Moving to Singapore
Climate and Weather
Much like the Singaporean society in general, the climate of this island nation can best be described as stable, with uniform temperatures and no distinct seasons throughout the year. The climate is classified as a tropical rainforest, with a stable temperature range of approximately 23 degrees C to 34 degrees C, high relative humidity (ranging from 90 percent in the morning to 60 percent in the afternoon), and abundant rainfall, which averages 237 cm annually. The rainfall accounts for approximately half the country’s water supply.
There are two monsoon seasons during the year to be aware of. The first is the Northeast Monsoon season, lasting from December to early March, with the brunt of the bad weather occurring in December and January. The second season is the Southwest Monsoon, occurring from June to September, which is relatively tame compared to the Northeast season.
Healthcare and Medical Treatment
Reflecting the country’s commitment to leadership in technology and providing quality of life for its citizens and visitors, Singapore is today the preeminent provider of medical treatment and healthcare services in the region. The country boasts over 2,000 healthcare establishments, 28 hospitals and specialty centers, and more than 80 healthcare companies.
The key to getting good healthcare is to understand the types of health services offered. The country has a dual system of healthcare delivery, including both a public and private component. The Government runs the public system while the private system is provided by private hospitals and general practitioners. Primary, secondary and specialist health care is provided at private clinics and government outpatient polyclinics, although it is more expensive at the private level. The private sector operates 13 hospitals, with the remaining hospitals and specialty centers being run by the government.
Residents and visitors are free to select from among government or private providers and they are permitted to walk in for a consultation at any private clinic or government polyclinic. For emergencies, there are ambulance services and 24-hour emergency departments located in the government hospitals. As for prescription services, there are pharmacies available in numerous outlets, including supermarkets, department stores, hotels and shopping centers.
Visas, Residency, Immigration & Documentation
The government in Singapore has never been shy about exercising tight control when it comes to affairs of state in the country. Not surprisingly, the government is very proactive when it comes to controlling who enters its borders and under what circumstances.
When it comes to the issue of tourism, a major industry for the country, the requirements are comparatively lax, especially for citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the U.S. (among others), for whom there is no Visa requirement for stays up to 30 days.
The government is also quite liberal when it comes to attracting talented foreigners for short- to longer-term work assignments (renewable in up to three year periods). Foreign entrepreneurs and wealthy investors (covered by the Global Investor Programme or the Financial Investor Scheme), as well as professionals, technical personnel and skilled workers – grouped as Employment Pass Holders (EP) and S Pass Holders – are encouraged to live and work in Singapore to supplement the country’s available work force. To further accommodate individuals in these categories, the country issues a Dependent’s Pass for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. All in all, this policy is meant to ensure the country maintains its leadership position in technology, finance and other areas.
[Note – certain EP Holders (P1 and P2) can obtain Long-Term Social Visit Passes (LTSVP) for the following: Parents, Parents-in-law, Step children, Spouse (common-law), Disabled children and Daughters (unmarried) aged over 21. The Pass is valid for the period of time the EP Holder maintains their Pass or until that individual obtains permanent residency.]
On the other hand, for those seeking to establish permanent residency, the government is very selective, which is understandable given the already-dense population and limited natural resources. Generally speaking, residency is limited to the spouses or the unmarried children (under age 21) of Singaporean Citizens (SC) or Permanent Residents (PR), also known as Singaporean Permanent Residents (SPR). The aged parents of a Singaporean Citizen and Hong Kong residents (under certain conditions) are also eligible. Exceptions are made for EP/S Pass Holders (under 50 years of age) and their spouses and children (unmarried) under 21, as well as Global Investor Programme participants (foreign investors or entrepreneurs under 50) and their spouses, children under 21, parents and in-laws (substantial deposits required for parents and in-laws).
For those seeking to attain Singaporean citizenship, the government is even more selective, granting PR status to three times as many applicants as it does citizenship applicants in a year. Generally speaking, to be eligible, an applicant must be at least 21 years old and have lived as a PR for at least two to six years, although they may apply on a merit basis after one year. Exceptions can be made for professionals, investors and graduates after two years as a PR under the Accelerated Citizenship Scheme. There are additional scenarios under which a person can be eligible for citizenship, but they are primarily limited to cases where an individual is related to a SC or PR. Under any scenario, a person obtaining citizenship in Singapore must denounce their home-country citizenship.
