What is the change? The Ministry of Manpower will require that foreign employees obtain their Employment Pass before they can start work.

What does the change mean? Foreign employees will no longer be able to start work immediately upon arrival.

  • Implementation timeframe: March 16, 2015.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment Passes.
  • Who is affected: New Employment Pass applicants and their employers.
  • Impact on processing times: The policy change should not affect the timing of in-country processes, but it could delay employees’ start dates at their companies by one or two days.
  • Business impact: Employers must limit new foreign employees’ activities until the Employment Pass is issued.

Background: The Ministry of Manpower has announced that, effective March 16, 2015, foreign employees cannot begin work until their Employment Pass is issued. Current practice allows foreign employees who have received approval for an Employment Pass to start work immediately upon entry into Singapore with a valid In-Principal Approval letter. They then have 30 days to complete the issuance and registration processes before invalidating the letter.

Once the new regulation goes into effect, Employment Pass applicants must obtain a notification letter confirming issuance of the pass before starting work. However, they do not have to wait to complete their biometrics appointment and receive the identification card before starting work. The expected delay should be relatively short, typically one or two days, provided that the documents required from both the employee and employer to issue the Employment Pass are finalized and collected quickly.

The new regulation does not affect S Pass holders. The current practice for S Pass holders already requires that the S Pass be issued on the first day of work, since that is when the employer’s first foreign-worker levy for that worker is applied.

BAL Analysis: Employers will need to be sure that Employment Passes are issued before new foreign employees start work. Companies should change their onboarding processes to make sure that if the request for issuances of the Employment Pass is not submitted by the employee’s first day of work, the foreign employee is limited to activities allowed as a business visitor (such as attending meetings or new-hire orientation) until the notification letter is obtained. If the employee is expected to immediately start productive, hands-on work, the employer should make sure the Employment Pass is issued before or on the employee’s first day of work.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in Singapore. For additional information, please contact

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