Guide to Business Licenses and Permits in Singapore

Certain types of business activities require a business license in Singapore. Essentially, a business license is a permit issued by a Singapore government agency that allows you to conduct a specific type of business. In order to apply for a business license in Singapore, the company must be first registered with the registrar of companies.

To find out how to register a private limited company in Singapore, see Singapore company registration guide.

The purpose of this guide is to provide a basic introduction to industry-specific business licenses in Singapore.

Industry-Specific Business Licenses in Singapore

Certain types of businesses require a special license before they can operate. Listed below are some of the industry-specific licenses that must be obtained in order to run a particular business in Singapore. In general, it may take between two weeks to two months to get a business license or permit depending on the type.

Running a retail shop

Licensing requirements for retail shops vary depending on the nature of goods and services being sold. Our guide on Setting up a Retail Outlet in Singapore offers comprehensive information on the licensing requirements for three popular types of retail stores viz. supermarkets, pharmacies and telecommunications stores. In addition, the guide outlines the licenses and requirements in order to retail certain popular items such as cosmetics and liquor.

Starting a construction business

There are several permits, approvals and licenses that are required for setting up a construction company in Singapore. In addition, one needs to apply to the Ministry of Manpower for work permits in order to hire foreign laborers. For more information on this topic, please refer to our guide on Setting up a Construction Company in Singapore.

Engaging in trading activities

The guide on Starting a Trading Company in Singapore provides an overview of the various aspects of trading in Singapore including: opening a customs account, applying for import/export licenses and permits, types of goods that can be imported/exported, taxes and fees, trade financing options, cargo clearance procedures, goods storage options etc. The informational guide on Importing Controlled Goods into Singapore details the licensing requirements for importing “sensitive” goods into the country while the Guide to Singapore’s Global Trader’s Scheme provides information on tax incentives that are available to global trading companies that establish a presence in Singapore.

Setting up a hotel

There are several licenses and approvals to be procured in order to set up a hotel or boarding house in Singapore. Apart from the principal Hotel-Keeper’s License and approval from the  Hotels Licensing Board, permits or licenses will have to be obtained for the following types of activities: housing TVs, organizing ad-hoc entertainment, playing copyrighted music or videos, running a spa, selling tobacco products, operating a swimming pool, etc. Details on all these licenses and permits can be found at our guide on Setting up a Hotel in Singapore.

Running a spa

Learn more about how to apply for a Massage Establishment License in order to offer massage services, foot-reflexology services, manicure treatments, spa baths or other similar treatments as part of your spa offerings, by clicking on our guide to Setting up a Spa in Singapore.

Setting up an employment agency

All employment agencies in Singapore require an Employment Agency License prior to starting business activities. Our guide on Starting an Employment Agency in Singapore sheds light on the licensing pre-requisites, application procedure and timeline, and frequently asked questions.

Establishing a travel agency

A travel agency license is required in order to conduct business as a Singapore travel agent. The informational page on Starting a Travel Agency in Singapore provides you with a guide on how to start a travel agency and obtain a travel agent’s license in Singapore.

Starting a F&B business

Part I of Starting a Restaurant in Singapore gave a birds-eye view of the primary legalities for opening a restaurant in Singapore including business incorporation, applying for a food shop license, and hiring staff while Opening a Restaurant in Singapore – Part II details the procedure for obtaining a liquor license, registering for GST and CPF,  registering for importing food products and services, etc. The Guide to Incentives for Food Industry in Singapore outlines the programmes and assistance schemes that have been rolled out to help the F&B sector to develop their business and profitability while regulations governing the import of food products can be obtained by clicking here.

Starting a shipping business

The guide on Starting a Shipping Company in Singapore outlines the minimum legal requirements for setting up shipping/maritime business operations in Singapore. These include legislation for: operating vessels within and outside Singapore, for crew members to work on board the vessels, for dealing with dangerous goods, for operating certain communication equipment on board vessels, etc.

Running an event management company

Event management companies that are in the business of organizing various types of events will have to obtain one or more licenses depending upon the event or activity being organized. Examples of such licenses include Arts Entertainment License, Copyright Permit, Public Entertainment License, Trade Fair Permit, Animal Exhibition License, etc. Details of these licenses can be found at our guide on Starting an Event Management Company in Singapore.

Setting up a real estate agency

Given the rising importance of Singapore’s real estate industry, a new statutory board was recently setup in order to better regulate the industry and raise professional standards in the interest of consumers. The new framework has enhanced the licensing of real estate agencies, introduced a compulsory registration of real estate agents and established new industry regulations. For information, please refer to our guide on Starting a Real Estate Agency in Singapore.

Running a publishing business

The Newspaper Permit and Printing Press License are the two primary licenses that are required for anyone wanting to start a publishing business in Singapore. For details on who needs to apply for these licenses, the application procedure, and other additional information please click on our guide to Starting a Publishing Business in Singapore.

Starting a private education business

There are certain mandatory licenses that one needs to obtain in order to setup an educational establishment in Singapore. Starting a Private Education Business in Singapore provides a summary  of the various registration, licences, permits that are required for starting childcare centers, kindergartens, academic schools and non-academic schools in Singapore.

On a Final Note

In Singapore, establishing a business is a relatively simple and straightforward procedure and the business licensing procedure has been simplified to a great extent. If you provide all the necessary documentation and satisfy and comply with all other requirements, there is no reason for your license to be rejected. The ease of doing business aids in fostering Singapore’s efficient and pro-business environment, making it a popular destination for start-ups.

While some of the issues regarding licenses and permits can be handled on your own, it is usually a good idea to engage a professional services firm to save you time and resources.

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