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A Guide to Work Permits for Migrant Workers in Singapore

Work Permit for Migrant WorkersAre you a semi-skilled worker looking for opportunities in Singapore? Then this guide to the work permit for migrant workers is for you.

Before applying for a work permit in Singapore, it is important to have a good understanding of what is expected. This guide explains the key information that every applicant and employer needs to know.


What Is the Work Permit for Migrant Workers?

The Work Permit (WP) for migrant workers is a permit for semi-skilled employees hailing from approved regions/countries. The WP will allow workers to work legally and live in Singapore.

Approved source countries or regions will have the WP open to qualified employees. Employees who are currently in the marine shipyard, construction, manufacturing, process or service sectors may be eligible to apply. To be successful, employees must meet all the eligibility requirements.


Eligibility Requirements for the Work Permit for Migrant Workers

Employers or an appointed employment agency can apply for the Work Permit. There is no minimum salary requirement for this permit. Furthermore, employees can stay for up to two years in Singapore with it. However, there are no eligible passes for family members under the Work Permit for migrant workers pathway.

If an employer is applying for the WP, they must provide medical insurance. Employers will have to buy a Primary Care Plan (PCP) for the WP holders staying in dormitories. A PCP is also needed for employees working in the CMP sector.

Medical insurance must be purchased once the employee gets their in-principle or renewal letter. Employers must make a declaration to the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that they have bought a PCP. This can be done via the online portal WP Online. Only once the declaration has been made can the work pass be issued or renewed.

Employers applying for a WP for the first time must declare their business activity with MOM.


Eligible Sectors

The sectors in Singapore that are eligible to apply for a WP are the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, and services sector. Each sector will have its own industry-specific requirements and criteria to be met.

More details about the eligibility requirements and criteria are available on MOM’s website.


How Long Does It Take for Work Permit (Migrant Workers) Applications to Be Approved?

Applications generally take one week to approve if all supporting documents are provided. If you are applying for a renewal of the WP, applications must be submitted at least 7-12 weeks before the current WP expires.

The outcome for WP renewals will be immediate if you fulfil all the eligibility criteria. You must have a PCP for all employees undergoing the renewal process. You will still be charged a levy fee if you renew your WP applications late, and penalties or an overstaying fine may apply.


Can I Make An Appeal for A Work Permit Renewal for Migrant Workers?

Yes, you may make an appeal with MOM to appeal your renewal if your employee is not eligible, but you still want to keep their employment going. However, approvals may take up to 3 weeks because of the high volume of applications.

Before submitting an appeal, check the eligibility criteria on MOM’s website for the necessary supporting documents. All appeals must be submitted early, as expired WPs will not be considered.


Applying for Work Permit (Migrant Worker) Extensions

It is possible to apply for a WP extension if you need more time to handle renewals or cancellations. Extensions can be granted for up to one month if you plan to cancel the WP, but you need your worker to stay for a short time before the WP expires.

One-month extensions can also be granted if your employee is waiting for a new passport. Extension requests must be submitted at least 2 weeks before the WP expires. Applications must be submitted online via the WP Online portal.


Are there Any Quotas or Levys with the Work Permit for Migrant Workers?

Yes, employers will be limited by the industry quota. There will also be a monthly levy for every worker they employ. A “levy” is the price mechanism that regulates how many foreign workers can come to Singapore.

Employers are the ones who pay the levy. How much levy you pay will depend on the employee’s qualification and how many WP or S Pass holders are hired. Levies are to be paid monthly, and it stops once the WP has been cancelled or if it expires.

Levies are paid via General Interbank Recurring Order (GIRO). However, if for some reason you are unable to organise a GIRO payment, payments can temporarily be made with PayNowQR. Once your GIRO payments have been set up, levies will be deducted on the 17th of the following month.

Banks may charge a fee if there is not enough money in the bank account to make the GIRO payment successfully. If you are making levy payments using other methods, this must be done by the 14th of every month.

If levies are not paid on time and in full, penalties may apply. There will be a late payment penalty charge of 2% or $20 (whichever is higher). Total late payment penalties are capped at 30%. Existing WPs are also at risk of being cancelled if payments are not made on time. You will not be able to apply or renew any further WPs and face legal action if you’re unable to pay the levy.


The Higher Skilled Worker Levy

Your levy bill will be reduced if employees are upgraded to a higher-skill status. The exact amount will depend on which sector you hail from. Higher-skilled workers require lower levy rates.

Upgrading your worker to higher-skilled status will reduce your levy bill. The exact levy rate depends on your sector. Details about the criteria for upgrading employees in each sector are available on MOM’s website.