For further information on obtaining citizenship, check with the Citizen Services Center:
Citizen Services Centre
Registry of Citizens, Counter 7 or 8
6th Storey, ICA Building
10 Kallang Road
(Next to Lavender MRT station)
Procedures and documentation necessary for Tourists
- All tourists must satisfy the following requirements to enter the country:
- All visitors need to go through immigration clearance on arrival at Singapore, and they must;
- Possess a passport valid for at least six months
- Possess confirmed onward/return tickets
- Possess sufficient funds to maintain themselves during their stay in Singapore
- Possess a Visa, if applicable
- Possess entry facilities, including Visas, to their onward destinations
If those requirements are met, an Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer will determine whether a social visit pass will be granted. Visitors on social visit passes are not permitted to engage in any form of paid employment or in any business, profession or occupation in Singapore.
For foreigners requiring a Visa, the fee is S$20 per issue.
Procedures and documentation necessary for Residency
Non-Singaporeans can become SPRs by obtaining an Entry Permit. An application for an Entry Permit is an application for Singapore Permanent Residence. Along with the application, applicants must complete and return either one Form 4 (aged parents, spouses and unmarried children), or two Form 4As (those seeking Work Pass, entrepreneurs, and wealthy investors). The notes accompanying each form detail the additional documentation applicants will need to provide. For further information, questions or to obtain the proper application and forms, contact the Permanent Resident Services Centre.
Permanent Resident Services Centre
5th Storey, ICA Building
10 Kallang Road
(Next to Lavender MRT station)
The fee for an Entry Permit is S$100 and the fee for a Re-Entry Permit is S$10 per year.
The processing time for an Entry Permit application is 3 months. Applicants will be informed of the outcome by mail.
Benefits of Permanent Residency
There are several main benefits to obtaining PR status in Singapore:
1) Lucrative expat packages – Skilled foreigners with either a PR status or EP/S Pass Holders are in high demand among Singaporean employers. As such, they can receive lucrative expatriate packages designed to lure and/or keep them in the country. (see #2 below)
2) Security – While EP/S Pass Holders and investors/entrepreneurs and their dependents (those with Dependent’s Passes or LTSVP) can stay for long periods, they must re-register every few years. Additionally, if the EP/S Pass Holder or investor/entrepreneur resigns or their position or programme is terminated, they must surrender their respective pass within seven days, at which time they are issued with a two-week social visit pass. If they fail to secure new employment (who will sponsor them) in that time period, they must leave the country.
The same holds true for their dependents residing in the country on a Dependent’s Pass or LTSVP. Once EP/S Pass Holders or investors/entrepreneurs obtain PR status, they no longer have to worry about leaving or being dismissed by their sponsoring employer, and will not have to either scramble for new employment or risk being kicked out of the country. In fact, there is no requirement for an individual with PR status to work. In this sense, a PR has the benefit and security of knowing that they themselves are able to determine if and when they want to leave. In fact, as a non-citizen, obtaining the PR status is the only means by which foreigners can permanently reside and eventually retire within the island nation.
3) PRs must contribute to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), which is a forced-savings scheme. Fortunately, this can offset some of their tax liability at home (effectively reducing their taxable income) and in Singapore, as well as provide for things like retirement, purchasing a home or insurance, etc.
4) PRs can purchase certain types of property and can use CPF funds to do so if they have them.
Benefits of Obtaining Singaporean Citizenship
1) Right to obtain a Singaporean passport, which has few restrictions around the world
2) Right to vote and stand for presidential and parliamentary elections
3) Citizens over the age of 21 can buy or rent government subsidized housing, and are allowed to buy all types of private residential property (which is restricted to all other inhabitants of the country)
4) Citizens qualify for tax rebates and receive ad hoc CPF top up (topping off) from the government
5) Citizens are eligible for government housing grants and mortgage loans
6) Citizens pay no fees in government and government-aided schools
While there are many benefits for permanent residents and citizens, there is one key consideration that some will consider a drawback against becoming either a PR or SC. Under the Enlistment Act, all SCs and SPRs, and their male children (once the child reaches age 16) are liable for National Service (NS), which requires two years of full-time National Service (NSF), followed by 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service (NS) per year till the age of 50 years (for officers) or 40 years (for other ranks). There is an exception for main applicants who are granted SPR status under the first generation Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers (PTS) Scheme or the Investor Scheme – these individuals are exempt from NS. But, male children who are granted SPR status under their parents’ application are liable for NS upon reaching 16 years of age.
