Singapore is often cited as one of best places to live internationally and is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Singapore boasts excellent infrastructure, including telecommunications and public services and is considered the pearl of the East. Singapore is also a world renowned financial centre, home to many international banks and investment based financial institutions.
Over the past years increased qualification requirements has slowed the number of Employment Passes and Permanent Residence approvals. English is the main language in Singapore and is used widely in administration, business and technology. Singapore is politically and economically stable and has extensive and highly valued education and healthcare systems.
Taxation in Singapore
Singapore has a liberal tax system and in recent years has leveraged tax regulations to favour foreign investors. The country has introduced several options to attract investment, enabling the growth of businesses.
Singapore's taxation system functions on a jurisdictional basis, only local income earned from within Singapore is taxable. Regardless of residence status, all foreign incomes are exempted, (unless moved through a business partnership in Singapore).
Personal income tax rates are low and increase at progressive rates up to 20%.
In 2008, a one-tier system of taxation was introduced providing for the exemption of income tax on dividends, regardless of payment method.
Capital gains taxes are only applied in limited situations.
There are no gift taxes and estate duty was abolished in 2008.
The standard corporate tax rate for 2014 is 17%.
A Singaporean citizen is considered a tax resident if the individual normally resides in Singapore. A foreign resident is considered a tax resident if they are physically live in Singapore and or employed for 183 days or more per tax year.
The ‘Not Ordinarily Resident' (NOR) scheme targets global business skill sets and offers many tax concessions for a five year time frame for those who have not been resident for three consecutive years previous to the application.
There are defined categories of foreigners who are eligible to apply for permanent residence. These include:
Investors and Entrepreneurs under the Global Investor Program
Employment Pass Holders under the Professional, Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS)
Spouses and unmarried children of a Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident
Aged parents of a Singapore citizen
Foreigners interested in working and living in Singapore may apply for in-principle approval for a residence permit by submitting an application before they enter Singapore, provided they satisfy the defined criteria. If granted the person is entitled to live and work in Singapore for at least five years.
A person holding an Employment Pass (PTS) in Singapore may submit an application for permanent residence after one year of employment and residence within Singapore. This is a very well-liked route for professional and highly skilled individuals, as no major investment is required. Once permanent residence is obtained, the applicant no longer requires an Employment Pass,
Under the PTS, an applicant may include their spouse and unmarried children less than 21 years of age in the permanent residence application.
The Singapore passport is widely accepted worldwide. It provides the holder with visa-free access to over 160 countries, including the EU, the Schengen area, the US, Canada, China and others. After two years of permanent residence in Singapore, it is possible to apply for Singaporean citizenship.
Important note about citizenship
Singapore is a single citizenship country, which is stringently enforced. Therefore, Singapore is not ideal or practical if you are interested in holding more than one citizenship and passport.
The Global Investor Program
The Global Investor Program (GIP) has been purposely designed for investors who are interested in starting up a business or investing in Singapore with the intent to gain Singapore Permanent Residence (PR) status.
Option A: Invest at least SGD (Singapore Dollar) 2.5 million in a new business entity or to expand an existing business operation
Option B: Invest at least SGD 2.5 million in a GIP fund that invests in Singapore-based companies
An investor is eligible to apply for PR under the GIP if he/she has a proven and extensive business history and a winning entrepreneurial background.
The investor must possess at least three years of entrepreneurial and business track records and must produce audited financial statements of his/her company for the last three years.
Additional application requirements
If the company of the investor is in the real estate or construction-related industry, the company's turnover must be at least SGD 200 million in the most recent year and at least SGD 200 million per annum on average for the last three years.
If the investor's company is in other sectors, the company's turnover must be at least SGD 50 million in the most recent year and at least SGD 50 million per annum on average for the last three years.
Family application options
The spouse of the investor and his/her children (below 21 years old) are eligible to apply for PR under the GIP application. Male dependents will be liable for National Service.
Parents and unmarried children of the investor who are 21 years old and above are not eligible to be included in the GIP application for PR status, can apply for a five year Long Term Visit Pass.
Re-Entry Permit issuing
Upon the granting of the PR status, the investor will be issued a Re-Entry Permit (REP). A valid REP is necessary whenever the PR wishes to travel in and out of Singapore. It enables a person to retain the PR status while away from Singapore.
Subsequent to the first five years, the REP would be renewed if the investor fulfils the following conditions:
Three year renewal:
The investor must have met the investment conditions under Option A or Option B of the GIP; and either established a business in Singapore with five or more Singaporean employees and has spent at least SGD 1 million in total business spending a year ; or the investor or at least one of his/her dependants, who is also a PR under the GIP, must have resided in Singapore for more than 50% of the time.
Five year renewal:
The investor must have met the investment conditions under Option A or Option B of the GIB; and must have set up a business in Singapore with five or more Singaporean employees and spent at least SGD 1 million in total business spending a year; and the investor and his/her dependents who are also PR under the GIP must have resided in Singapore for more 50% of the time.