Business Licenses and Permits in Singapore

Content Team7 minute read26 Aug 2021

Business Licenses and Permits in Singapore

Setting up a company in Singapore does not necessarily mean you can start your business right away. There are certain types of activities that require more specific business licenses or permits because some industries need further qualifications and it is easier for the government to manage these businesses.

Therefore, in this blog, BBCIncorp will provide you with information on licenses and permits of some specific industries as well as one of the most convenient and simple way to apply and achieve these papers in Singapore. Let’s go!

1. Licenses and permits for some specific business types in Singapore

Below are some of the most common business types with specific required licenses that need to be obtained before they can start operating in the city-state:

1.1 Retail Store

Different types of retail businesses will demand different required retail licenses in Singapore. Overall, there are 5 types: Supermarket, telecommunication store, pharmacy, shop that sells liquor and shop that sells cosmetics.

  • Supermarket: you need to obtain a Supermarket License according to the Environmental Public Health Act.
  • Telecommunication store: you need to apply for a Dealer’s Class License from the Infocommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).
  • Pharmacy: A Certificate of Registration of a Pharmacy from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is required.
  • Liquor store: A liquor license from the Liquors Licensing Board is needed.
  • Cosmetics store: you need to send a notification to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before placing the product in the market.
  • Other licenses might also be needed such as Non-Residential TV License, Copyright License and Wide-area private Network License.

1.2. Construction Business

Before putting your own construction company into operation, you need to apply for a license from the Professional Engineers Board (PEB), which is only available for limited companies, unlimited companies, multi-disciplinary partnerships, and limited liability partnerships

Other licenses might also be needed: Permit for Road Occupation Management, License to Occupy and Operate Scheduled Premises (by National Environment Agency), Telecommunication Wiring Contractor’s License (by IDA), Advertisement License and so on.

1.3. Trading Company

Depending on the import and export activities and the types of goods, you will need to apply for different licenses. To be more specific:

  • Import/Export of all goods: an IN/OUT Permit through TradeNet for import/export activities is required.
  • Import/Export of controlled goods (regulated by Controlling Agencies): you need to get approval from relevant Controlling Agencies through TradeNet.
  • Import of high-technology items: an Import Certificate and Delivery Verification (ICDV) from Singapore Customs is required to send to exporters.
  • Export/Transit of strategic goods (regulated by the Strategic Goods Act): a Strategic Goods Control Permit is required.
  • Export of local goods: a Certificate of Origin, including Ordinary Certificates of Origin and Preferential Certificates of Origin, is required.

1.4. Hotel

Overall, you need to apply for a Certificate of Registration and a Hotel-Keeper’s License from the Hotels Licensing Board to use the premises as a hotel and to manage it, under the Hotels Act. Other necessary hotel licenses in Singapore are also needed to be applied:

  • A Non-Residential TV License from the Media Development Authority of Singapore
  • The Public Entertainment License and Arts Entertainment License issued by the Singapore Police Force, under the Public Entertainments & Meetings Act
  • Copyright Permit
  • Other optional licenses: Massage Establishment License, Money Changer’s License, Swimming Pool License, License to Operate a Food Processing Establishment (by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore), and so on.

1.5. Spa

Under the Massage Establishment Act, Massage Establishment License is required, which includes Category I and Category II.

Category I offers more liberal business conditions as compared to Category II. To be more specific, Category I licensees can enjoy unrestricted operating hours, serve alcohol, admit customers irrespective of age, and can also employ foreign masseuses or therapists.

1.6. Employment Agency

Application for Employment Agency License from the Ministry of Manpower is needed.

1.7. Travel Agency

Application for a travel agency license from Singapore Tourism Board is needed, under Section 4 of the Travel Agent’s Act.

1.8. Food & Beverage Business

In order for your restaurant to operate, you need to obtain a Food Shop License in Singapore issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for retailing food and/or drinks, under the Environmental Public Health Act.

Furthermore, if you intend to import food ingredients, you also apply for a Registration Number with the Food Control Division (FCD) of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Also, Liquor License from the Liquor Licensing Board is required when you plan to sell liquor in your restaurant.

