Singapore's New Visa Is Both Brilliant and Hard to Get Tech.Pass is a new type of work visa designed specifically for foreign technology experts who want to come to Singapore.

By Eric Chin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's age of innovation in industry 4.0, the world's most valuable commodity is human talent. Singaporean corporations of all sizes are realizing that they need to compete for top-tier workers in order to grow and thrive. However, some might argue this competition has led to a system where only those with privilege have access to high-quality work opportunities.

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) has recognized this problem and created a solution: the Tech.Pass. The Tech.Pass is a new type of work visa designed specifically for foreign technology experts, or technopreneurs, who want to come to Singapore.

The Tech.Pass has many benefits, allowing the holder to simultaneously work for multiple tech companies, start their own tech company,= and even sponsor stays for family members. For tech companies, it allows them to recruit the world's best tech talent with the most attractive visa possible.

The downside is that the Tech. Pass's application criteria are quite high and rejections are not uncommon. However, you can receive government support in your Tech.Pass application process.

First, though, let's go over the details of the Tech.Pass.

What is a Tech.Pass?

The Tech.Pass is a new type of work visa created by Singapore's EDB that has been designed with technology experts in mind. This work visa allows the holder to be employed by more than one company and also self-employed if they so choose. It also gives the ability for family members to stay in Singapore dependent on their sponsor.

As it stands, there will be an annual quota of 500 Tech.Passes given to foreign tech experts, and will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.

Related: The 5 Advantages You Have If You're an Immigrant Entrepreneur

Who can get a Tech.Pass?

Tech.Passes are usually only given to foreign technology experts looking for tech-based employment in Singapore, but the EDB also intends for it to encourage technopreneurs to launch their startups in Singapore.

The scheme is open to tech experts who have earned at least $20,000 USD per month in the last year. They must also have five years of cumulative experience in either a leading tech role in a $500 million USD company, or as a developer for a tech product or service with $100 million USD in annual revenue, or 100,000 active monthly users.

What are the benefits for a Tech.Pass holder?

The big party trick of the Tech.Pass is that it grants the holder the ability to start a new tech company of their own in Singapore. This is important because when it comes to innovating, Singapore's economic landscape has been largely dominated by large companies with overseas investors. With a Tech.Pass, an individual can get into Singapore's innovation sector and potentially make an impact on the future of the technology sector in a measurable way.

Related: A New Decade For Asia's Tech Capital: Three Things That Will Define Singapore's Startup Scene in the 2020s

Other benefits of the Tech.Pass include:

  • The ability to join one or more Singapore-based companies as their employee.

  • The ability to move from being an employer to an entrepreneur.

  • The ability to become a director for one or more Singapore-based companies.

  • The ability to be an investor/shareholder in one or more Singapore-based companies.

  • The ability to become a mentor or consultant at a Singaporean university and lecture in local institutions of higher learning.

  • The ability to join a family already in Singapore.

  • The ability to sponsor a family member through a Dependent's Pass or Long-Term Visit Pass to live with you in Singapore.

What are the challenges of obtaining a Tech.Pass?

The challenge with the Tech.Pass is that it only applies for high-skilled, high-value jobs such as engineers, managers and executives from tech companies with global operations or international R&D centers in Singapore.

The other major drawback of the Tech.Pass is how intense the process can be to get one through the system. For applications with a local sponsoring company, applicants are required to have an offer letter or job contract submitted by their potential employer. After this, the applicant will need to go through work experience verification and a migration background check with the Ministry of Manpower. All in all, many steps must be taken to get a Tech.Pass, and it presents substantial challenges to both employer and employee.

Related: What You Should Know About the Singapore Startup Scene

Making the Tech.Pass application process easier with Tech@SG

Thankfully, help is at hand, with the EDB and Enterprise Singapore collaborating with the Tech@SG program. Tech@SG has been created to help Singapore tech firms access world-class talent and to mitigate or remove some of those obstructions we mentioned earlier.

For eligible companies (the main criteria being $10 million USD in funding in the last 36 months) the Tech@SG Programme can give company-level endorsement to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which will lower any risks of their Employment Pass (EP) application being rejected.

It will also allow tech companies to acquire 10 new EPs over two years to attract new talent, as well as cover the renewals of those EPs for another three years.

World-class tech talent is hard to come by, and it's my hope this program can help you ease the Tech.Pass application process.

Eric Chin

Chief Business Development Officer of InCorp Global

Eric Chin is the CBDO at InCorp Global. Chin consults business entities on the ideal market-entry strategies for setting up or expanding business operations in South Asia. He advises fund managers and family offices when they consider markets like Singapore.

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