Guide to relocating to Singapore

Singapore is the hub of southeast Asia and one of Asia’s most livable cities according to a survey done on 22,000 expats by HSBC. It is a country of opportunities for those who seek both business and career opportunities with its business-friendly policies. Singapore is also the ideal ecosystem for companies looking to growth as it provides political stability, good quality of living and world class healthcare.

Below are some key items to consider before and after arriving in Singapore

  1. Visa and work permit
  2. Preparing to move over to Singapore
  3. Cost of living in Singapore
  4. After coming over to Singapore
  5. Opening a bank account
  6. Housing and rental cost
  7. Transportation cost
  8. Healthcare cost
  9. Culture and diversity

Before coming over to Singapore:

Visa and work permit

Whether you are an entrepreneur, professional or an individual aspiring to work in Singapore, your Singapore employer or your appointed agent would need to identify the right work pass for you and start your application before you enter Singapore.

Below are some of the work passes:

  • Employment pass – This is the main work permit for skilled workers with salaries above SGD $4000
  • Entrepreneur pass (Entre-pass) – this is a variation of the employment pass and mainly issued for Entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Singapore.
  • Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) is a special type of Employment Pass that is not tied to a specific employer.
  • S Pass – the S pass is mainly for mid-skilled employees who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least SGD $2,200
  • Miscellaneous Work Pass – the Miscellaneous Work Pass is usually issued to foreigners working in Singapore on short-term assignments.
  • Singapore Dependent’s Pass (DP) –) is a family relocation visa issued to spouses and unmarried children (below 21 years) of Employment Pass/S Pass holders with a minimum fixed monthly salary of at least SGD S$6,000..

More information can be found on our Immigration business guide here

If you would like to calculate your income tax payable, you can refer to our guide here

Need help to applying for a Visa?

Our Singapore team of immigration specialists are here to help.

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Preparing to move to Singapore

Before coming over to Singapore, adequate budget should be set aside for daily expenses and necessities like food, housing, transport and medical care.

Below is an average run down of the cost of living in Singapore

Cost of Living in Singapore

Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant

S$15.00

Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course

S$70.00

McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)

S$8.45

Milk (regular), (1 litre)

S$3.26

Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)

S$2.41

Rice (white), (1kg)

S$3.14

Eggs (regular) (12)

S$3.11

Local Cheese (1kg)

S$19.87

Chicken Fillets (1kg)

S$9.60

Water (0.33 litre bottle)

S$1.40

Source: Numbeo as of April 2020

Housing and rental cost

For expats working in Singapore, it will be useful to do some research online on potential apartments to rent before arrival so that you can start apartment viewing immediately upon touch down in Singapore. For those planning to become a Permanent resident or Singapore citizen, you may need apply for a HDB with their fiancé for either BTO (Build to order) flat or to buy one at the resale market.

Here are some estimated average costs for property purchase and rental in Singapore:

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre

S$2883.8

Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre

S$1,883.12

Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre

S$5,360.26

Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre

S$3,208.15

Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre

S$26646.37

Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre

S$13,452.08

Source: Numbeo as of April 2020

More information on cost of living in Singapore can be found on our article here

Goods & Service Tax (GST)

All items in Singapore are subjected to GST of 7%, if you plan to import some of items from your home country it would be a good practice to first check with the Singapore customs first.

Goods and Services Tax or GST is a broad-based consumption tax levied on the import of goods (collected by Singapore Customs), as well as nearly all supplies of goods and services in Singapore. In other countries, GST is known as the Value-Added Tax or VAT.

GST relief may be granted on imports of used household articles and personal effects to:

  • Singaporeans and Permanent Residents of Singapore (PRs) residing overseas and returning to resume residence in Singapore
  • Foreigners transferring residence or migrating to Singapore

More information on how to qualify for GST relief for relocating expats can be found on Singapore customs page here

Once you’ve arrived in Singapore

Opening a bank account in Singapore

Singapore has strict anti-money laundering laws and you may need to have secured a job in Singapore before you are able to open a bank account.

Required Documents to Open A Bank Account as a Non-Resident

  1. Proof of identity, passport or national ID
  2. Proof of residence dated within three months (this can include phone bills and utility bills)
  3. Valid employment pass or In Principle Approved (IPA) from the Ministry of Manpower.

In addition, the bank may also request:

  • Rental agreement or proof of address in Singapore
  • A formal letter from your employer and proof of employment (such as a contract or pay slip)
  • Bank statements from your home country bank

More information on opening accounts with the main banks in Singapore can found below

  1. DBS
  2. UOB
  3. OCBC

Some of the banks may also require a minimum amount of $1000 to be deposited in the account for expats.

Transportation

Singapore’s transportation cost is cheaper compared to other first world countries. You will only have to pay the distance you wish to travel. Good thing about their transportation system is, you will only buy 1 ticket for your travel for a maximum transfer of 5 within 2 hours. This includes trains, and buses.

Here are the average costs of transportation in Singapore:

One-way Ticket (Local Transport)

S$1.89

Monthly Pass (Regular Price)

S$120.00

Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)

S$3.70

Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)

S$0.60

Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)

S$18.00

Gasoline (1 litre)

S$2.26

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)

S$120,000.00

Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car)

S$104,357.44

Source: Numbeo as of April 2020

Health care

Singapore has a world-class healthcare system that is being reviewed as a model by the Obama administration’s healthcare team as it explores ways to reform the US healthcare system. In 2000, Singapore’s healthcare system was ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best in Asia – ahead of Hong Kong and Japan. Foreigners pay a slightly higher unsubsided medical cost compared to local citizens and Permanent residents

The hospital facilities in Singapore comprises of two parts:

  1. Government healthcare facilities

    Charges in public health services are subsidised by the government while in the private hospitals and outpatient clinics, patients pay the amount charged by the hospitals and doctors on a fee-for-service basis.

  2. Private healthcare Facilities

Private healthcare facilities consist of numerous private clinics offering outpatient services as well as private hospitals. Costs are relatively higher but waiting time is much shorter and scheduling of future appointments are faster.

For more information on healthcare cost and services in Singapore, refer to our Singapore healthcare guide here.

Culture and diversity

With English as the main language and many other mother tongues from the respective races predominantly comprising of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan*communities. Singapore’s strength is in diversity which is supported by a meritocratic and capitalist system which has made it a success it is today. Expats would be able to comfortably settle down in Singapore and bask in its unique blend of cultures, festival celebrations and cuisines.

Need help to apply for Singapore PR?

Our Singapore team of immigration specialists are here to help.

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