Applying for Levy Waivers

In some instances, you may be eligible to apply for a levy waiver. This includes reasons like hospitalisation or overseas leave. For example, if your employee is going to be overseas for seven consecutive days, you may apply for a levy waiver. This will be capped at 60 calendar days per year.

You may also apply for a waiver if your employee is on hospitalisation leave. This will be capped at 60 calendar days per year. There are also other instances where you may apply for a levy waiver for employees under the Work Permit for migrant workers pathway.

You may apply for a waiver if your employee does not come back to Singapore after their overseas leave. Levy waivers are also available if your employee is in police custody, housed at an embassy, or if they have become a Singapore resident. A waiver is also applicable if the employee has passed away.

Levy waivers are also available if your employee is a Malaysian who has to go back and undergo National Service responsibilities in their country for 3 consecutive months. Another instance where a levy waiver applies is if the employee is on board a vessel that is leaving Singapore’s port for at least 3 consecutive days.

Levy waivers can be applied only once the levy has been charged and a year later. For example, if you want to claim a levy waiver for the period of January – February 2015, you can only submit an application by 31 January 2016.

Supporting documents must be provided when applying for a levy waiver. Refer here to check the applications and details of the documents required.


Cancelling a Work Permit for Migrant Workers in Singapore

You must cancel your WP if your employee no longer works with you or when the WP has expired. Once cancelled, the WP card must be cut in half. This will stop anyone from misusing the card.

Work pass cancellations must be made within one week or on the last day of the employee’s employment with you. Cancellations will be approved within 3 working days in Singapore. Before you cancel, you must give notice of the employee’s repatriation and seek approval from the Inland Revenue Authority Singapore (IRAS).

All outstanding employment issues must be settled prior to cancellation, including salary payments. Levies will still be charged until the employee’s last day.

If your employees need a bit more time to stay in Singapore before they can go home, you can apply to extend their stay via a Special Pass. This must be submitted within one week before the Special Pass expires.


Handling Lost or Stolen Work Permit Cards

Lost, stolen, or damaged cards must be replaced. Requests for a replacement card must be done within 1 week. If a card is stolen, a police report must be made. Employers or an approved employment agency must be the one to handle the replacements and police reports.

If the employee’s WP card is damaged, a fee of $60 will apply to replace the card. The fee to replace a lost card is $100. Subsequent losses will incur a fee of $300.

Replacement cards are usually approved immediately, and a new card can be collected within a week.


Notifying MOM Of Changes to Employment

If there are any changes to the employment details originally submitted with MOM, you must notify MOM of the changes. Notifying MOM must be done in the following instances:

  • The business entity has changed
  • If the employee has transferred to a related company
  • If the company’s details have changed (name and contact details)
  • If the employee’s details have changed (address or mobile number)
  • If the employee’s personal particulars have changed
  • If there are changes to the employee’s occupation
  • If the employee’s salary has changed
  • If the employee is pregnant
  • If the employee has gone missing
  • If the employee has passed away

You must also notify MOM if you have given a reference for your employee.


Housing Responsibilities

As an employer, you are responsible for overseeing your employee’s housing situation. Per the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA), employers must see to it that their employees are living in proper housing. The employee’s residential address must be given to MOM once you have found a place.

Your employee’s residential address, along with their mobile number, must be updated on the Online Foreign Workers Address Service (OFWAS).

You can view here for the list of the types of approved housing options and details.. Updates must be done during the work permit application and renewal process. This means that you must register on OFWAS before your work permit can be issued.

Any changes to the employee’s residential address must be updated in OFWAS within 5 days. MOM will conduct regular inspections and failure to carry out your housing responsibilities will result in penalties. You could be banned from applying for future work permits and you may be prosecuted.

Approved and suitable housing conditions in Singapore for foreign workers include any of the following:

  • Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs)
  • Factory-Converted Dormitories (FCDs)
  • Construction Temporary Quarters (CTQs)
  • Temporary Occupation Licence Quarters (TOLQs)
  • HDB Flats
  • Private residential premises

If the employee is living in a dormitory, the dormitories must meet the standards of the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA). A list of approved dormitories is available on MOM’s website here. Applications for dormitory approvals must meet the new dormitory standards beginning 18 September 2021.


Need to Apply for A Work Permit for Migrant Workers?

If you intend to hire qualified migrant workers who meet the eligibility requirements, we are here to help. We understand that employers are very busy and sometimes don’t have the time or manpower needed to handle the work permit application process.

We can help you handle the paperwork and the entire application process from start to finish. Our experience and expertise will make quick work of your application process so you can focus on running your business. For more information about our list of services, get in touch with the friendly 3E Accounting team today.

Work Permit for Migrant Workers