Singapore Visa Update: The Introduction of COMPASS

Singapore has been working hard and smart to strengthen its economy to further build themselves as a global business hub for foreign talent. A thriving city, famous for its bilingual education system, quality of living, and low tax rates, to name a few, Singapore is a great place for both local and foreign talent looking to grow their career.

The process to keep its title as a global business hub comes with the introduction and enhancement of several Singapore visa schemes – including the now five-year Employment Pass (EP) for experienced foreign talent and the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), a point-based system to assess eligibility for the Employment Pass.

The COMPASS framework aims to make Singapore stand out as a strong labour market with a diverse working environment as it attracts managers, executives, technicians, and professionals to live and work in the garden city. COMPASS is a new points system for EP applicants which will be released starting 1 September 2023 – meaning new applicants must score at least 40 points under the framework system to secure an EP. This will also be applicable to applicants renewing their EPs from 1 September 2024.

The framework was introduced to help Singaporean companies hire better-qualified talent to strengthen the city’s workforce even further. Below, we answer some important questions about the framework.

Who does COMPASS apply to?

  • Fresh EP applicants starting 1 September 2023 looking to move to Singapore for work will be assessed under the COMPASS framework.
  • Existing EP holders who are required to renew their passes will be assessed under the COMPASS framework starting 1 September 2024. For all EP applicants, the qualifying salary will still apply (increased to S$5,000 per month and S$5,500 per month for the financial sector) on top of the COMPASS assessment.

Is anyone exempted from COMPASS? If yes, who?

Three types of candidates would be exempted from the COMPASS assessment system including:

  • Applicants earning at least S$22,500 per month
  • Applicants filling in a role on a short-term basis (1 month or lesser than that)
  • Applicants applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to.

How does the COMPASS Scoring System work?

Source: Ministry of Manpower
  • Salary (Calculated as an individual)
    • The applicant’s salary will be compared to the pool of current employees of the same sector and similar age.

  • Qualification (Calculated as an individual)
    • The applicant’s academic qualifications will be measured on the basis of the world’s top 100 ranking universities, Singaporean universities and highly recognized vocational institutions.

  • Diversity (Calculated as a firm)

  • Support for Local Employment (Calculated as a firm)
    • The percentage of local employees will be compared to other companies within the same subsector.

  • Skills Bonus (Shortage Occupation List – Calculated as an individual)
    • Talents on shortage on the local job market will be reflected here.
  • Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus
    • Applications from companies working closely with the Singaporean government in international activities.

How many points would an applicant need to be eligible for the EP?

If an applicant earns:

  • 0 points = They stand below expectations.
  • 10 points = They meet expectations.
  • 20 points = They exceed expectations.

Applicants earn additional points if they meet or exceed expectations. An applicant would require a total of 40 points or more to be eligible for the EP:

Is there a way to get bonus points on the COMPASS Scoring System?

At the end of March 2023, Singapore released further criteria under the COMPASS framework – namely Criterion 5 and Criterion 6.

Criterion 5 is also known as the skills bonus, while Criterion 6 also goes by the strategic economic priorities bonus. If applicable to those who are applying, these criteria will allow applicants to claim bonus points for their total COMPASS score.

Here is how they work:

Criterion 5

  • This is for applicants in occupations that require highly specialised skills – skills that are currently in shortage in the local workforce.
  • Those who fill up an EP application through the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) that was developed by the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Trade & Industry can get an additional 20 points under COMPASS.
  • The Ministry of Manpower has 2 further safeguards for applicants under this criteria:
    – The MOM will conduct additional checks on the applicant, including prior week experience and whether the applicant indeed has the qualifications or industry accreditation that are relevant to the declared occupation.
    – If approved, successful applicants will have their employment restricted to the specific shortage occupation. If the employer wants to rehire the applicant for another role, the applicant will be reassessed for their EP eligibility.

Criterion 6

  • This criterion is targeted at companies that are focused on ‘ambitious investment, innovation, internationalisation, or company and workforce transformation activities’, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s website.
  • For every EP application submitted by such firms, the firm will receive 10 bonus COMPASS points.
  • To qualify for this bonus, the firm:
    – must be supported by sector agencies or the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
    – must participate in one of the eligible programmes run by agencies listed on the Ministry of Manpower’s website.
    – must demonstrate commitment to developing the local workforce.

The Ministry of Manpower also said that it will notify which firms are supported starting end of July 2023.

Take note that more criteria are expected to be announced along the way – stay tuned for updates!

For more details and information on the COMPASS Framework, please head over to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower official website.

Expanding your team to Singapore? Our clients here at Links’ have relied on us for over 10+ years for professional immigration advice and supported countless visa application processes. Our professional team will ensure efficient coverage from application through to issuance of your employee’s visa transactions. Get in touch with our team today!

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