For questions or information relating to Visas, Residency or Immigration, visit the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority Web site at http://app.ica.gov.sg/index.asp
Currency and Cost of Living
The official currency of the country is the Singapore Dollar (currency code SGD), which is loosely tied (not pegged) to the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate with the U.S. dollar has remained stable for quite some time, ranging from 1.63 SGD – 1.83 SGD per 1 USD since 2000. The current exchange rate is 1.67 SGD per 1 USD (as of June 13, 2005).
The Singapore currency is abbreviated with the standardized dollar sign – $. It is also abbreviated as S$, thus distinguishing itself from other dollarized currencies. The currency is divided into 100 cents, issued in both coins and notes.
Coins: 1 cent (being decirculated), 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, 1 dollar
Notes: 2 dollar, 5 dollar, 10 dollar, 50 dollar, 100 dollar, 1,000 dollar, 10,000 dollar
In addition to the Singaporean dollar, the Brunei dollar (BND – also known as the ringgit), which is pegged to the SGD, is also considered legal-tender in Singapore.
As for the cost of living, the country ranked 32nd in Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, well behind large cities such as Hong Kong, Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing. For the sake of reference, New York City (the benchmark for the survey) ranked 10th. One of the key reasons the cost of living is relatively cheap compared to many large cities is the fact that the government has been able to maintain a stable economy and a comparatively low inflation rate.
According to International Enterprise Singapore, the average monthly household expenditure in Singapore is S$3,686, while the average monthly household income is S$4,943, indicating salaries are on average more than adequate to cover the costs of goods, housing and services.
Average monthly figures:
Food/Clothing: S$348 to S$2,397
Transport/Communication: S$271 to S$1,933
Housing: S$259 to S$1,856
Average Monthly Household Expenditure: S$3,686
Average Monthly Household Income: S$4,943
Visit the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce http://www.sicc.com.sg/ or the Singapore Department of Statistics http://www.singstat.gov.sg/ for more details on the cost of living in Singapore.
Foreigners wishing to rent property in Singapore have two main options, public or private housing. By far the most economical option is that of public housing.
To facilitate affordable, quality housing for its residents, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) built government-subsidized flats in housing estates throughout the island. Each HDB estate is designed to be a self-contained neighborhood, with amenities such as supermarkets, food centers, clinics, schools, libraries, etc. Foreigners can rent individual rooms within such flats directly on the open market. These units are listed by owners in classified advertising sections of newspapers, such as The Straits Times.
Prices for rooms range from S$350 – S$550 monthly. For those seeking to rent an entire flat, the government created the Scheme for Housing of Foreign Talent (SHiFT), which is administered by the JTC Corporation. Rental rates range between S$700 – S$1300 per month. Leases are generally for two years and require at least a one-month deposit. For further details and eligibility requirements, contact the Housing Development Group, JTC Corporation at (65) 68855315 or email email@example.com
For those who prefer private housing, there is a selection of apartments, condominium units and houses available. Listings can be obtained in classified advertisements or by enlisting the services of a housing agent. Prices range from S$2,000 – S$6,000 in prime areas and S$1,000 – S$3,000 in other areas. Most private apartments offer between 800 – 2,000 sq ft. Terms differ from unit to unit, with most requiring a lease of at least one year and a security deposit.
When it comes to purchasing private property on the island, foreigners and permanent residents are restricted to buying apartments in buildings that are at least six stories high, or approved condominium units. For all other types of property, you must get approval from the Controller of Residential Property (CRP). Just as with real estate in most markets, pricing is dependent upon many variables, such as location, proximity to the MRT station, amenities, size and condition of the estate, the facilities provided, prevailing market conditions and whether it is a leasehold or freehold property. Prices in non-prime areas average S$400,000 and up for 800 – 1,200 sq ft, while prime areas average S$600,000 and up for similarly-sized units.
