New work pass in Singapore for top-tier foreign tech professionals to launch in January

Construction workers wearing masks in precaution of the coronavirus outbreak carry pipes as they pass a building in the Central Business District in Singapore on February 18, 2020. Photo: Today. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SINGAPORE, Nov 12, 2020, ST. A new work pass will be launched next year for top-tier foreign professionals and experts looking to start businesses, lead corporate teams or teach here, in a bid to woo these people to Singapore and develop its high-potential tech ecosystem, The Straits Times reported.

The Economic Development Board announced plans on Thursday (Nov 12) to launch Tech.Pass, which is planned to put Singapore ahead in the global race to attract highly skilled technology professionals in fields such as e-commerce, artificial intelligence and cyber security.

Tech.Pass will be valid for two years, with a one-time renewal for a subsequent two years that will depend on certain criteria. Applications for the pass will start in January 2021, with 500 places available upon launch.

Having such experts in Singapore will not only allow them to bring their capital, networks and know-how to the country’s tech ecosystem, but it will also create opportunities for Singaporeans too, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

“Tech.Pass will add to the critical mass of established tech talent in Singapore and create a flywheel effect to further strengthen our position as a leading tech hub for the region,” said Mr Chan at the launch of Tech.Pass on Thursday at a dialogue with the European Chamber of Commerce.

The tech sector is poised to be a large engine of growth for Singapore, and a study done by Temasek, Google and consultancy Bain & Company published on Tuesday found that the country’s Internet economy – or business conducted online – is on track to reach US$22 billion (S$29.7 billion) by 2025.

The same report noted that Singapore houses the highest number of headquarters for companies with a valuation over $1 billion among South-east Asian countries, including e-commerce platform Lazada and Internet platform Shopee owner Sea.

In order to be eligible for Tech.Pass, candidates must meet two of the three criteria: a last drawn monthly salary of at least $20,000 in the past year, at least five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in a tech firm with a valuation or market capitalisation of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million funding and beyond, or at least five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users or at least US$100 million in revenue.

With the work pass, these individuals can perform activities like starting and operating a business, serve on the board of directors of a Singapore-based company or be a shareholder or investor in companies here.

They can also take up lecturing roles in institutes of higher learning, serve as a mentor or adviser to companies here, and conduct corporate training or workshops.

For Tech.Pass to be renewed, pass holders will need to fulfil several requirements, which include having earned at least $240,000 in assessable income over the two years or demonstrating total annual business spending of at least $100,000.

The EDB will be administering the applications of the pass, with the support of the Ministry of Manpower, said Mr Chan.

Tech.Pass builds on the Tech @ SG programme, which spells out more flexible requirements for foreign professionals to apply for an Employment Pass (EP).

The EP is for foreign professionals who have a job offer here, work in a managerial, executive or specialised job, earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $4,500 and have acceptable qualifications.

Singapore is not alone in this quest to woo international top-tier talent, and Mr Chan noted on Thursday that many countries have their own schemes to compete for these people.

He said in Parliament last year that countries like Thailand, China and France are already making their pitch for highly skilled technology professionals, and cited how both France and Thailand have special visa programmes to make it easier for technology talents to work in their countries.

He had warned then that Singapore would “almost certainly be left behind” if it did not attract such talent too.

The EDB said in a statement on Thursday that both Tech.Pass and Tech @ SG allow fast-growing tech companies and established tech talent to enter Singapore and anchor themselves here, which is part of Singapore’s multi-pronged approach to develop a strong base of technology companies and talent to ensure it remains globally competitive.

“This will also create more opportunities for local tech talent to work in globally competitive teams alongside top tech talent from all over the world,” it added.

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