Singapore is a fantastic place to live and establish a life. The salaries are quite attractive and the taxes are very low making it a popular place for expats looking to expand their careers. In addition, the quality of life is amazing even though the cost of living in Singapore has skyrocketed in recent years. However, if you are arriving on a Dependent Pass (DP) with a partner who is on an Employment Pass (EP), then you will not be able to work right away.
Previously, DPs were allowed to be employed right away but that all changed in Q1 of 2021. DPs are no longer allowed to work and must seek their own EP from a company that’s willing to go through the process of sponsorship.
It’s a daunting task without a doubt but it is possible. Hopefully this guide will help you achieve your dreams of finding a job in Singapore!
What are the different types of resident permits in Singapore?
There are a few types of resident permits in Singapore so let’s get the different options out of the way before diving into this post. If you’re already on a Dependent Pass and are already living in Singapore enjoying the sights, then you probably already know these terms.
Employment Pass (EP): This pass is for foreign professionals, managers, executives, and specialists who are working in Singapore. The EP is usually issued to individuals with a higher salary and professional qualifications.
S Pass: The S Pass is for mid-level skilled foreign workers who are employed in Singapore. It requires a minimum level of educational qualifications and work experience.
Personalized Employment Pass (PEP): The PEP is designed for high-earning foreign professionals. It allows holders greater flexibility in terms of employment as they can switch jobs without reapplying for a new pass.
EntrePass: The EntrePass is for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start and operate a new business in Singapore. It is subject to certain eligibility criteria and requires the entrepreneur to demonstrate a viable business plan.
Dependent’s Pass (DP): The DP is available for the immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of Employment Pass or S Pass holders. It allows them to live in Singapore and, in some cases, work or study.
Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP): The LTVP is for common-law spouses, stepchildren, or handicapped children of Singaporean citizens or permanent residents. It allows them to stay in Singapore for an extended period.
This is very similar to a DP but you don’t need to officially get married to obtain the LTVP. You can simply declare that you’re common law married and your partner can live in Singapore. This is perfect for those that want to be together in Singapore without officially getting married.
Student Pass: The Student Pass is for international students pursuing full-time education at recognized educational institutions in Singapore.
Miscellaneous Work Pass: This pass is for short-term or temporary work assignments in Singapore, typically lasting up to 60 days. It is granted to individuals involved in activities such as speakers, religious workers, and journalists.
What is the Dependent Pass (DP)?
The most common dependent pass in Singapore is the “Dependant’s Pass” (DP). The Dependent’s Pass is issued to the spouse and unmarried children (below 21 years of age) of foreigners holding an Employment Pass, EntrePass, or Personalized Employment Pass in Singapore. It allows the dependents to reside in Singapore with the duration of the Dependant’s Pass being tied to the validity of the main pass holder’s employment or business visa.
To obtain a Dependant’s Pass, the main pass holder (usually the spouse or parent) must meet certain eligibility criteria and submit an application to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore. The application process involves providing necessary documents, such as marriage or birth certificates, passports, and relevant employment or business-related documents.
Working in Singapore as a Dependent Pass holder
In the past, a DP was allowed to work in Singapore without restriction. They would simply need to obtain a letter of consent from the hiring company and the MOM (Ministry of Manpower) would then approve it for work. However, as of Feb 2021, Dependent Pass holders are no longer allowed to work in Singapore. This has caused a lot of difficulty with existing DPs who were no longer able to maintain the jobs they had been working.
My guess is that because of COVID, Singapore saw jobs being lost and the economy falter so the Government had to be seen doing something to help the local population. DPs were an easy subset to target. Funny enough, there are only about 5000 DPs that were working in part time or full time capacities.
Nowadays, DPs must get sponsored for an EP just like any other person in order to work. Essentially, you’re treated just like any foreigner walking down the street in Europe when it comes down to finding a job in Singapore. You no longer have the privileges that DPs used to have in that you could find work easily without the need for a company to sponsor you. Instead, the company will need to tap into their EP quotas to hire a DP which makes the process exponentially more difficult.
Be realistic about your situation
If you’re the type of person that needs the absolute best from your job, then it’s high time you start recalibrating your expectations. Unless you know you are the big boss and can command any package anywhere, you need to tone down your expectations in Singapore while on a DP as soon as possible.
