Global Employer Services News February 2023

Preferential ONE Pass visa for top global talent introduced

On 29 August 2022, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng announced the introduction of a new five-year work visa aimed at high-earning foreign nationals. The Overseas Network and Expertise (ONE) Pass is targeted at top talent across all sectors and has been open for applications since 1 January 2023.

ONE Pass applicants must:

  • Satisfy a minimum monthly salary threshold of SGD 30,000 from a single employer, which can apply to either salary earned within the last year or future salary earned under a Singapore-based employer. This salary threshold is comparable to the top 5% of Singapore Employment Pass (EP) holders; and
  • Demonstrate that they have been working for an established company for at least one year or will be working for an established company in Singapore. Established companies are those with a market capitalisation of USD 500 million or annual revenue of USD 200 million.

High-achieving Individuals in the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, academia and research can also qualify for the ONE Pass even if they do not meet the salary threshold.

The ONE Pass offers greater employment flexibility compared to other work passes:

  • The ONE Pass is tied to the individual and not to a specific employer. ONE Pass holders can start, operate, and work concurrently under multiple companies in Singapore. They do not have to reapply for a new pass if they change jobs.
  • ONE Pass applicants are not subject to the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) and job advertising requirement under the Fair Consideration Framework.
  • ONE Pass holders and their dependent family members (spouse, children, parents) can reside in Singapore before securing a job.
  • The ONE Pass is granted for an extended duration of five years for both first-time applications and subsequent renewals.
  • Spouses of ONE Pass holders can work in Singapore under a letter of consent instead of having to apply for a work pass whereby they would be assessed on their own merits

Next steps

This immigration alert kicks off a three-part series on Singapore’s efforts to attract top foreign talent amidst an increasingly competitive landscape.

The next two instalments will focus on the upcoming changes to Singapore’s Employment Pass eligibility criteria and targeted schemes to further cement Singapore’s status as a leading tech hub.

To prevent abuse of the ONE Pass as a travel document, the MoM will engage with ONE Pass holders annually and request details regarding the professional activities undertaken and the annual salary earned over the past year. The MOM’s goal is to ensure that the flexibility accorded by the ONE Pass is utilised to contribute meaningfully to Singapore.

To renew the ONE Pass, pass holders are expected to meet either of the following conditions:

  • Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD $30,000 on average over the past five years in Singapore; or
  • Start and operate a Singapore-based company that employs at least five locals, each earning at least SGD $5,000 (pegged to the EP minimum qualifying salary).

Attracting top foreign talent into Singapore

As a country with no significant natural resources and a small internal market, Singapore relies on foreign investment and the global market to develop its economy. Singapore’s workforce sits at the core of its economy and its ability to develop local talent and attract foreign talent is vital for Singapore to remain competitive and resilient. In recent years, many countries have started offering special visas to court top and promising talent. The ONE Pass enables Singapore to compete in the intensifying race for global talent and is part of Singapore’s efforts to develop its industries and workforce.

In addition to the ONE Pass, Singapore has also introduced other passes that aim to attract entrepreneurial talent and high-earning professionals. The differences between an Employment Pass, Personalised Employment Pass and ONE Pass are summarised in the table below.

Kylie Luo
Wu Soo Mee
BDO in Singapore