Singapore Announces New “Tech.Pass” Visas for Elite Foreign Tech Talent

It is a problem that has been widely known for quite some time now; while Singapore has many qualities that makes it well-suited to become a hub for innovation and technology, our workforce lacks enough skilled workers to meet the huge demand in tech talent.

Some of the factors leading to this are inherent in nature. We have a small domestic market, which means very few private entities will invest in Singapore’s labour force in order to sell their product to the Singapore market. We also have, as a natural result of our small population, very limited manpower, and even more limited qualified manpower.

For example, Singapore’s universities churn out less than a thousand software engineers a year combined. The higher up the chain of experience, the less availability there is. There are simply not enough of them, especially at the elite level, that can produce the best platforms which can be scaled to suit a global market.

Singapore’s ageing population, with the older generations not having the relevant specialisations, also exacerbate the problem immensely.

As such, we must attract more highly skilled foreigners to work in Singapore.

To that end, Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) is rolling out a new "Tech.Pass" to support the entry of up to 500 proven founders, leaders, and experts from top tech companies into Singapore.

As an extension of the Tech@SG programme, this scheme aims to provide companies the talent that they need in order to achieve success.


What are the Key Features

The Tech.Pass will allow holders to

·        Start and operate one or more tech companies

·        Be an employee in one or more Singapore-based companies at any time

·        Transit between employers or to an entrepreneur

·        Be a consultant or mentor, lecture in local institutions of higher learning, or be an investor and director in one or more Singapore-based companies

·        Sponsor stay for spouse, children, and parents in Singapore on either a Dependant’s Pass (DP) or a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) issued by MOM

·        Renew their pass only once more for another two years, upon meeting renewal criteria

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the pass, applicants must satisfy any two of the following conditions:

·        Have a last drawn fixed monthly salary (in the last 1 year) of at least S$20,000.

·        Have at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in a tech company with a valuation/market cap of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million funding raised.

·        Have at least five cumulative years of 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 annual revenue.

Application is opened In January 2021 and interested candidate can apply through https://www.edb.gov.sg/en/how-we-help/incentives-and-schemes/tech-pass.html

Any questions can be directed to techpass@edb.gov.sg


Renewal of Tech.Pass


To be eligible for a two-year renewal, the pass holder must have earned at least S$240,000 in assessable income based on the latest Notice of Assessment from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, or demonstrate total annual business spending of at least S$100,000 and employ at least 1 local PME (Singaporeans or PRs who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least S$3,900 and receive CPF contributions for at least 3 months) or 3 LQs (Singaporeans or PRs who earn a monthly salary of at least S$1,400 and receive CPF contributions for at least 3 months).

They must also, at the time of renewal, be performing at least two roles from a list
here. These roles include business and technical positions in local companies, but there are also some teaching roles as well.


How is Tech.Pass different from EntrePass

There is already an existing work pass for foreigners who are high-calibre innovators or serial entrepreneurs.

However, the EntrePass requires the holder to have started, or be intending to start, a private limited company, in addition to
meeting a series of requirements that qualifies the holder as an entrepreneur, innovator, or investor.

In contrast, the Tech.Pass is tied to the individual itself and grants much more flexibility in terms of allowing individuals to participate in any or a combination of activities specified above, without having to apply for different passes or engage in different administrative processes.

The focus of the Tech.Pass is not necessarily to encourage the direct formation of new businesses (although EntrePass holders may also apply to convert to a Tech.Pass) but rather to add more high-level tech experience to the workforce, especially in initiatives that are aimed at training or teaching.


Competition for Jobs

Apart from the EntrePass, foreign tech workers can already enter Singapore through company-sponsored Employment Passes and S Passes. The new scheme might thus worry locals that the new Tech.Pass scheme will lead to a fresh influx of foreigners who will compete with Singaporeans for tech jobs.

The reality, however, is while foreigners coming in with Employment Passes and S Passes are more likely to work in jobs that Singaporeans also seek, the Tech.Pass is targeted at an entirely different demographic of non-local talents.

As Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Trade and Industry, stressed when
announcing the start of this initiative, the Tech.Pass is the government’s concerted attempt at attracting “the very top end” of global talent, where there is currently a serious shortage of local candidates.

It is no secret that Singapore is facing a dearth of skilled labour in areas such as software engineering and robotics. In an increasingly digitalised world, this can pose serious problems outside of business competitiveness. For instance, Singapore companies might become too vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches due to
a lack of cybersecurity experts.

Having identified this problem, the government’s intention is not to enforce competition for Singaporeans at an elite level, but actually to bring in people who can help to build and train a new generation of tech talent.

Many countries have done the same; the UK’s “Tech Nation” visa saw a
record number of applicants in September despite their ongoing coronavirus problems.

It is thus apparent that there is strong competition for tech talent across the world. Singapore, already possessing natural disadvantages due to our geography and demographic, must make the extra effort to remain competitive and viable on the global stage.


Read also: Corporate Income Tax Filing Season 2020: 6 Things SMEs Need To Know

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