SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Some 150 work passes for foreigners in the technology sector have been approved by the government since the launch of the Tech.Pass scheme in mid-January.
This is a large jump from the 90 approvals announced in July, and the 22 approvals reported in March.
Hailing from 24 countries, the 150 people issued the Tech.Pass as at Sept 30 include entrepreneurs, experts and those with management experience in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, edutech and fintech, said the Economic Development Board (EDB).
The EDB is administering the scheme. The Tech.Pass is valid for two years and pass holders can apply for a one-time renewal of two more years if they meet the renewal criteria.
Pass holders can start and operate a business, serve on the board of directors of a Singapore-based company or be a shareholder or investor in companies here. They can also take up lecturing roles in institutes of higher learning, serve as a mentor or adviser to companies here, and conduct corporate training.
The professionals targeted under this scheme must have a track record of either founding or leading sizeable tech companies and in the development of widely adopted tech products. The scheme is designed to attract foreign tech industry experts who are in short supply in Singapore.
The work pass scheme, which was announced about a year ago, has a total of 500 slots, but the government has no deadline to fill them. Tech.Pass holders can also sponsor the stay of their spouse, children and parents here on either a dependant’s pass or a long-term visit pass.
The Straits Times understands that most of the candidates have only just been able to enter Singapore, or are planning to do so, given that Covid-19 travel restrictions have only recently been eased. It will take some time before it can be known what roles they will take up.
EDB also gave an update of the Tech @ SG programme, which spells out more flexible requirements for foreign professionals applying for an employment pass to work here.
Since Tech @ SG was launched in January 2020, about 35 local and international tech companies in areas such as fintech, healthcare and mobility have been approved under the programme. This figure was 30 in July.
Under the Tech @ SG scheme, up to 10 employment passes for core team members of eligible companies will be granted if the applicants meet the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) minimum qualifying salary of $4,500 a month and pass background and diligence checks.
Once approved, the employment pass obtained under the Tech @ SG programme is the same as any other employment pass issued by MOM.
The tech sector is poised to be a large engine of growth here, and a study by Singapore investment company Temasek, tech giant Google and consultancy Bain & Company that was published last November found that the country’s Internet economy – or business conducted online – is on track to reach US$22bil (RM91bil) by 2025.
The world is currently in the midst of a major tech talent crunch and being able to attract and retain top tech talent ensures that Singapore remains competitive in an increasingly digital world, noted Oswald Yeo, chief executive officer of online talent recruitment and career discovery platform Glints.
Sachet Sethi, manager for tech and transformation as well as data and analytics at recruitment company Robert Walters, noted that while Tech.Pass will help fill senior roles in the industry, competition for tech talent is going to increase given how economies are opening and border restrictions are being lifted across the world.
Daljit Sall, senior director for information technology at recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, said initiatives like Tech.Pass not only expand the tech workforce here, but also foster greater innovation and growth in the sector.
“As new emerging tech companies such as blockchain and crypto firms continue to set up offices in Singapore, we expect to see more applicants for the Tech.Pass scheme,” he said.