Are you an expat looking for a specific guide to facilitate your move to Singapore? Look no further! This comprehensive guide is tailored for Singapore expats to acquire essential information to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

From visa requirements to taxation and regulation in the city-state, we have covered all. Get ready and make your move to Singapore an exciting and enriching experience!

Obtaining a visa to stay in Singapore for expats

When choosing to be an expat in Singapore, you need to know that to be able to work there legally, a visa is crucial.

Though the country hasn’t got a visa specifically for expats, two types of visas are commonly used:

  • A tourist visa for expats looking for a short-term stay.
  • An immigration visa for expats looking for a long-term stay.

Let’s take a closer look at these two visa types.

Tourist visa

A tourist visa is designed for individuals (whether you are an expat or business owner) seeking short-term stays in Singapore for leisure, exploration, or business purposes.

It is the ideal option for those planning to visit the country without engaging in long-term work commitments.

Not all nationalities are required to have a tourist visa when visiting Singapore, only some countries are obligated to do so. You can check whether you have to have a tourist visa here.

Normally, you can stay in Singapore between 14 to 30 days. However, you may request an extension of stay by applying in person at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority before the expiry of the visa granted.

Immigration visa

An immigration visa, also known as a work visa, is intended for expat seeking long-term residence in Singapore for employment or other professional engagements. This type of visa is mandatory for anyone wishing to work legally in Singapore.

When acquiring the work visa for your expat life in Singapore, you can stay there for about 1 – 2 years until your work visa expires. And to be reassured, you can renew the passes to extend your staying.

If the work visa is the perfect match for your expat journey, there is some crucial information you need to get a grasp on to acquire one, which will be discussed in the next part.

For more information about work passes and work permits to see which one will fit your needs, read our article about all types of work visas in Singapore.

Work visa in Singapore for expats

As mentioned above, if you are planning to stay and work long-term in Singapore, a work visa is what you need to legally work there, or more specifically, a work pass or work permit. However, you will be surprised by how many types of work visas and permits are there for you to apply depending on your purpose in Singapore.

Thanks to the variety of passes and permits, the Singapore government can effectively manage its labor market, attract foreign talent, and maintain a balanced workforce that contributes to the country’s economic growth and development.

That is why you will see that every work pass category comes with distinct eligibility criteria related to educational qualifications, work experience, salary benchmarks, and the nature of the job role.

For instance:

  • If you are looking for a job opportunity in Singapore and you are a highly skilled employee, then an Employment Pass is the work visa suitable for you.
  • If you are an entrepreneur looking for a chance to start up a brand new business in SIngapore, then an Entrepreneur Pass is what you need.

Need some help with your immigration?
BBCIncorp has all the needed services to help you with your move to Singapore. Check out our full Immigration service for more details

Taxation for expats in Singapore

As you are moving to another jurisdiction like Singapore to work remotely, you still need to understand the taxation to get around the city-state legally.

Tax residency status

The first and foremost thing you should know is your tax residency. It is essential in figuring out how much tax you need to pay on your income.

The tax residency status and tax rates can be determined based on the number of days you spend in Singapore.

If you’ve spent 183 days or more in Singapore in a single year, you’re a tax resident. You can also be a tax resident if you’ve been in the country for a total of 183 days over two consecutive years.

But if you spend less than 183 days, you are still a non-resident.

Here’s how the tax rates work for non-residents:

  • If you stay in Singapore for no more than 60 days, the tax rate is 0%, except for certain cases like directors, non-residential professionals, public entertainers, and situations where being away from Singapore is part of your job.
  • If your stay extends from 61 to 183 days, the tax rate is either 15% or a progressive rate that ranges from 0% to 22%.

For more details, you can read our article about Personal Income Tax in Singapore.

Singapore-based income

Foreign income that comes from outside of Singapore, is exempt from taxation. However, if your income is Singapore-based income, you’ll have to stay compliant with taxation in Lion City.

Singapore-based Income refers to income earned from working, doing business, or providing services in Singapore.

So if you are an expat living and working in Singapore. Your income will be classified as Singapore-based income. And you will have to file the income in the tax return

On the other hand, for expats living in Singapore but working with overseas companies or taking jobs outside the border of Singapore, your income will not be taxed. But you are still subject to the tax system of the country where your income arises. This income won’t need to list on the tax return

Certain types of income such as specific shipping income for shipping companies, foreign-sourced dividends, and gains from equity investment disposal are exempt from tax under the Income Tax Act 1947.

Tax filing requirements

Now that you know how to identify whether your income is Singapore-based or not. It’s time to move to the next step. For the income arise in Singapore, it’s important to note that filing tax returns is necessary if your yearly earnings go beyond S$22,000.

Don’t worry, the process is straightforward – file your tax return annually upon receiving a notification letter from IRAS. The submission deadlines are April 15th for paper-based filing & April 18th for e-filing.

You can be exempt if you receive notification for the No-Filing Service.

Choose online or mail filing based on your status

  • Form B1 for tax residents
  • Form B for self-employed
  • Form M for non-residents

Timely filing is crucial to avoid penalties, and you can appeal within 30 days of receiving an assessment. You are required to file your income tax return regardless of your earnings from the previous.

