Services Sector: Foreign Worker Work Permit Requirements

To (employ foreign workers for the services sector), you have to meet specific requirements for business activity, worker’s source country or region, quota, and levy. Find out how you can meet these criteria.

These requirements are additional and specific to the services sector. You should refer to the more general conditions and requirements for Work Permit as well.

Your company can be considered to be under the services sector if it has registered any of the following as its principal business activity:

  • Financial, insurance, real estate, infocomm and business services.
  • Transport, storage and communications services.
  • Commerce (retail and wholesale trade).
  • Community, social and personal services (excluding domestic workers).
  • Hotels.
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, food courts and other approved food establishments (excluding food stalls or hawker stalls).

Licences for food establishments are issued by Singapore Food Agency (SFA). Only operators with foodshop licences issued by SFA are allowed to employ foreign workers. The SFA licence must bear the name of the company, sole proprietor or partner.

For private limited and limited liability partnership (LLP) companies, we do not accept licences bearing the name of an individual.

You can only hire foreign workers who meet the conditions for source countries or regions, age when applying and maximum period of employment.

Source countries or regions

You can employ foreign workers from these countries or regions:

  • Malaysia Worker
  • People’s Republic of China (PRC Worker) China Workers
  • North Asian sources (NAS):
    • Hong Kong Workers (HKSAR passport)
    • Macau Worker
    • South Korea Workers
    • Taiwan Worker

Age when applying

The minimum age for all non-domestic foreign workers is 18 years old.

When applying for a Work Permit:

  • Malaysians must be below 58 years old.
  • Non-Malaysians must be below 50 years old.

Maximum period of employment

For the services sector, the maximum number of years a foreign worker can work in Singapore on a Work Permit is as follows:

Source country / regionType of workerMaximum period of employment
PRCBasic skilled (R2)14 years
PRCHigher skilled (R1)22 years
NAS, MalaysiaAllNo maximum period of employment.

Note: All workers can only work up to 60 years of age.

The number of Work Permit holders that you can hire is limited by a quota (or dependency ratio ceiling, DRC) and subject to a levy.

The DRC for the services sector is 38%. The levy rates are tiered so that those who hire close to the maximum quota will pay a higher levy.

The levy rate and tiers for the services sector are as follows:

QuotaBasic skilled – monthlyBasic skilled – dailyHigher skilled – monthlyHigher skilled – daily
Basic Tier / Tier 1:
Up to 10% of the total workforce
Tier 2:
Above 10% to 25% of the total workforce
Tier 3:
Above 25% to 38% of the total workforce

Calculate your quota

Note: The daily levy rate only applies to Work Permit holders who did not work for a full calendar month. The daily levy rate is calculated as follows: (Monthly levy rate x 12) / 365 = rounding up to the nearest cent.

The DRC for the services sector will be reduced to 35% from 1 January 2021.

For companies that exceed the new DRCs, they will:

  • Be allowed to keep their excess workers until the Work Permits expire.
  • Not be able to apply for new or renew Work Permits in excess of the DRC.

You can:

  • Refer to the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) to determine the number of local employees who can be counted towards your Work Permit and S Pass quota entitlement.
  • Refer to the guidelines on how to calculate your quota and levy bill.
  • Learn about S Pass quota and levy rates.

Qualifying for higher skilled worker levy

You pay less levy for higher skilled foreign workers. You can apply for the higher skilled worker levy rate for workers who meet the following requirements:

RequirementsWhat is needed
Academic qualifications

Malaysia – Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). If you wish to use a diploma or higher qualification, you need to produce a copy of the transcript or a letter from the institution stating the course duration.

North Asian sources (NAS) – High school certificates

People’s Republic of China (PRC) – Diploma

Skills Evaluation Test (SET) conducted by ITESET Level 1 or National ITE Certificate (Nitec)
Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ)Composite Assessment for Landscape, Hotel, F&B (Service) and Retail
Market-Based Skills Recognition Framework (MBF)
  • Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $1,600
    – you can update your worker’s salary using WP Online.
  • Worked in Singapore as a Work Permit holder for at least 4 years.

Additional requirement for hotel, retail and F&B industries

To qualify as higher skilled workers, non-Malaysian Work Permit holders working in the hotel, retail and F&B industries must also obtain level 4 of the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy (WPLN) listening and speaking assessments.

Register for WPLN assessments at the British Council’s website.

For more information, refer to the FAQs on WPLN assessments.

The British Council will inform MOM automatically. You don’t need to apply to MOM for conversion to higher-skilled worker levy.

Those who qualify under MBF are not required to go through additional WPLN assessments.

Job Flexibility Scheme

The Job Flexibility Scheme allows Work Permit holders in the services sector to multi-task across occupations. Refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on the Job Flexibility Scheme for implementation practices.

This does not apply to Work Permit (Performing Artiste).

You must buy a security bond for each non-Malaysian foreign worker you employ. You can buy the bond at any bank or insurance company.

What is a security bond

A security bond is a binding pledge to pay the government if either you or your worker breaks the law or Work Permit conditions. The bond is in the form of a banker’s or insurer’s guarantee.

You must buy a $5,000 security bond for each non-Malaysian Work Permit holder you employ. You cannot ask your worker to pay for the bond.

