ONE Pass and EP Framework Enhancements
Amidst fierce international competition for talent, Singapore is making sure she will not be left behind.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) press release on 29 August 2022 unveiled four enhancements to Singapore’s existing work pass framework. These enhancements were announced a week after PM Lee’s National Day Rally Speech, during which he touched on the need to build a world-class talent pool.
New Overseas Networks and Expertise Pass
MOM has introduced a new Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) Pass targeted at top talent across all sectors. The unique feature of the ONE Pass is that it is personalised, as compared to other work passes which are tied to employers. ONE Pass holders are empowered to concurrently start, operate and work for different companies in Singapore at any given time during the 5-year validity period. Their spouses will also be allowed to work in Singapore after receiving a Letter of Consent.
While the ONE Pass has extremely attractive terms, it is nonetheless subject to rigorous requirements. To qualify for the ONE Pass, applicants have to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $30,000. This is comparable to what the top 5% of Employment Pass (EP) holders earn. In the absence of recent employment history in Singapore, applicants need to show that they have worked or will be working for an established company with at least a market cap of US$500 million (S$700 million) or annual revenue of US$200 million.
Furthermore, applicants with outstanding achievements across the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia will also be considered for the ONE Pass even if they may not meet the salary benchmark.
The introduction of the ONE Pass will greatly help to ease the talent crunch for directors and senior managers. This move by MOM is particularly welcomed in the wealth management and technology sectors, where talent shortages are most acute.
New benchmark for exemption from several work pass requirements
MOM has also introduced a new benchmark which is pegged to the top 10% of EP holders. This will allow EP applicants that meet the monthly salary criterion of $22,500 to be exempted from Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirements as well as the new Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). According to MOM, this threshold for exemption will take effect from 1st September 2023—and will be reviewed annually against the benchmark.
For eligible EP applicants, employers are not mandated to first advertise on the MyCareersFuture website and fairly consider all candidates before hiring them. Eligible EP applicants will likewise not be scrutinised under COMPASS, a points-based framework which evaluates EP applicants based on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes. Similarly, COMPASS will be implemented from 1st September next year.
Streamlined EP application process
Furthermore, MOM has streamlined the EP application process by implementing two changes to EP application requirements. First, the FCF job advertising duration has now been restored to 14 days—after MOM temporarily increased it to 28 days at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in October 2020.
Second, the time taken to process all EP applications will be shortened. Currently, 85% of online EP applications are processed within three weeks. Equipped with technological upgrades to MOM’s work pass systems, MOM now promises to process EP applications and give employers status updates within 10 business days.
These two changes—which take effect today—will remove the bottleneck for companies trying to fill vacancies. They will enable companies to make swifter hiring decisions and enhance productivity.
Option of five-year EP
Last but not least, MOM is offering a five-year EP to experienced professionals who occupy specific tech roles on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List (SOL) from 1st September 2023. It is an extension of the typical work pass duration of two to three years.
Applicants for the extended EP will need to meet a monthly salary criterion of $10,500 and above. In addition, they have to pass COMPASS and score a minimum of 10 points on the Diversity criterion. MOM states that the objective of the five-year EP is to give greater certainty to experienced tech professionals as well as businesses in their workforce planning.
After consultations with relevant industry associations, businesses and stakeholders, MOM will announce the SOL in March 2023. Jobs to be included on the SOL will be assessed based on several key factors: their relevance to Singapore’s economic priorities, the degree of labour shortage and the sector’s progress in developing the local pipeline.