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Can Work Pass Holders Start a Business in Singapore?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Can I start my own business if I am holding a valid Employment Pass (EP), S Pass or Work Permit (WP)? Can EP, S Pass or WP holders be registered as company directors? Is an EP, S Pass or WP holder allowed to invest in or hold shares of a Singapore-registered company?

Why Start a Business in Singapore?


There are many reasons why you might want to start a business in Singapore. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Favorable business environment: Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the best places to do business in the world. It has a stable political environment, a well-educated workforce, and a strong infrastructure.

  • Low taxes: Singapore has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world. There is also no capital gains tax or dividend tax.

  • Free trade: Singapore is a member of the World Trade Organization and has free trade agreements with over 60 countries. This makes it easy to export your products and services to other markets.

  • Global connectivity: Singapore is a major transportation hub and has a well-developed telecommunications network. This makes it easy to connect with customers and partners around the world.

  • Talent pool: Singapore has a highly skilled workforce with a strong work ethic. This makes it easy to find the talent you need to grow your business.

Of course, there are also some challenges to starting a business in Singapore. These include:

  • High cost of living: Singapore is a relatively expensive city to live in. This can make it difficult to attract and retain talent.

  • Strict regulations: Singapore has a complex regulatory environment. This can make it difficult to comply with all the necessary rules and regulations.

  • Competition: Singapore is a very competitive business environment. This means that you need to have a strong business plan and a clear competitive advantage in order to succeed.

Overall, the benefits of starting a business in Singapore outweigh the challenges. If you are looking for a stable and business-friendly environment to start your business, Singapore is a great option.

Here are some additional tips for starting a business in Singapore:

  • Do your research: Before you start your business, it is important to do your research and understand the Singapore business environment. This includes the regulations, the tax system, and the competitive landscape.

  • Get help from a professional: If you are not familiar with the Singapore business environment, it is a good idea to get help from a professional. This could be a lawyer, an accountant, or a business consultant.

  • Network with other entrepreneurs: Networking with other entrepreneurs is a great way to learn about the Singapore business environment and get support. There are many networking events and organizations in Singapore that you can join.

  • Be patient: It takes time to build a successful business. Don't expect to become an overnight success. Be patient and persistent, and you will eventually achieve your goals.

Employment Pass (EP)


The general position is that an EP holder is only allowed to work for the employer the EP is approved for. The EP holder can also be appointed to the Board of Directors of the same company, without having to notify MOM.


However, companies seeking to appoint an EP holder employed by another company to be a director, prior to the appointment, will first have to seek approval from MOM.


When the request is approved, the MOM will grant a Letter of Consent (LOC) to the EP holder. The requesting company can then register their directorship positions with ACRA.


As the requesting company:


1. You must ensure that the EP holder’s employer has no objections to the EP holder taking on directorship.


2. You must get approval from MOM by applying for a LOC, as directorship duties are considered work.


3. If approved, you can then proceed to register the directorship position with ACRA.


The criteria for MOM granting LOCs are set out below:


1. The requesting company is related by shareholding to the EP holder’s employer. Such relationship can arise from by being a parent or subsidiary company or by being an investor with shares in the company. This must be reflected in ACRA records.


Secondary directorship positions in related companies, e.g. subsidiary, may be critical to the EP holder’s job role. As such, EP holders would generally be allowed to take up such secondary roles.


2. The EP holder is taking up the secondary directorship for purposes related to his/her primary employment.


If the secondary directorship position is in an unrelated company, e.g. fund entities, the LOC may still be granted if it is relevant to the EP holder’s primary occupation.


Similarly, EP holders must also seek MOM’s approval before registering a sole-proprietorship or partnership.


S Pass


S Pass holders are not allowed to carry on or manage any business in Singapore. As such, they are not allowed to be directors of any Singapore-registered company or sole-proprietors, partners of a business.


By doing so, they will have infringed the work pass conditions and their work passes will be revoked. They will also need to serve an employment ban.


If you are a S Pass holder who wants to set up a business in Singapore, you should terminate your current employment and apply for an EntrePass.


Work Permit (WP)


WP holders are not allowed to carry on or manage any business in Singapore. As such, they are not allowed to be directors of any Singapore-registered company or sole-proprietors or partners of a business.


By doing so, they will have infringed the work pass conditions and their work passes will be revoked. They will also need to serve an employment ban.


Personalised Employment Pass

You cannot be a director where you are also a shareholder in an ACRA-registered company.


You are not allowed to start a business or conduct any form of entrepreneurial activity while on a PEP. If you intend to do so, you should apply for an EntrePass.


