Increased qualifying salary requirement

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On August 27, 2020, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) has increased the minimum qualifying salaries for foreign workers to receive the Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass work permits.

In addition, EP holders working in the financial services sector will need to meet a wage threshold, the first time the ministry has set such a sector-specific qualifying salary.

The effective date of this new criterion for new applicants of EPs (general) will be September 1, 2020, and December 1, 2020, for EPs for the financial sector. The effective date of new S Pass applicants is October 1, 2020. Moreover, the effective date for renewals of all work passes will be May 1, 2021.

With the overall unemployment rate at 2.9 percent in July 2020 – the highest in a decade – these latest measures are aimed at pushing businesses to hire more Singaporeans during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The EP is issued to expatriates employed as executives, managers, or skilled professionals. First-time candidates can obtain an EP for an initial two years, which can then be renewed for up to three years at a time.

The last time the MoM increased the qualifying salaries criteria for foreign employees was in May 2020, whereby applicants for EPs had to earn S$3,900 (US$2,867) – up from S$3,600 (US$2,646) previously.

From September 1, 2020, the new minimum salary requirement for EP applicants will be S$4,500 (US$3,308). For applicants that are renewing their EPs, this salary criteria will come into effect on May 1, 2021. Older and more experienced candidates (above the age of 40) will see their qualifying salaries raised correspondingly.

The S Pass is designed for mid-level skilled employees, and the qualifying salary requirements are less than that for EP applicants.

The government has also increased the minimum qualifying minimum requirements from S$2,400 (US$1,765) to S$2,500 (US$1,838). The qualifying salary will apply to new applicants from October 1, 2020 and for renewals from May 1, 2021. 

Businesses should be aware that the MoM, when considering EP and S Pass applications, will take into account whether or not the business has discriminated against qualified Singaporeans. Additionally, the MoM will evaluate if the business has been responsive to help train Singaporean professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) as part of the government’s latest strategy to reskill its workforce.

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