Permanent residents can borrow up to 80 percent of the purchase price from various banks and mortgage companies. Both variable and fixed-rate mortgages are available with terms up to 25 years. For those that have them, CPF Ordinary Account savings can be used. Due to the complexities involved, it is necessary to engage the services of a solicitor to complete purchase transactions. Those fees, combined with stamp duties, mortgage and survey fees, are likely to amount to 5 percent of the purchase price.
One last consideration is property tax, which must be paid twice a year in advance. The property tax payable per year is computed based on a percentage of the annual value of the property (which is the annual rent the property can fetch on the market). The property tax rate is 4 percent for owner-occupied residential properties and 12 percent for others.
Education and Schools
Because of the premium placed on education in Singapore, residents and foreigners have the opportunity to attend schools ranked among the best in Southeast Asia. Foreigners have the option of attending either the public or privately run schools that make up the Singaporean education system, or can elect to attend international schools offering education systems of their own or other countries of origin.
For those attending Singaporean schools, the first 10 years of schooling are categorized under two phases – six years of primary education and the next four or five years in secondary school. Primary school starts at age seven. After completing primary school, the student moves on to secondary school based on their results in the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE); compulsory exams designed to determine the type of secondary-school courses most suited to the student’s aptitude.
Beyond secondary school, there are a variety of post secondary choices, including 2 – 3 year community colleges and polytechnics, technical and commercial schools, and universities offering undergraduate and post graduate degrees in technology, science, business and the arts.
Monthly fees for Government and Government-Aided Schools are as follows for Singaporeans: S$80 for primary, S$130 for secondary and S$240 for pre-university levels. For non-resident children of Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents and dependants of Employment Pass and Skilled Work Permit Holders, the monthly school fees payable for the first two years are S$3 for primary, S$5 for secondary and S$6 for pre-university levels. After year two, the fees payable are based on citizenship status. Fees for the international schools vary per program, as do the fees for the various post-secondary and university programs.
For further information, visit the Ministry of Education at http://www.moe.gov.sg
Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water)
Basic utilities in Singapore – piped gas, water and electricity – are regulated by the Public Utilities Board (PUB). The PUB also handles all applications, billing and the collection of payments.
To obtain a personal utilities account, you must provide the following documents:
- Identity Card/Passport of owner or leasee
2. Documentary proof of occupation of premises or tenancy agreement
3. Cash, check or bank account number for deductions
In addition to the application, applicants will be required to pay a utilities deposit ranging from S$40 – S$250, dependent upon the type of housing.
Rates for utilities as of June 2005
Electricity: 14.97 cents/kWh
Piped Gas: 12.23 cents/unit
Water: S$1.30 per cubic meter for the first 20 cubic meters per month
Sewage: S$0.15 cents per cubic meter of water is charged for maintenance of the public sewage system
Refuse collection fee of S$8 for HDB/private apt and S$20 for landed property
Fee of S$3 per month for every sanitary appliance (example – toilets)
Applications for a utilities account can be completed in person, by mail or through the Internet.
To apply in person:
Customer Services Centre Unit
111 Somerset Road
Tel: 1800-235-6841 (toll-free)
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 8am-4pm
To apply by mail:
Senior Manager (Customer Services)
Power Supply Ltd P.O. Box 341
Orchard Post Office
To apply online:
Communications (Telephone, Post, Internet, TV, Radio)
Electronic communication services in Singapore are among the best in the region due to the government’s commitment to building a highly developed infrastructure. There are an estimated 55 million phone lines, the vast majority of which serve additional telecommunication devices, such as computers and facsimile machines. Mobile usage is widespread, with estimates that roughly three-quarters of the population use mobile phones. Not surprisingly, Internet usage is high as well, with half the population engaged in online activities and communications.
Telephone and Internet
Fixed line, mobile and Internet service (including high speed fiber optic lines) are offered by a number of different providers, each generally requiring an application, documentation and a deposit to establish service. Additionally, there are numerous pricing schemes for each service, varying between providers.
