Singapore: Upcoming Changes to Foreign Worker Rules

Singapore's Minister for Manpower recently announced upcoming changes to foreign worker rules aimed at ensuring local access to skilled jobs and raising the quality of foreign workers. The announcement covers major changes in policy that can potentially affect a large number of foreign nationals and their employers in Singapore.

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Mar 09, 2018

The situation

Singapore’s Minister for Manpower recently announced upcoming changes to foreign worker rules.

A closer look

Highlights of the announced changes include the following:

  • Expanded job posting requirement. Starting July 1, 2018, the 14-day job posting requirement for Employment Pass (EP) applicants will be expanded to cover companies with at least 10 employees or positions earning less than SGD 15,000 a month.
    • Impact. Since currently, only companies with more than 25 employees or positions paying a fixed monthly salary of less than SGD 12,000 month are required to post a job advertisement for positions offered to EP applicants, the new rule will require more companies to adhere to pre-EP application steps.  
  • Higher salary threshold for S Passes. Starting January 1, 2019, the salary threshold for applying an S Pass will be raised to SGD 2,300 from the current SGD 2,200. This will further increase to SGD 2,400 starting January 1, 2020. The last salary threshold adjustment for the S Pass was done in 2013.
    • Impact.
      • The higher salary threshold will require employers to reevaluate their budgets for hiring foreign workers.
      • Existing S Pass holders whose passes will expire between January 1 and June 30, 2019 can still renew their passes under the previous salary threshold of SGD 2,200, but with a limited validity of up to one year instead of the maximum two years.  
  • Longer maximum employment periods for Work Permit holders.
    • Starting May 1, 2018, the rule regarding how long a foreign worker can hold a Work Permit in the Construction, Process and Marine Shipyard sector will be increased to the following:
      • R1 level (higher skilled): from 22 years to 26 years
      • R2 level: from 10 years to 14 years
    • For the Services and Manufacturing sector, the rule regarding how long a foreign worker can hold a Work Permit will be increased to the following:
      • R1 level (higher skilled): from 18 years to 22 years
      • R2 level: from 10 years to 14 years
    • Impact. The increased allowable work periods will allow foreign workers to remain in Singapore longer.  
  • New upgrade pathways for Work Permit holders. Starting September 1, 2018, the government will expand the qualification criteria for Work Permit holders to be able to upgrade to a R1 (higher skilled) foreign national level. The higher the level, the lower the levy an employer needs to pay for each foreign worker.  The new qualification criteria will be as follows:
    • For those employed in the Manufacturing sector: Fixed monthly salary of SGD 1,600 plus four years’ work experience
    • For those employed in the Marine Shipyard sector: Fixed monthly salary of SGD 1,200 plus two years’ work experience
    • Impact. Foreign nationals in these industries can currently only upgrade to the R1 level by meeting certain academic qualifications or passing a skills evaluation test. The additional criteria will expand the amount of companies that qualify for an R1-level, which means more companies will be able to pay a lower levy for foreign workers.

Looking ahead

Foreign nationals and their employers should consult with their immigration professionals on how to manage the impact of these changes. Fragomen will provide updates on any further developments.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to

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