1.9. Shipping Business

The basic licenses/permits include:

  • Harbour Craft License – To operate vessels within Singapore’s port
  • Port Clearance Certificate – To operate vessels beyond Singapore’s port
  • Ship Registration Certificate – To transport passengers or goods
  • Port Limit Manning License – For crew members to work on-board your ships and vessels
  • Launch a New Vessel Permit – To launch a new vessel more than 15 meters long in the port
  • Ship Station License – To operate radio-communication equipment on your Singapore registered ship
  • Ship Sanitation Control Certificate – To certify your vessel’s sanitary condition to transport goods
  • Permit to discharge/load/transit dangerous goods and dock vessels carrying such goods
  • Other Licenses and Permits for related activities.

1.10. Event Management

The licenses or permits that apply to various events are as following:

  • Arts Entertainment License: To organize arts entertainment events such as plays, musical performances, dance performances, art exhibitions, variety shows and pop/rock concerts.
  • Copyright Permit: To play or reproduce copyrighted music or videos at any event.
  • Public Entertainment License: To organize entertainment events (excluding arts entertainment events) to which the public has access.
  • Trade Fair Permit: To organize trade fairs.
  • Animal Exhibition License: To organize events where animals will be exhibited or be involved in performances.
  • Other licenses or approvals for related activities.

Please take note that most of the licenses are valid only for the duration of the event

1.11. Real Estate Agency

You must get the license from the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA) and register employees and appoint a Key Executive Officer (KEO) with the CEA in order to get your real estate agency started.

1.12. Publishing Business

  • Print Publishing Businesses are required to obtain A Newspaper Permit from the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and a Printing Press License from the Registrar of Newspapers.
  • Online Publishing Businesses are required to register with the MDA in order to start their operation.
  • Other licenses may be required such as Permit to Reproduce Singapore Currency Designs, Advertisement License, General Radio Communication License, Localized Private Network License, Localized Radio Communication License, Wide-area private Network License, Non-Residential TV License and License to Discharge Trade Effluents.

1.13. Private Education Institute

Private Educational Institutes (PEI) include Childcare Centers, Preschools/Kindergartens, Academic Schools and Non-academic Schools and these must be registered with Ministry of Education (MOE) or Council Private Education (CPE) when meeting statutory requirements.

Overall, the specific required licenses/permits below depend on the kind of PEI:

  • Business registration
  • Registration with Ministry of Education
  • Registration with Council for Private Education
  • Childcare centre license
  • Canteen / food court / food stall / coffee shop licence
  • Placing TV sets in your premises.
  • Publishing an educational/school magazine
  • Importing educational materials
  • Advertising the establishment
  • EduTrust Certification
  • Singapore Quality Class Certification

Again, the specific required licenses/permits depend on the type of PEI. It means that for each type, some of the above licenses and permits are required, some are not.

1.14. Fund Management

A corporation that carries on business in fund management in Singapore needs to either hold a Capital Markets Services License in fund management or to be registered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore as a registered fund management company.

2. How to Get a Business License in Singapore

One of the easiest ways for you to apply for licenses is to do it online through the GoBusiness Licensing Website with your CorpPass.

2.1. What is the website about?

It is a one-stop portal for businesses to apply easily for licenses and also conveniently pay for them online. The website comprises two sections/options:

Option for new food services business owners:

This option is for business owners in food service industry, and it is specially designed with a feature named Guide Journey. This feature targeted at completely new owners who apply for licenses for the first time. To be more specific, it guides you through a step-to-step process to achieve the licenses that you need. Currently, Guide Journey is only available for the food industry but it will be set up for other fields in the near future.

Option for all other business owners:

This option contains the Self-Service feature, previously known as LicenseOne, designed for business owners from any industry except new business owners in food services. Users may apply, update, renew or terminate any licenses through the Self-Service feature.

2.2. Process of Application

Option for new food services business owners:

With the Guide Journey, the applying process will be much easier for newcomers, including 3 steps:

  • Providing information about your business and its activities;
  • Applying for the licenses that you need as well as supporting documents;
  • Making payment.

Option for all other business owners:

You will go through the general below steps to achieve your licenses with the Self-Service feature:

  • Selecting licenses by keywords, government agencies, and business intent;
  • Adding general information;
  • Providing application details;
  • Uploading supporting documents;
  • Review and submit application;
  • Making payment.

3. Conclusion

All in all, certain types of businesses require some more licenses and permits before they come into operation. And one of the fastest ways of applying for business licenses in Singapore is to use the GoBusiness Licensing Website to apply for licenses since it has options that make the process become much simpler and more convenient for all business owners. If you have an intention to register your own business in Singapore, we have one of the best company formation services to offer. Please contact us for further details!

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