When to buy the bond

Before your worker arrives in Singapore, you must:

  1. Buy a security bond.
  2. Get your insurer to send us the security bond details. It takes up to 3 working days.
  3. Ensure that the security bond takes effect when your worker arrives.
  4. Log in to WP Online to check the security bond status and print the security bond acknowledgement letter. Send your worker a copy of the letter.

If you do not complete the steps above, your workers will be refused entry into Singapore and you will have to pay to send them home immediately.

When will the bond be discharged

You will be discharged from the security bond liability for a worker only if you meet all of these conditions:

  • You have cancelled the Work Permit.
  • The worker has returned home.
  • You did not breach any of the conditions of the security bond.

If all conditions are met, the security bond will usually be discharged one week after the worker left Singapore.

You’ll be notified by post when the security bond is discharged.

When the bond will be forfeited

Your security bond may be forfeited if any of these happens:

  • You or your worker violates any of the conditions of the Work Permit or security bond.
  • You don’t pay your worker’s salary on time.
  • You fail to send your worker home when the Work Permit is expired, revoked or cancelled.
  • Your worker goes missing.

You will not be liable for your workers’ violations (such as those relating to pregnancy) if you can prove that you have:

  • Informed them of the Work Permit conditions they must comply with.
  • Reported a violation when you first become aware of it.

You need to buy a medical insurance plan for each foreign worker you employ. You also need to submit the insurance details online before the Work Permit can be issued.

What it should cover

As an employer, you must buy and maintain medical insurance coverage of at least $15,000 per year for each Work Permit holder.

The insurance should cover inpatient care and day surgery, including hospital bills for conditions that may not be work related.

You can have a co-pay arrangement with the Work Permit holder only if all of the following are met:

  • The medical treatment is not for work-related inpatient expenses.
  • The co-pay amount is reasonable and does not exceed 10% of the worker’s monthly salary.
  • The duration co-payment does not exceed 6 months.
  • The co-payment option is explicitly in the employment contract or collective agreement and has the worker’s full consent.
You cannot pass on the cost of purchasing the medical insurance to Work Permit holders.

Submit insurance details

You need to submit medical insurance details online before you request to issue or renew a Work Permit, and when the details change.

To update the information, log in to WP Online.

You need to keep the following information up to date:

  • Name of Insurer
  • Insurance policy number
  • Insurance policy commencement date
  • Insurance policy expiry date

You need to send your workers for a medical examination before their Work Permit is issued.

Clinics will likely resume medical examinations for pass issuance in Phase 2 (Safe Transition period). Workers will be given more time to complete their medical examinations. You can proceed to get Work Permits issued without your workers’ medical results.

Please do not make an appointment for card registration until your workers have completed their medical examinations. We will email you when to send them for their medical examinations closer to Phase 2.
In the meantime, we will automatically extend the expiry date of their notification letters to give them more time for the card registration. They can remain in Singapore with their notification letters. Workers who telecommute or work in permitted services approved by MTI may use the letters as proof of the validity of their passes.

Requirements for the check-up

You must send your workers for a medical examination by a Singapore-registered doctor within 2 weeks of their arrival in Singapore. Bring along the medical examination form when the worker goes for the tests.

The worker must pass the examination, and you need the completed medical form to get the Work Permit issued. Those who fail the examination will have to be sent home.

The medical examination screens the worker for 4 types of infectious diseases (tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis and malaria) and checks if they are fit to work.

You can send your workers for more tests if you have specific concerns about their health.

You must pay your foreign worker the monthly salary that you declare to us. You need to pay the salary within 7 days of the end of the month.

As part of the Work Permit application, you must declare the fixed monthly salary that the Work Permit holder will be receiving.

When to pay

You must pay the salary that your worker is due each month, no later than 7 days after the last day of that month.

The salary period must not exceed 1 month.

How to pay

You can pay the salary either by cash or by crediting the wages directly into the worker’s bank account.

If you both agree that you should keep the bank account book, you need to allow the worker to check the book to make sure that payments are made regularly.

You must keep a record of the monthly salary and be able to produce this record if requested.

Salary adjustments

You should consider raising your worker’s salary periodically as a reward for good performance and loyalty in service.

Apart from monthly wages, you may also consider offering your worker a contract gratuity as an incentive.

You should negotiate the amount of gratuity with the worker. You can pay it at the end of an agreed period of employment, which should be before the Work Permit expires.

CPF is not required

You do not need to make Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for your foreign workers.

You will get an in-principle approval if your Work Permit application is approved.

What is in-principle approval

An in-principle approval (IPA) is one of the requirements for getting foreign workers to Singapore.

You will get an IPA letter when your Work Permit application is approved.

The validity of the IPA will be mentioned in the letter. This is the window you have to bring the foreign worker to Singapore.

To check the validity of an IPA, use Work Permit or IPA Validity Check via WP Online (Non-login).

Extend an IPA

Processing time: Immediate

You can extend the IPA for up to 1 month if you need more time. You are allowed to extend the IPA only once.

To extend an IPA, log in to WP Online to make the request at least 1 week before the IPA expires.

If approved, you can print the extended IPA online.