Singapore Visa Update: All You Need to Know About COMPASS

Update as of 4 March 2024: The Ministry of Manpower has increased the Employment Pass (EP) qualifying salaries:

  • Increase from $5,000 to $6,000 per month for all sectors other than Financial Services. This will progressively increase with age – up to $10,700 for applicants in their mid-40s.
  • Increase from $5,500 to $6,200 per month for the Financial Services sector, capped at $11,800 for applicants in their mid-40s.

The new qualifying salaries will apply to:

  • new EP applications from 1 January 2025
  • renewal applications from 1 January 2026

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 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 schemes – such as the most recent one, the COMPASS framework.

Released on 1 September 2023 for new Employment Pass (EP) applicants, the COMPASS framework was introduced to help 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. Below, we answer all the 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. The following EP qualifying salary requirements apply to new applications and renewals:
    • At least SG$5,000 for all sectors except financial services (increases progressively with age from age 23, up to SG$10,500 at age 45 and above)
    • At least SG$5,500 for the financial services sector (increases progressively with age from age 23, up to SG$11,500 at age 45 and above)
  • 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 SG$5,000 per month and SG$5,500 per month for the financial sector) on top of the COMPASS assessment.

Read also: Labour Law Insider – APAC 2023 Q4 Legislation Update

Is anyone exempted from COMPASS? If yes, who?

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

  1. Applicants earning at least SG$22,500 per month
  2. Applicants filling in a role on a short-term basis (1 month or lesser than that)
  3. 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 (Foundational Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • The applicant’s salary will be compared to the pool of current employees of the same sector and similar age.
  • Qualifications (Foundational Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • The applicant’s academic qualifications will be measured on the basis of the world’s top 100 ranking universities, Singaporean universities and highly recognised vocational institutions.

  • Diversity (Foundational Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)

  • Support for Local Employment (Foundational Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)
    • The percentage of local employees will be compared to other companies within the same subsector.

  • Skills Bonus (Bonus Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • Talents on shortage on the local job market will be reflected here.
  • Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Bonus Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)
    • Applications from companies working closely with the Singaporean government in international activities.

Points Needed for Applicant to be eligible for the Employment Pass (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.

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

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Frequently asked questions about COMPASS:

  • What does COMPASS stand for?
    • Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS)

  • To be eligible for the Employment Pass (EP), how many points would an applicant require?
    • 40 points and above.

  • How difficult is it to get an employment pass in Singapore?
    • It falls down to several factors including the applicant’s qualifications, salary, work experience, and more.

  • How long is the application process for an Employment Pass (EP) in Singapore?
    • If the application is submitted online, the process or update on application would take 10 business days.

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