For information on available services, fees and requirements, visit http://www.contactsingapore.org.sg/moving_communication.shtml
TV and Radio
There are several local TV broadcast stations, as well as a cable television broadcaster providing numerous channel selections. Satellite dishes are illegal so there are no direct satellite channels available. Additionally, there are more than 20 FM radio stations throughout the country. Although there is much more selection and availability today, there are still restrictions on the type of material that can be broadcast, especially in the areas of pornography and violence.
To own or possess a TV or radio, the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) Act requires that individuals purchase a license for any place where a TV or radio receiver is installed, including cars. Failure to obtain a license can result in a fine of up to S$1,000.
For info on regulations, licenses, deposits, fees, etc. visit the Media Development Authority (MDA) at http://www.mda.gov.sg/wms.www/index_flash.aspx
In addition to an advanced electronic communications infrastructure, the country operates a network of more than 900 postal outlets and 150 Self Automated Machines (SAMS) conveniently located throughout the island. Fax and air-parcel postage services are available at all outlets, with most offices open through the week from 8.30 am to 5 pm and until 1 pm on Saturday. For additional details, visit www.singpost.com.sg
Driving and Public Transportation
Given the population density and limited land mass of the island, it is paramount that the government ensures free-flowing traffic allowing for the easy movement of people and goods. To facilitate such an endeavor, Singapore has developed an extensive public transportation system that is inexpensive and reliable, consisting primarily of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rapid Transit (LRT) and bus services. Additionally, there are plenty of taxis that can be hailed anywhere in the city.
To encourage the use of the public transportation system, a common card is issued that can be used on the MRT, LRT and buses – fares for the three systems range between S$0.64 and S$2.80. The public transportation network is the primary mode of transport for the vast majority of the island’s inhabitants, with approximately 1.2 million riders per day utilizing the MRT and LRT systems, and roughly 3 million people riding the buses.
As for private transportation, there is no way to get around the fact that it is very expensive on the island. While getting a drivers license is relatively easy (no need for the first six months with a valid foreign or international license – thereafter, it’s cheap and easy to obtain a Singapore license), the issue of obtaining and paying for a vehicle is another matter.
To control the number of vehicles on the road, the government has a Vehicle Quota System that is designed to limit the number of private vehicles driven, thus reducing the amount of traffic and congestion on the roads. Under this system, an individual seeking to purchase a car must bid for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which can be very expensive and lasts for a maximum of 10 years. At that time, the owner would have to revalidate the vehicle by paying the prevailing quota premium, thus adding to the cost of owning a vehicle.
In addition to the COE and the actual cost of the car, there is an import duty (31 percent of the vehicle’s assessed open market value), registration fee (S$140), additional registration fee (110 percent of the assessed open market value of the vehicle) and a road tax that runs from S$400 to S$3050 plus. The government also imposes an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, which further increases the cost of driving and in turn curbs road congestion.
For those who do take it upon themselves to drive, cars in Singapore have right-hand steering and are driven on the left side of the road, just as in Britain or Ireland. For more on the transportation system, please contact the Land Transport Authority of Singapore:
460 Alexandra Road
PSA Building #28-00
Tel: (65) 63757100
Toll-free LTA hotline: (65) 1800-3757300
Fax: (65) 63757208 (65) 63757200
Taking your pets
Foreign nationals seeking to import their pets can do so under certain circumstances. With the exception of pets imported from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, all dogs or cats must be kept in quarantine at the owner’s expense for at least 30 days upon arrival. All cats or dogs imported must be accompanied by a valid import permit issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore. The animal must also be accompanied by a signed veterinary health certificate that is less than seven days old. The certificate must provide details of the pet’s age, breed, health and other essential information. Additionally, dogs and cats must be implanted with a microchip matching their veterinary papers. There is a fee for the import permit.
Aside from the aforementioned regulations, there are restrictions on both the types of animals that can be imported and the total number of pets an individual can keep in the various housing units. Only one dog of an approved breed is allowed in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) dwelling unit and dogs are not allowed in other non-residential HDB premises. Also, not more than three dogs are allowed in each non-HDB premises, including all private units. Cats are not allowed in a HDB dwelling unit.
For additional information regarding fees, procedures, approved breeds, etc., contact the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore at http://www.ava.gov.sg