Singapore restricts flexibility for some foreign employees

Singapore is tightening restrictions on intra-corporate transferees, one category of workers brought from overseas offices of multinational corporations, the Straits Times reported.

Intra-corporate transferees are a common feature of free-trade agreements worldwide that, for example, allow professionals to move for short periods to set up offices or for temporary projects, the Straits Times said. Intra-corporate transferees pass holders make up less than 5% of employment-pass holders in Singapore.

The changes could reduce the number of dependents’ pass holders entering Singapore and send a stronger signal that multinational corporations need to give consideration to hiring locals before transferring in a foreign employee, the Straits Times said, citing observers of the situation. The developments could also discourage employers from applying for employment passes via intra-corporate transfers, the paper said.

Employment pass (EP) holders in Singapore declined 2% from December 2019 to June 2020, the paper reported, citing the Ministry of Manpower. EP holders need to earn a monthly salary of at least S$4,500 ($3,390).

Employers need to advertise on a government website for a minimum of 28 days before and give fair consideration to all local applicants before putting in an EP application. The advertising requirements do not apply if the employer has fewer than 10 employees, the fixed monthly salary for the role is S$20,000 and above, or the role is a short-term one not exceeding one month, according to the manpower ministry.

Among the changes to the foreign workforce that have been made recently:

• Transferees won’t be allowed to remain in the country for a limited period to find a new job if their work passes are canceled, while Employment Pass holders are permitted to remain for a short time if they meet specific criteria.

• Since November, intra-corporate transferees have been told they can’t bring family members to Singapore via dependents’ passes or long-term visit passes, though employment-pass holders can do so if they meet qualifying criteria, the paper said.

Joanna Ossinger/Bloomberg

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