Singapore’s plan to introduce a new work visa for highly-paid foreigners will help to ease chronic skills shortages in the upper ranks of the finance sector.
The Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass, which is available from January 1, will require most applicants to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$30k a month (S$360k a year). The pass lasts for five years (instead of the usual two), and is “personalised”, allowing holders to change companies without reapplying, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MoM).
Crucially, pass holders will not be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework job advertising requirement that roles are opened up to locals first. Nor will the upcoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) – which examines the nationality of a firm’s current staff members – apply. This is likely to lead to a faster and easier approval process by MoM.
News about the new pass will be welcomed by senior foreign finance professionals wanting to relocate to Singapore and working in functions such as investment banking and trading, where pay regularly meets the S$360k threshold.
It should also make obtaining work visas more straightforward for candidates – particularly those disillusioned with Hong Kong – who want to shift to Singapore as more hedge funds and family offices set up in the city state.
But talent shortages in Singapore financial services are most severe in wealth management and technology – and it’s in those two areas that the work pass could have the greatest impact.
Private banks in Singapore are trying to relocate relationship managers to serve clients from Southeast Asia, India, and – more recently – Greater China. At executive director / SVP rank, base salaries for private bankers in Singapore can reach up to S$408k, while S$410k is a starting salary for managing directors.
In technology, while few developers earn S$360k, the threshold will be breached for senior leadership roles in areas such as digital transformation, where talent is in high demand in Singapore banking.
There’s also another potential door open to foreign tech professionals on lower salaries. People with “outstanding achievements” in science and technology (and also in arts and culture, sports, and research and academia) may also qualify for a new pass, even if they don’t meet the salary criterion. This suggests that highly specialised and sought-after technologists – such as experts in data science or machine learning – could be considered for a pass on the strength of their skills.
MoM is also making it easier to process standard Employment Pass (EP) applications, including by restoring the Fair Consideration Framework’s local job advertising duration to the pre-pandemic level of 14 days from 1 September 2022. “The labour market has since recovered strongly, and we are making this adjustment in view of the tight labour market,” according to an MoM statement. The standard processing time for EP applications has also been reduced from three weeks to 10 days.
Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash
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