Forget about your dream job
Do not look for your dream job here. Do not filter out every possible lead because you aren’t sure if you’ll like it or not. Do not ask or expect the highest salary possible. It’s likely the money you make in Singapore will be higher than wherever you come from anyhow given how low the taxes are. As an example, $200k SGD is about $160k USD but it translates to something like $240k USD in New York City once you factor in the tax differences between Singapore and NYC. Of course, this is not taking into account the FEIE tax deduction if you’re American.
The name of the game is to just get an EP. To just find employment. Once you find a job and obtain that sweet previous EP, then you have the luxury to negotiate and find something of higher quality in your next job hunt.
Networking, networking, and more networking
As repetitive and as cheesy as this sounds, networking is probably one of the best ways to get a job in Singapore. If you work in an industry that is prevelant in Singapore (think Finance, Tech, Engineering, Consulting, Law etc.), then the first thing to do is to reach out to your network.
The best way to get your foot in the door is from the referrals of others. If you have former colleagues in Singapore, that is great. If you don’t, even if they sit in another part of the world, they can use internal referral systems to help you out with a job in Singapore.
Enlist the help of a recruiter
A headhunter or recruiter is more important in Singapore than other cities. This is especially the case if you’re a foreigner looking for an EP sponsorship.
The reason for this is that many of the job openings in Singapore are already pre-determined. This means that all the job descriptions you see on Efinancial Careers, LinkedIn, and other websites are not really real. They are real jobs yes, but they are already filled with a candidate that company has already identified.
These companies post these job openings as it is a requirement by the Authorities to advertise a job to locals so they are able to apply. In reality, this is just to tick the boxes and these jobs are not jobs you could ever hope to obtain.
Recruiters filter out for the real jobs in Singapore
A recruiter/headhunter is imperative here as they can see through all these jobs and filter out for the ones that are actual real jobs. They have relationships with hiring managers and a much bigger understanding of the market than you. They know exactly which job is a “real” job and which ones are open to sponsoring a foreigner. Sometimes, these jobs initially only interview for citizens and PRs but if they cannot find the right candidates in this pool, they open the search for foreigners. The recruiter will know when this switch has been flipped and help you out accordingly.
Find some solid recruiters and make a connection with them. This is the only reason I was able to find a job in Singapore. If I didn’t have the recruiter, I think there would have been no way for me to be directly recruited by the company as I just didn’t have enough Singapore based experience.
Apply for the Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)
If you’re a seasoned professional, applying for a Personalized Employment Pass (PEP) might make things much easier for you. The PEP is a special type of Employment Pass that is not linked to the employer. This visa is primarily meant for foreigners already in Singapore to help switch jobs without the need to reapply for the EP.
However, the PEP is also useable for qualified foreigners that are not already in Singapore. If you meet the eligibility requirements of this visa, you can essentially move to Singapore and look for jobs without visa issues. The biggest benefit is that you will not need EP sponsorship since you already have the PEP. This will make job hunting 10x easier.
Requirements for a PEP
The requirement as of Sep 1, 2023 is that you must earn the equivalent of $22,500 SGD per month in salary. This was increased from the previous requirement of $18,000 SGD to benchmark the salary to the top 5% of EP holders.
This is admittedly a very high threshold but if you’re working in finance or tech in the US, this actually isn’t a crazy sum ($16.7k USD which is about $200k annually). How they determine the FX rates is beyond me but that’s the general benchmark. Note that this threshold does not include things like bonus or other fixed payments but is only based on your salary.
Apply for the OnePass
If your spouse is in a very senior position, then the OnePass is meant for you. The OnePass is meant for highly qualified professionals working in Singapore. The requirement for a one pass is a monthly salary of at least 30,000 SGD. Yes you read that correctly! This salary puts you in the top 5% of earners in Singapore.
There are a slough of differences between the OnePass and the Employment Pass but the main one that we are interested in is the ability for the spouse to seek Employment.
If your spouse makes enough money, they should apply for the OnePass and then the DP will be allowed to work without any restrictions.
You’ll need to apply for many jobs
Once you’re ready to start, be prepared to apply for many many jobs. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Jobstreet, Efinancialcareers, Monster etc. start applying for as many jobs as possible. In addition, navigate to the websites of different recruiters in your industry and send personalized emails to the headhunters within your field.
Make sure to personalize your resume to the individual job by highlighting things that match the job description. I find that this is vastly underrated and a great way to make your CV stand out.
Don’t lose hope and don’t lose patience
I’ve heard of instances where people applied for hundreds of jobs just to get one call back. Do not get discouraged at the process and do not give up hope.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint after all!