When visiting Singapore, whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or need a work authorisation, it all depends on your nationality and the types of activities you will be conducting during your visit. There are different obligations for different visits and in this article, we will be focusing mainly on travelling for business, working in Singapore and starting a business in Singapore.

Travelling for Business

To qualify as a business visitor in Singapore, all foreign nationals must obtain a Short-Term Visit Pass (STVP) upon arrival. Nationals from certain restricted countries must first obtain an Entry Visa from a Singapore Consulate or Embassy before travelling. Meanwhile, if you are from countries like the European Union, the United States and Australia, you are eligible for a visa waiver instead of an Entry Visa. 

For foreign nationals with a valid Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Cards (ABTC) endorsed with “Valid for travel to SGP”, you are eligible to enter Singapore and get involved in permissible business activities without obtaining a visa. That being said, here are some of the activities that qualify as business which you may engage in:

  • Attend company meetings
  • Receive training at workshops and seminars
  • Visit exhibitions as a trade visitor
  • Participate in corporate retreats

Working in Singapore

There are 4 main types of work authorisation in Singapore namely Training Employment Pass for undergraduate students and trainees, S Pass for mid-level and skilled professionals, Employment Pass for managerial, executive or specialised professionals who are linked to a specific employer in Singapore, and Personalised Employment Pass for highly-qualified professionals who are not linked to a specific employer in Singapore. The requirement for different work authorisation varies depending on your qualification, earnings and duration of work in Singapore.

In exceptional cases, you may engage in selected short-term professional activities without having to obtain a Work Pass, provided you meet the notification and pre-approval requirements. An individual assessment is recommended before deciding whether a Work Pass exemption is applicable. Do note that Singapore does not offer long-term work authorisation exemptions. Here are some of the activities, whether paid or unpaid, that require work authorisation even when conducted for a short period of time:

  • Auditing
  • Marketing
  • Consulting

Starting a Business in Singapore

If you wish to start a business in Singapore or have already done so, you are eligible to apply for an EntrePass (Entrepreneur Pass). EntrePass is open to all nationalities and if your business has been registered with the ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority), your private limited company must be less than 6 months old on the date you apply. If not registered, you can do so after receiving the outcome of your application.

Here are some criteria that can help your application as an entrepreneur, innovator or investor:

  • Entrepreneur: Has a business network and entrepreneurial track record, funding from a government-recognised VC (Venture Capitalist) or is an incubatee at a government-recognised incubator.
  • Innovator: Has extraordinary achievements in key areas of expertise, holds an intellectual property or has a research collaboration with the Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) or research institute in Singapore.
  • Investor: Has an investment track record.

Unfortunately, not all types of businesses are eligible for an EntrePass. Businesses that do not qualify are coffee shops, hawker centres, bars, night clubs, massage parlours, traditional Chinese medicine, employment agencies, among others.

It is good to do your own research before travelling to Singapore, but the best option is still to seek advice from your immigration counsel. They can help walk you through the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

At Transform Borders, we will give you the best advice on the appropriate visa you need based on your unique circumstances. Due to Covid-19, whether you are travelling here for work or business, please do take note of entry procedures prior to your arrival. Get in touch with our Lead Immigration Specialist now to find out more!