do I apply for an Employment Pass or S Pass for an employee?

If your company needs to hire a foreign national on an Employment Pass or S Pass, here is the procedure you should follow:

  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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