Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers besides Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The fourth largest international finance centre in the world, the city-state with a population of 6.5 million has fantastic infrastructure and a pro-business environment. In the “2020 Doing Business” report released by World Bank, Singapore ranked second only to New Zealand as far as ease of doing business.
Whether exploring the Asian market or opening new businesses, the island country is an alluring choice for overseas companies and investors. In this international business guide to Singapore, we’ll detail the advantages of doing business in Singapore and explain how to apply for the foreign entrepreneur pass called EntrePass.
Why do business in Singapore?
With a history as a trading hub reflected in its four official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil), Singapore has developed a welcoming environment for foreign enterprises to enter the local market. The advantages of being an entrepreneur in Singapore include:
Singapore is a well-placed, English-speaking point of contact for businesses expanding into ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). In particular, it’s close to emerging markets such as China and India.
The Port of Singapore is the second busiest container port in the world. Changi Airport has connections with over 80 airlines and connects more than 320 cities. These make it a key hub in the Asia-Pacific region, providing companies with access to major Asian markets.
Competitive tax rates
The city-state has Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements with many countries. Singapore’s government also provides tax-free incentives to companies. For example, new enterprises can enjoy 75% tax exemption on the first S$100,000 of taxable income earned in their first three years. Furthermore, the corporate income tax rate is a uniform 17%, while the personal income tax rate is 2%-22% and shareholders are not required to pay personal income tax for dividends.
Singapore has developed a stable political environment and sound judicial system, with low corruption and crime rate. For instance, the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) is composed of a diverse group of legal experts acting as jurors. In international commercial disputes, all parties can be represented by foreign lawyers, providing enterprises with satisfactory dispute resolutions.
Local and overseas start-ups doing business in Singapore can enjoy subsidies from the Singaporean government such as:
● Startup SG Tech
● Enterprise Development Grant (EDG)
● Global Trader Program (GTP)
These tax incentives create a pro-start-up environment that attracts international companies to use Singapore as a base for their trade activities.
Introduction to the EntrePass (requirements, fee, process, etc.)
What is the EntrePass?
The Singapore Entrepeneur Pass, also called the EntrePass, is a business visa for foreign entrepreneurs, talents, and investors. The entrepreneur visa is valid for one year, while subsequent renewals are valid for two years at a time. Holders of this visa can apply to become permanent residents and can also apply for their spouses and children to live in Singapore.
How to obtain the EntrePass?
To apply for the EntrePass, you must meet the following basic requirements:
● Be 21 years old or above;
● Have an innovative business plan that would contribute to creating local job opportunities;
● Have a private limited company that will register or has been registered to the Singapore Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) for less than six months;
● Own at least 30% stake in the proposed business.
In addition, you must meet the minimum criteria for one of the following points:
● Obtain at least S$100,000 from government investment agencies, venture capitalists, or government-approved angel investors;
● Be eligible for a business accelerator or incubator programme recognised by the Singaporean government;
● Possess an entrepreneurial record, such as founding and selling a technology company, and receiving funding from investors.
● Applicant or company has registered Intellectual Property (IP) in a country recognised by the Intellectual Property Agency;
● Cooperate with the Singaporean Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR);
● Possess technical expertise in the proposed business field.
Possess a strong investment record, such as:
● A trustworthy track record in investing and expanding a business;
● Planning to invest in technology start-ups;
● Or having at least eight years’ senior managerial experience in large enterprises that will be a benefit in expanding local start-ups.
Note that the following business categories are not eligible for the Entrepreneur Pass:
● Coffee shops, hawker centres, food courts
● Bars, nightclubs, karaoke parlours
● Reflexology and massage parlours
● Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and Chinese pharmacies
● Feng shui practitioners
● Employment agencies
What documents are required to apply for EntrePass?
If you have a viable entrepreneurial plan and are eligible for the Singapore entrepreneur visa, you must prepare the following documents:
● Completed EntrePass application;
● Photocopy of passport page;
● Past employment testimonials or resume listing down professional experience, awards, or recognitions;
● If registered with ACRA, your company’s latest business profile or Bizfile information;
● A business plan of maximum 10 pages in English, which includes:
o Product and/or services offered
o Market analysis
o Plan of operation
o Information about management team
o Other supporting documents like licensing agreements and product certificates.
In general, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower takes eight weeks to process an entrepreneur pass application. If approved, the applicant will receive an In-principle Approval notice (IPA) via email. This notice must be presented in order to receive the business permit, and is valid for six months from the date of issue.
Find an office in Singapore
Once you’ve successfully applied for the entrepreneur visa, the next step is to find a workspace in Singapore that meets your business needs. Compass Offices has business centres in Singapore’s core business district. Our serviced offices provide a flexible lease term and immediate move-in that allows entrepreneurs and investors to be agile.
Our flex workspaces are fully equipped with furniture, high-speed Wi-Fi, and essential office equipment. We can also customise private office space according to your enterprise’s needs to effectively improve working efficiency, compared with traditional offices and co-working spaces. To learn more about Compass Offices’ workspaces, get in touch with us.