High standard of living, safety, over 14 million tourists visiting annually, it’s no surprise why so many people and businesses find Singapore so appealing that they begin moving here. Did you know there are other ways of living in the country other than carrying the standard employment pass, work permit, or student pass? I have what’s called an Immigration Exemption Order (IEO).

Hammer used in court of law

An IEO is an Immigration Exemption Order that is given to families of foreign military personnel or diplomatic staff who need to be in Singapore.  Normally, work passes are administered through MOM (Ministry of Manpower) but I obtained my IEO through the MOD (Ministry of Defense). With an IEO you don’t get a physical pass. You get a FIN (Foreign Identification Number) written in your passport.

So what can I do with my IEO? Well, lots! I can:

  • Buy a car without having to pay the COE
  • Rent property without having to pay a property tax
  • Open a Singapore bank account
  • Get a phone plan
  • Work
  • Go through a quicker line at customs when we’re traveling
  • Enroll my children up for school

There are a lot of perks of having an IEO which makes it very easy and convenient to live here. However, in the beginning we did face a lot of challenges when we tried to engage a service such as even opening a bank account because an IEO is not as common as a work pass, a dependent pass, or PR.

Paper titled Contract on a board on a table

Our family can purchase a car but we have to sit through a five-hour driving course and purchase the car upfront because we are unable to get a loan.

We eventually moved our family into a condo but needed to work with a relator that has experience working with families with IEO status.

Additionally, before we could rent our property we needed to open a bank account. We couldn’t open a bank account without a physical pass/an employment pass OR a lease. The bankers and supervisors that were helping us were unfamiliar with our status and would turn us away. We had to go to a bank near Woodlands/Sembawang. Banks in Sembawang understand the unique status of IEOs for US Military Service Members in Singapore. Many other banks elsewhere on the island had no idea because when non-locals obtain a work pass, the norm is that it is with MOM not MOD/MFA.

As an IEO holder, I can work but the company needs to sponsor me and apply for an LOC or Employment Pass. Enrolling my kids and getting a phone plan was not hard but I did need to carry around my passport all the time.

There are different ways of getting into the country: an IEO, dependent pass, long term visit pass, EP, PR – you need the right immigration advice. Chat with us to talk about your options.