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Legal Status

An employee’s statutory benefits, obligations and protection depends on their legal status – i.e. their citizenship or residency.  An employee’s legal status, therefore, plays an important part in payroll as it affects aspects such as statutory contributions for CPF, FWL and SDL as well as contributions to the SHG funds. For a detailed discussion of these funds, please see:


There are three ways of acquiring citizenship:

  1. Birth
  2. Descent
  3. Registration

All citizens are issued with a National Registration Identity Card  (NRIC). For payroll purposes, NRIC refers to the identification number on this card.

Permanent Resident (PR)

Non-Singaporeans can become Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs) by obtaining an Entry Permit. Permanent residency in Singapore comes with a number of benefits that “regular” expatriates do not enjoy. The most interesting benefits of permanent residency in Singapore for expats, however, include the heightened flexibility PRs enjoy on the job market in comparison to work pass holders.

Permanent residency also comes with additional responsibility, such as having to contribute to the CPF Board – the extent of the contributions depend on whether they are a first, second or third year PR. A detailed discussion can be found in the Statutory Deductions and Contributions section mentioned above.

  • The first year of PR status starts from the date on which they attained PR status and CPF is payable from this month, irrespective of what day in the month this occurs.
  • The second year starts on the first day of the month after the one in which they attained PR status – i.e if they became a PR on 15 Jan 2014, year two starts on 1 Feb 2015.
  • The third year starts one year after the second and results in CPF being charged at the same rate as those used for citizens.

PRs are also issued with an NRIC.


All foreigners who intend to work in Singapore, without applying for PR status, are required to have a valid work permit. There are various types of passes and permits applicable to different groups of foreigners. This discussion will focus on the following three types:

  • Employment Pass
  • S Pass
  • Work Permit

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) provides a general overview of work passes and permits on this page.

Employment Pass

This type of pass is for foreign professionals, managers and executives. Candidates must have acceptable qualifications and must earn at least $4,500 a month to qualify.  This qualifying threshold will increase to $5,000 for new applicants from 1 September 2023, and for renewal applications from 1 September 2024.

For candidates working in the Financial Services sector, candidates must earn at least $5,000 a month to qualify. This qualifying threshold will increase to $5,500 from 1 September 2022.

For more detailed information, please visit this page.

S Pass

This type of pass is for mid-skilled foreign employees, such as technicians, who have a degree / diploma / technical certificate – which includes at least 1 year of full-time study – and years of relevant experience. In addition, the candidate must earn at least  $2,500 a month. This qualifying threshold will increase to $3,150 for new applicants from 1 September 2023, and for renewal applications from 1 September 2024.

For candidates working in the Financial Services sector, a minimum qualifying salary threshold will be introduced from 1 September 2022.

Note that there is a quota for S Pass holders, which caps the number of such employees to  10% of the company’s total workforce in the services sector and  18% in all other sectors. From 1 January 2023, the quota will decrease from 18% to 15% for the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard and processes sectors only.

Also be aware that as an employer, you must pay a levy – the foreign worker levy (FWL) – for all your S Pass holders. The levy is a pricing mechanism to regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore. The levy liability starts from the day the S Pass is issued and ends when the pass is canceled or expires.

For further information about the S Pass, please visit this page.

Work Permits

There are four different types of Work Permits:

  • Work Permit for foreign worker: for semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or services sector.
  • Work Permit for foreign domestic worker: for foreign domestic workers to work in Singapore.
  • Work Permit for confinement nanny: for Malaysian confinement nannies to work in Singapore for up to 16 weeks starting from the birth of the employer’s child.
  • Work Permit for performing artiste: for foreign performers working in public entertainment outlets such as bars, hotels and nightclubs.

If you employ Work Permit holders, you may be limited by a quota for your industry. You will also have to pay a monthly levy (see FWL above) for each worker. Note that there are sector-specific rules for the levy rate and quota.

For detailed information about the different types of Work Permits, please visit this page.

The foreign worker levy (FWL) is discussed in detail in the section on Statutory Deductions and Contributions mentioned above.

Foreigners working in Singapore on Work Permits, S Passes and Employment Passes are issued with a Foreign Identification Number (FIN), rather than an NRIC.

There are two other groups of foreigners of which you need to be aware: foreign directors from Malaysia and foreign directors from any other country. For individuals from these groups, IRAS will require a Malaysian Identity Card Number and Passport Number, respectively, for reporting purposes.