As for the tax rates for both tax residents and non-residents, you can refer to the following:

  • For tax residents (who reside in Singapore for more than 183 days): a progressive rate that ranges from 0% to 22%.
  • For non-residents ( who reside for less than 183 days):
    • For Less than 60 days: 0% except for directors, non-residential professionals, public entertainers, and the circumstances under which absence from Singapore is a part of the job requirement.
    • From 61 – 182 days: 15% or progressive rate from 0% to 22%.

You might also want to look into the Not Ordinarily Resident (NOR) Scheme application if you’re eligible. It’s a special form tailored for expats who meet the criteria, allowing them to enjoy lower tax rates for a specific period.

Singapore tax treaty

An additional facet to consider when transitioning into expat status in Singapore is the significance of tax treaties. Without proper attention, you might find yourself liable for tax burdens from both your home country and Singapore.

However, the presence of a Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between your country and Singapore can offer substantial financial savings through mutual agreements. With 97 DTAs coming into force, you have a high chance of benefiting from the agreement to optimize your taxation, if your country has signed with Singapore that is.

Take the Double Tax Agreement (DTA) between Singapore and Australia as an example:

Under this agreement, expats living in Singapore who collaborate with Australian companies can be assured that their taxation on dividends will not surpass 15% of the total gross dividend sum.

This provision stands as a safeguard against undue tax burdens on dividend earnings, actively encouraging optimal tax practices and mitigating the possibility of dual taxation.

Therefore, it is essential to ensure a comprehensive understanding of this information as you navigate your expatriate journey.

Regulation for expats in Singapore

In Singapore, you also need to know which regulation you, as an expat, are subject to stay aligned with them:

Employment Act

The first one is the Employment Act. This is the regulation governing various aspects of the employer-employee relationship. The Act outlines essential employment terms such as working hours, rest days, overtime pay, and employment termination procedure.

While the Act generally covers local and foreign employees, expats should be aware of their rights and obligations under this legislation and compliant employment practices.

For a thorough overview of the Act, refer to our article about the Employment Act In Singapore: All You Need To Know

Personal Data Protection Act

Known to be a country with high technology, it’s considered a wise move to understand Personal Data and how the country regulates them.

The protection law in place is known as the Personal Data Protection Act (PDTA). The legislation safeguards the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data.

So if you are planning to do business in Singapore, you must adhere to these regulations, specifically obtaining consent before collecting data and ensuring proper data security.

Intellectual Property (IP) Law

If you are engaged in innovative activities or businesses involving intellectual property, then you also need to know about Intellectual Property Law. The legislation aims to protect creations of the mind, including inventions, literary and artistic works, trademarks, and designs.

For example, suppose you are an expat working as a designer in Singapore, a strong grasp of the country’s strict intellectual property (IP) laws is crucial. These regulations provide robust protection for your creations.

Complying with these laws not only safeguards your work but also aligns you with globally recognized IP standards, endorsed by prestigious entities like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum.

By understanding patent, copyright, and trademark regulations, you can ensure to thrive professionally while adhering to Singapore’s legal framework.

Find out more about the legislation with our guide. It takes only two minutes for you to thoroughly understand the Intellectual Property (IP) Law.

How expats can become Permanent Residents in Singapore

The best scenario is that after having spent your time here in Singapore, you decide to stay here permanently. Then you will need to know some of the knowledge relating to Permanent Residents registration

Becoming a Permanent Resident (PR) in Singapore entails obtaining a legal status that allows you to reside and work in the country permanently. PR status offers a level of stability and benefits beyond temporary visas.

To qualify for PR status, you typically need to meet specific criteria established by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). These criteria may involve:

  • employment history,
  • education qualifications,
  • family ties, and
  • financial stability.

Non-Singaporeans may qualify for permanent residence based on various criteria, including pass holder, student, investor in Singapore, etc. in Singapore.

The application process for PR status involves submitting relevant documents and forms to the ICA. These documents may include Explanatory Notes/Document Lists for your specific case. The authorities will review the application and conduct thorough assessments before rendering a decision.

Relating to permanent residents in Singapore, feel free to check out our article about the benefits of being a permanent resident or the article about the whole application process here.


Exploring Singapore might initially seem overwhelming for new expats. Still, with dedicated research and preparation, your transition can lead to a rewarding and joyful experience, filled with opportunities and rich cultural experiences.

Want to start a business in Singapore?

With BBCIncorp’s incorporation service, setting up a business has never been easier. We have all the pre and post-incorporation services helping expats like you to start a new business journey in the Lion City. Check out our full service now for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can expats bring their families to Singapore?

Yes, expats can bring their family to Singapore if they are Employment pass holders and meet certain requirements about salary minimum to register for their family member Dependent Pass.


Do expats have to review their visas?

Yes, expats should regularly review their visas, after 1 -2 years of usage, to ensure compliance with Singapore’s immigration rules.

Can an expat own a bank account in Singapore?

Yes, expats can own a bank account in Singapore, subject to the bank’s requirements and regulations.

Can expats who do not classify as skilled professionals or entrepreneurs still live and work in Singapore?

Yes, unskilled professionals or entrepreneurs can still live in Singapore under various visa categories like S Pass, Entrepreneurs Pass, or Work Permit.

Disclaimer: While BBCIncorp strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible, the information itself is for reference purposes only. You should not substitute the information provided in this article for competent legal advice. Feel free to contact BBCIncorp’s customer services for advice on your specific cases.

Share this article

Industry News & Insights

Get helpful tips and info from our newsletter!

Stay in the know and be empowered with our strategic how-tos, resources, and guidelines.