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Foreigners, Firms Prepare For Singapore Employment Pass Changes

14 Dec 2011


Immigration News

With less than three weeks before stricter qualifying criteria for the Employment Pass (EP) kick in, some foreign job-seekers are prepared to settle for lower-level permits which come with less pay.

Some current EP holders are also feeling jittery about their chances of renewing their passes when they expire.

Some recruitment agencies have noticed a dip in approval rates for renewals before the new requirements take effect.

From next year, the minimum salary level for Q1 pass-holders, the lowest rung of EP, will be raised to SG$3,000 (US$2,300), from SG$2,800. Older applicants will have to earn even more to qualify.

Carol Chen, senior manager at Horizon Management Services, said current EP holders working in manufacturing are likely to be the most affected.

She said: “The salaries of those working as engineers in manufacturing firms don't move up so fast. So their applications for renewals may not be approved.”

The changes, announced by the Manpower Ministry in August, are aimed at making sure the salaries of young foreign graduates will keep pace with the starting pay of Singaporean graduates, which was about SG$2,900 last year.

The new rules are expected to affect about a fifth of some 142,000 EP holders here, as of December last year.

Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at the GMP Group, said EP renewals in support function jobs, particularly in finance or administration, are not coming in. “These candidates' salaries are usually near the cut-off mark. It is apparent that the Government wants to keep foreign manpower at a manageable level and improve the overall quality of foreigners in Singapore,” he added.

Malaysian Chia Teck Guan, 32, who left Singapore in 2009, rates his chances of getting another EP as 50-50 and said he does not mind working on an S Pass instead. The minimum qualifying monthly salary for this mid-skilled pass was raised to SG$2,000 in July, from SG$1,800.

He worked as an assistant engineer, earning SG$2,600 a month for two years before going home to get married.

Graphic designer Kevin Almagro, 29, also does not mind taking the S-Pass route. The Filipino said a local firm is applying for an EP for him but added: “The human resource manager told me she indicated in the forms that the company is willing to let me join them on an S Pass if I don't get the EP.”


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