Dependent Pass (DP)


Dependant’s Pass (DP) holders can start one of the following types of new ACRA-registered business in Singapore:

  • A sole proprietorship

  • A partnership

  • A company with at least 30% shareholding and a directorship

can apply for a Letter of Consent (LOC) from MOM to run your business, after registering the business with ACRA.


There is no need to obtain an approval letter from MOM before registering a business with ACRA. However, once you have registered your business with ACRA, you need to submit an online request to apply for a Letter of Consent for Dependant’s Pass holders to operate a business. The processing time is within 4 weeks for most cases.


For first-time candidates, the duration of the LOC pass is one year from the issue date, or up to the expiry date of Dependant’s Pass, whichever is shorter.


To be eligible for a renewal of the LOC, you will also need to hire at least one Singaporean / Permanent Resident who earns at least at least $1,400 per month and receives CPF contributions for at least 3 months.


For subsequent renewals, the duration of the pass is up to the expiry date of the Dependant's Pass.


The LOC stops being valid when:

  • The Dependant’s Pass is cancelled or expires.

  • The business is no longer active. You still need to cancel the LOC.


Letter of Consent (LOC)


The Letter of Consent (LOC) is not meant for LTVP/LTVP+ holders to set up his or her own business.


You can apply for a LOC to work in Singapore if you are a LTVP/LTVP+ holder who is the spouse or unmarried child of a Singaporean or permanent resident.


Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP or LTVP+)


A LTVP+ holder cannot set up a business in Singapore by applying for a Letter of Consent (LOC). The Letter of Consent (LOC) is not meant for LTVP/LTVP+ holders to set up his or her own business.


If you are holding a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP or LTVP+) issued by ICA, you can work in Singapore if you get a Letter of Consent (LOC).


You first need to find a job in Singapore and get the employer to apply for an LOC for you.


If you are applying for, or renewing, your LTVP or LTVP+ with ICA, you will be given the option to apply for a Pre-approved Letter of Consent (PLOC).


The PLOC allows LTVP or LTVP+ holders to work in Singapore without the need to find a job first.


PLOC holders are not allowed to work in some restricted occupation such as journalist, editor, sub-editor, producer, or in any religious occupation. To work in these occupations, your prospective employer need to apply for an LOC.


Other family members of Singaporeans and permanent residents

Parents or parents-in-law of Singaporeans and permanent residents who are holding an LTVP can work in Singapore on a Work Permit. They will only be counted under the employer's overall quota.


The rest of family members who are not holding an LTVP will need to qualify for an Employment Pass, S Pass or Work Permit on their own merit to work in Singapore.


Parents accompanying a child studying in Singapore

If you are a Long Term Visit Pass holder accompanying a child who is studying in Singapore, you are not allowed to work during your first year here.


You can find a job on a Work Permit, Employment Pass or S Pass after you have been in Singapore for a year.


Under the Work Permit, you are:

  • Able to work in any sector.

  • Not subject to source country restriction.

  • Only counted under your employer's overall quota.

  • Subject to the foreign worker levy.

  • Not allowed to work in objectionable occupations (bar or dance hostess, masseur, etc.).

Employment Pass and S Pass are usually harder to get than a work permit because they require higher educational qualifications and a high minimum salary.


How Bestar can Help


Bestar can help Work Pass holders start a business in Singapore by providing the following services:

  • Company incorporation: Bestar can help you incorporate a company in Singapore, including preparing the necessary documents and filing them with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

  • Nominee directorship: If you cannot be a director of your company, Bestar can provide a nominee director service. This means that Bestar will appoint a local director on your behalf who will fulfill all the legal requirements of being a director.

  • Company secretarial services: Bestar can provide company secretarial services, such as maintaining your company's records, filing annual returns, and attending board meetings.

  • Tax and professional advice: Bestar can provide tax and professional advice on starting and running a business in Singapore.

  • Business advisory services: Bestar can provide business advisory services, such as market research, business planning, and financial management.

In addition to these services, Bestar can also help you with the following:

  • Obtaining a business loan

  • Finding office space

  • Hiring employees

If you are a Work Pass holder and you are interested in starting a business in Singapore, Bestar can be a valuable resource. They can help you with all the legal, financial, and administrative aspects of starting and running a business, so you can focus on your business and growing your company.


Here are some of the benefits of using Bestar to start a business in Singapore:

  • They have a team of experienced professionals who can help you with all aspects of starting and running a business.

  • They are familiar with the Singapore business environment and the regulations that apply to foreign businesses.

  • They can help you save time and money by providing a wide range of services.

  • They offer a high level of customer service.

If you are interested in learning more about how Bestar can help you start a business in Singapore, you can visit their website or contact them for a consultation.



Can Work Pass Holders Start a Business in Singapore? | Bestar
Can Work Pass Holders Start a Business in Singapore? | Bestar

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