Work visa for Singapore – a more elaborate application procedure is supposed to increase transparency


published on 11 August 2023 | reading time approx. 5 minutes


In recent years, the issue of work visas in Singapore has undergone constant changes and amendments, ranging from an increase in the minimum salary requirement to the introduction of new visa variants. Since the beginning of this year, top executives from the fields of business, arts, culture, sports, science and research can apply for the Overseas Network and Expertise Pass (ONE Pass). For business people, however, a minimum monthly salary of 30,000 Singapore dollars is required. The ONE Pass, unlike many other visa options, allows for simultaneous employment with multiple employers and for the establishment and management of businesses.



In September 2023, Singapore will introduce the so-called COMPASS (Complementarity Assessment Framework) system for new Employment Pass applications. COMPASS is a points-based system that requires applicants to meet both, personal and company-related criteria – in addition to minimum salary – in order to obtain an Employment Pass. From September 2024, the system will also apply to Employment Pass renewals.
COMPASS is designed to enable employers to hire highly qualified professionals using a more transparent system. At the same time, it aims to increase diversity in the workplace as well as to promote the employment of local workers. 
An employee must obtain at least 40 points in the criteria of salary, qualification, diversity and promotion of local employment, or the bonus criteria.
Up to 20 points can be scored in each basic criterion. The candidate receives 20 points if they, or the company, exceeds expectations, 10 points if expectations are met, and no points if expectations are not met.

Person-related Criteria

In terms of salary, in addition to the minimum salary that continues to be required, the fixed monthly salary will be compared with the salaries of the local PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) in the respective sector by age. If the salary is above the 90th percentile, i.e., far above the salary otherwise paid in the sector, the candidate will be awarded 20 points, between the 65th and 90th percentile it will be 10 points and below the 65th percentile no points.
In addition, the candidate's qualifications are relevant. 20 points are awarded to the candidate for a degree from a "top tier" university. The MOM (Ministry of Manpower) determines which institutions meet this criterion based on the QS World University Rankings, while also considering other highly regarded universities in Asia. A list of the "top tier" institutions can be viewed on the MOM website. For a comparable degree, such as a bachelor’s from another university, the candidate receives 10 points.

Company-related Criteria

The MOM considers the diversity criterion to contribute to a more inclusive and productive work environment. Accordingly, a candidate will receive 20 points if their nationality is already represented by less than 5 percent among the PMETs already employed by the company; for a representation rate between 5 percent and 25 percent, a candidate will receive 10 points. 
If, for example, a company in Singapore already employs more than 25 percent German PMETs, a German candidate cannot score any points in this criterion.
Small companies with less than 25 PMETs will obtain a flat 10 points. 
For the last basic criterion, the decisive question is to what extent the company the candidate wants to work with promotes the employment of local workers. The candidate receives points if the company employs a comparatively high proportion of local PMETs compared to other companies in the industry. If the proportion of local workers is at least the 50th percentile, the candidate obtains 20 points; if the value is between the 20th and 50th percentile, the candidate will still obtain 10 points. 
A candidate also receives 10 points if the company employs at least 70 percent local PMETs, even if it does not reach the required percentile limit. This is to prevent companies in sectors that already generally employ more local workers than other sectors from being disadvantaged.
Again, small enterprises with less than 25 PMETs will obtain a flat 10 points.

Bonus Criteria

In addition to the above basic criteria, there is an opportunity to earn additional points through bonus criteria. Firstly, there is a "Skills Bonus" of up to 20 bonus points if the applicant wishes to work in Singapore in an occupation that is on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is a list developed by MOM and the Ministry of Trade and Industry that lists occupations for which there is a particular need in the Singapore economy because they require highly specialised skills that cannot currently be met by local labor force.
The list includes occupations in the food industry, such as novel food biotechnologist, in the green economy, such as carbon project/programme manager, and in information and communication technology, such as cybersecurity specialist. A candidate whose job description is included in this list will in principle receive 20 points. However, the score will be reduced to 10 points if his nationality corresponds to the nationality of 1/3 of the PMETs already employed.
There is also the possibility of receiving 10 bonus points if the company that wishes to employ the candidate receives a Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus for working with the Singaporean government on ambitious investments, innovations, internationalisations or further development of the company and personnel structure (Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus).


A candidate who earns an above-average salary (65th percentile or higher) (10 points), has a university degree (10 points) and is to be hired in a company that employs fewer than 25 PMETs (10 points each across the board) will score 40 points and pass COMPASS even if the company does not meet any bonus criteria.
However, if the candidate does not meet expectations in one criterion and the company does not meet any bonus criteria either, unless the candidate exceeds expectations in at least one other criterion, the candidate will not pass COMPASS and it will be more difficult to recruit the desired candidate. 
The system therefore includes the possibility of compensating for missing points in one criterion by exceeding expectations in another criterion, since "only" 40 points must be achieved out of a total of 110 points, including bonus points. An insufficient qualification from the MOM's point of view can therefore be compensated, for example, by the fact that the applicant's nationality is hardly represented in the company so far.
In order to check whether an applicant is likely to meet the COMPASS requirements, employers can check the application's chances of success with the advanced Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) before submitting the application. According to MOM, if the SAT is positive, there is a 90 percent chance of a successful application.


Employees earning at least S$22,500 per month, intra-corporate transferees from countries with which there is a free trade agreement, and persons who only want to enter into a short-term employment relationship of a maximum of one month do not have to fulfil the COMPASS requirements.


In view of the clearly formulated criteria and the points system, a more transparent procedure than before can indeed be expected. However, due to the sometimes strict criteria, it may also become more difficult and costly overall to obtain an employment pass for the desired candidate who, for example, does not have the qualifications or "suitable" nationality in terms of diversity as assessed by the MOM. The thorough preparation of the application for a work visa will probably become even more important.

Further Amendments

In addition to the changes to Employment Passes under the COMPASS scheme, the minimum salary required for a successful application will also be raised as of September 2023, not only for the Employment Pass (S$5,000 instead of S$4,500), but also for the Personalised Employment Pass (S$22,500, regardless of whether the person already holds a DP or not, instead of S$12,000 for existing DP holders and S$18,000 for foreign professionals) and the S-Pass (S$3,150 instead of S$3,000).
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