Implications of Singapore’s Policy on Business Immigration for Employers

The Singapore government has announced that Singapore will continue to tighten its work pass criteria for foreign employees gradually and this means that we can expect further tightening measures to be introduced in 2022. We often work with companies in different sectors which rely on foreign talent in various degrees, and we take this opportunity to share our thoughts on how companies can prepare for and plan their talent strategy in the year ahead.

1. It’s no longer all about salary thresholds.

Singapore has raised salary cut-offs for Employment Passes (EPs) and S Passes in line with rising wages. In 2020, it raised the cut-offs twice and instituted a higher qualifying salary for the Financial Services sector. The current salary threshold for EPs is $4,500 (and $5,000 for candidates in the Financial Services sector), and $2,500 for S-Passes.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has started to assess work pass applications more qualitatively – salary will not be the only factor they will consider. The MOM is likely to give additional weight to other factors such as the candidates’ qualifications and skillsets, their role in the company, the company’s profile, and the company’s overall workforce ratios.

2. The “locals-may-not-possess-requisite-skillset” reason will be subject to thorough examination.

The MOM had published its observations about companies that it had identified to have engaged in unfair hiring practices. The MOM found that the companies which claimed that they were unable to find local workers with the required expertise or experience had not cast their net wide enough, such as by tapping on the government’s support measures to help local workers reskill and upskill, for example, the Professional Conversion Programmes. Such companies also assumed that local workers lacked the global exposure necessary to function effectively across the multiple countries that they operate in.

A well-defined and well-articulated hiring plan will help employers forestall any suggestion that it did not try hard enough to hire locals, or that it did not give locals due consideration.

3. Clear job descriptions in recruitment advertisements are more important than ever.

Clear written JDs are important, not only to attract the right and qualified candidates but to serve as part of a document trail – which will be of utility when called upon by the MOM to address whether locals were properly considered for the job and the reasons for choosing not to hire a local for the role in question. Clear JDs help demonstrate the employer’s thought process in a logical manner, which is always a plus point when engaging with the MOM.

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The impact of Singapore’s policy on business immigration will mean greater competition for talent and the need to navigate an increasingly regulated market. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, companies need to think ahead in the terms of proactive compliance and develop sustainable employment practices and robust hiring strategies.

If you would like to discuss any issues concerning business immigration or regulatory and compliance matters, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any member of the Bird & Bird Singapore Employment team.

This article is produced by our Singapore office, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide general information only. Please note that the information in this article is accurate as of 14 February 2022. Please contact our lawyers if you have any specific queries.

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