Singapore - Complementarity Assessment (COMPASS) Framework enters into effect

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on 4 March 2022 introduced the new COMPASS framework that will apply to new Employment Pass (EP) applications from 1 September 2023 and EP renewals from 1 September 2024.

COMPASS is a points-based framework that evaluates EP applicants on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes. COMPASS is scored on four foundational and two bonus criteria. Each criteria can be awarded:

  • 0 points (if applicant does not meet expectations);
  • 10 points (if applicant meets expectations); or
  • 20 points (if applicant exceeds expectations).

In addition to meeting the prevailing qualifying salary requirement, EP candidates must score at least 40 points to pass COMPASS.

Candidates are exempt from COMPASS if they fulfil any of the following conditions:

  • The candidate earns a minimum fixed monthly salary of SGD 22,500;
  • The candidate is applying as an overseas intercorporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to; or
  • The candidate is applying for a short-term EP (not exceeding one month).

As the minister clarified, the COMPASS framework is designed to be balanced and reasonable, and not to raise the difficulty in hiring EP holders. It also provides greater clarity for employers so that they will have better predictability in their manpower planning.

The COMPASS framework’s foundational criteria reflect the Singapore government’s longstanding policy of attracting quality and complementary foreign talent while maintaining a strong Singaporean core. The bonus criteria also provide further recognition to EP applicants that bring in specialised skills that are in short supply or that support strategic economic priorities of Singapore.

Reduced job advertising duration under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) and processing times for EP applications

The FCF took effect from 1 August 2014 to combat discriminatory hiring practices and to ensure that Singaporeans are considered fairly for all job vacancies.

Under the FCF, employers are generally required to advertise all job vacancies on for a set period prior to submitting an EP application.

Back in October 2020, when the labour market was weak due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MOM increased the job advertising period from 14 days to 28 days to allow resident jobseekers more time to respond to job openings. From 1 September 2022, the job advertising duration reverted to 14 days to address the tightening labour market amid Singapore’s economic recovery and employers’ feedback on the hiring difficulties caused by keeping job listings open for an extended period.

The MOM has announced that it will reduce processing times for EP applications with immediate effect. Employers can expect to receive EP application outcomes, or at least an update from MOM, within 10 business days.

Five-year Employment Pass option

First-time successful EP candidates are normally granted EPs with an initial validity period of up to two years, while subsequent EP renewals may be granted for up to three years.

From 1 September 2023, experienced tech professionals who satisfy all the following criteria may apply for a pass with a duration of up to five years when submitting their EP application:

  • The professionals fill specific tech occupations on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List (SOL) (the first SOL is expected to be announced in March 2023);
  • The professionals earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD 10,500 (older candidates will need higher salaries to qualify and up to SGD 13,500 for candidates aged 45 and above); and
  • The professionals passed COMPASS and scored at least 10 points on the diversity criterion.

The purpose of this change is to provide employers and tech professionals with greater certainty on their workforce planning and to allow Singapore to anchor tech capabilities while the country develops its local pipeline.

New benchmark pegged to top 10% of EP holders

The MOM will introduce a new benchmark pegged to the top 10% of EP holders. To align with this benchmark, the exemption bar for the FCF job advertising requirement and the upcoming COMPASS will be raised from SGD 20,000 to SGD 22,500. In addition, the salary criterion for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) will also be raised to SGD 22,500. These changes will be implemented from 1 September 2023.

The MOM will review these thresholds annually against the benchmark while considering prevailing economic conditions.

Kylie Luo
Wu Soo Mee
BDO in Singapore