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4 things to know about Singapore's work pass framework enhancements

In his National Day Rally speech on Aug 21, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the importance of building a world-class talent pool in Singapore and the need to develop, attract and retain top talent here.

"This is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation's success," he said.

In remarks delivered on Monday (Aug 29), Manpower Minister Tan See Leng added that since talent is Singapore's only resource, acquiring it constitutes an "offensive strategy" for the nation.

On that front, he announced four targeted enhancements to the Republic's work pass framework to better attract top talent and experienced professionals in areas facing a shortage of skills, such as technology.

The enhancements introduced were the following:

1. A new Overseas Networks & Expertise (One) Pass

From Jan 1, 2023, applications will open for this signature pass for top talent across sectors.

The aim of the One Pass is to attract global talent with valuable networks as well as deep skills and expertise in their fields that can help Singapore grow.

The One Pass will have a duration of five years, which is longer than the two or three years for typical Employment Pass (EP) candidates. It will provide pass holders the flexibility of assuming multiple roles and contributing meaningfully to Singapore's economy.

Spouses of One Pass holders will also be able to work in Singapore upon obtaining a Letter of Consent.

To qualify, applicants will need to earn a fixed monthly salary of $30,000 and above, comparable to the top 5 per cent of EP holders.

Overseas candidates with no recent employment history in Singapore must demonstrate that they have worked or will be working for an established company that has a market cap of at least US$500 million (S$699 million) or annual revenue of US$200 million.

However, individuals with outstanding achievements across the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia can also qualify even if they do not meet the salary criterion.

2. New public benchmark for exemption from some existing work pass requirements

From Sept 1, 2023, the salary threshold for exemption from the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement and the points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (Compass), as well as the salary criterion for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP), will be aligned to a single benchmark set at $22,500.

Today, individuals earning more than $20,000 monthly are granted exemptions from the FCF job advertising requirement and upcoming Compass, which takes effect on Sept 1, 2023.

Existing EP holders earning at least $12,000 monthly and overseas candidates earning at least $18,000 monthly are eligible for the PEP.

With the benchmark set, companies will also know that future changes to the salary thresholds and criteria will be incremental.

The FCF sets out requirements for all employers in Singapore to consider the workforce fairly for job opportunities. Employers should not discriminate on characteristics that are not related to the job, such as age, gender, nationality or race.

Under the FCF job advertising requirement, employers submitting EP and S Pass applications must first advertise on the MyCareersFuture website and fairly consider all candidates.

The PEP is for high-earning EP holders and overseas foreign professionals. It is not tied to an employer and offers greater flexibility than an EP.

3. Two changes to EP application requirements

First, the FCF job advertising period will be brought back down to 14 days from 28 days with effect from Sept 1 to allow companies to move with greater speed and certainty when it comes to hiring.

The duration of the FCF job advertising period was increased from 14 days to 28 days in Oct 2020, when the labour market was weak and the economic conditions uncertain due to the pandemic.

Second, all EP applications will be processed or applicants given an update within 10 business days, with immediate effect.

This means that within 10 business days of submitting an application, an employer can expect to hear a "yes", a "no", or a status update from the Manpower Ministry (MOM) if more time is needed to process the application.

Today, 85 per cent of online EP applications are processed within three weeks.

4. Option of a five-year EP

MOM will offer the option of a five-year EP to those with specific tech occupations on the Compass Shortage Occupation List from Sept 1, 2023.

In line with their experience, these individuals will need to meet a higher salary criterion of at least $10,500 monthly. They should also pass Compass and score at least 10 points on the Diversity criterion.

Compass is a points-based framework that evaluates EP applicants based on a set of four foundational individual and firm-related attributes, such as the applicant's salary relative to local norms and whether the candidate improves the nationality diversity in the firm.

Applications earn points if they meet or exceed expectations based on these attributes. 40 points are required to pass Compass, which will apply to new applicants from Sept 1 next year.

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