When it comes to global relocation, few destinations can match the allure of Singapore. With its thriving economy, diverse cultural offerings, and world-class infrastructure, Singapore has emerged as a truly global city-state – one that continues to draw people from all corners of the globe.
Singapore offers a unique blend of cultural heritage and technological innovation, providing a safe and fulfilling environment for residents. With LandPLUS Mobility Solutions, you can rest assured that your relocation will be handled with expertise and care. As a proud member of the Reloc8 Asia Pacific Group, we tap into our extensive network and collaborative spirit to provide you with the highest level of service and support.
Discover the enchanting allure of Singapore and harness the expertise of LandPLUS Mobility Solutions as you embark on your well-informed relocation journey in 2023. For personalized assistance and further details, please visit www.landplusgroup.com. Your Singaporean adventure begins now.
SECTION 1: UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
What It’s Like to Live in Singapore
Singapore is known as Asia Gateway 101 for the ease of settling in for most foreigners coming from all corners of the world. Singapore’s well-developed infrastructure and modern amenities offer expats an exceptional lifestyle. The country has set up an attractive tax structure and a strong fund regime, alongside an internationally respected financial regulator to go alongside its political stability and neutrality that have earned it the nickname of the Switzerland of Asia. This comes at a price, though, as it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. Despite the relatively high cost of living, many expats say they have more disposable income than they did back home.
Culture of Singapore: A Melting Pot of Mixed Cultures
The Singaporean culture boasts the combination of Asian and European cultures, influenced by Malay, South Asian, East Asian, and Eurasian cultures. Dubbed the country where East meets West, Singapore’s history dates back to the third century when it was a vassal state of various empires. During British rule, the port of Singapore flourished and attracted many migrants. After independence in 1965, Singapore made its own way. It has a diverse populace of over 6.014 million people, consisting of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians, along with other mixed groups and Asians of different origins. Racial and religious harmony is vital for Singapore’s social cohesion.
The Fast-paced Lifestyle
Singapore is known for its efficiency and modernity, which is reflected in the fast-paced city lifestyle. For some expatriates, this might be overwhelming and require time for adjustment. The constant hustle and bustle of the city, combined with long work hours and a busy social calendar, can be tiring and leave little time for rest and relaxation. Therefore, this fast-paced lifestyle can also be stressful for those who are used to a more laid-back pace of life.
Singapore has strict social norms and expectations, which can be a culture shock for those coming from more liberal or individualistic cultures. For example, public displays of affection are generally frowned upon, and it is expected that people will dress modestly and behave appropriately in public.
Singapore’s Unique Local Laws
Renowned for its remarkable tidiness and low crime rate, Singapore stands as a beacon of security. While the acclaim for cleanliness and security is substantial, there’s a light-hearted twist in Singapore’s nickname, “The Fine City.” This playful term not only reflects its immaculate state but also alludes to the fines for various offenses. While certain behaviors acceptable elsewhere might be prohibited here, fret not. Familiarizing yourself with Singapore’s laws and customs is straightforward, enabling you to embrace your experience in this captivating locale without apprehension.
Here are some of the laws that are unique to Singapore:
- Chewing gum is illegal.
- Smoking is prohibited in many areas in Singapore.
- Consumption of alcohol in public after 10:30 p.m. is prohibited.
English is the business language, and Malay is the national language. Most Chinese will speak multiple dialects on top of Mandarin, while local Indians commonly speak Tamil.
Most Singaporeans speak Singlish (slang), but decoding Singlish can be a challenge. Singlish borrows terms from the Chinese, Malay, and Tamil languages and may be combined in an expression or a sentence. The grammar mirrors some other regional languages by omitting most prepositions, verb conjugations, and plural words, while its vocabulary reflects the broad range of the country’s immigrant roots.
Singaporeans also often use the word “can” in place of “yes.”
‘Can’ is an extremely versatile word, and a large portion of what it actually means depends very much on the tone used when speaking and/or the Singlish modifier you use with it.
An example conversation:
Can or not? (Can you do this?)
Can. (Yes, I can.)
Can meh? (Are you sure?)
Can lah! (Yes, of course!)
Economy and Job Market
Singapore boasts a competitive, corruption-free, open business environment. The Port of Singapore is one of the busiest in the world as the country focuses on electronics and chemical exports to richer industrialized nations. Over the years, Singapore has diversified its economy and has become a research and development (R&D) hub, a biomedical hub, a banking and finance center, and, in recent times, the healthcare destination of Asia. Today, Singapore is a knowledge-based economy and attracts multinational investments. Its open trade policies, social stability, world-class infrastructure, and international communication links are some of the reasons why foreign investors flock to its shores.
Despite retrenchments in certain sectors toward the tail end of the year, total retrenchments in 2022 remained low compared to pre-pandemic years. Those who were retrenched quickly found other jobs, with the percentage of retrenched local workers who found employment increasing to 73.1% in the fourth quarter of 2022, the highest since 2015. The statistics reflected are more relevant for the local employment scene.
Broadly speaking, Singapore’s job market has bounced back well from the Covid-19 pandemic. The labor market improved significantly in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s Statement on Labor Market Developments in 2022, released in March 2023. Total employment in Singapore grew by an unprecedented 226,700, reaching 2.9% above pre-pandemic levels. Residential unemployment and long-term unemployment rates as of December 2022 remained low.
For foreigners, finding a job in Singapore could be challenging due to the competitive nature of the job market. It is essential to first secure a job before moving to Singapore, as the process could be lengthy, and the employer has to be willing to sponsor your work visa. From 1 September 2023, Employment Pass applications will be measured against the MOM’s “Compass” (short for Complementarity Assessment) Framework, a new points-based system that, in addition to considering the traditional trifecta of individual skills, salary, and qualifications, now also expressly considers firm strategic economic priorities, diversity, and support for local employment.
SECTION 2: COST OF LIVING AND LIFESTYLE
Cost of Living
Singapore holds the Guinness World Record for being the most expensive city in the world to buy a car, saw the highest increase in rental prices in 2022, and is the second most expensive country in the world for fine dining. Despite the image portrayed in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” that everyone seems to be filthy rich in Singapore, the millionaire per capita rate is about 6%, while low-income families and poverty do exist. If you are not in pursuit of lavish lifestyles, one can live well on a rather modest income. Public transportation, e.g., buses and the MRT, are extremely affordable, and you can buy a meal for under $10. Singapore’s currency remains strong all these years, and taxes remain universally low.
- Singapore is extremely safe and has a very low crime rate, thanks to strict law and order.
- People dress very casually as the weather is hot and humid, with frequent rainfall year-round.
- Being a multicultural nation with a high influx of foreign talent from everywhere, it is easy to make friends with locals and expats via different platforms with opportunities to gather over shared interests.
- The country offers many indoor attractions (shopping is a national pastime) and outdoor activities for nature lovers, including plenty of water sports, hiking, and cycling around the island’s beaches, parks, and nature reserves. Families with young children will love the endless family-friendly attractions like Night Safari, Universal Studios, and the Botanic Garden.
- As we are a tiny island, life can get rather stifling with the fast-paced work life and the daily hustle. Due to the strategic location in the region and frequently ranked best airport in the world, getting out of Singapore is incredibly easy, so many people will have short getaways during weekends. Land and sea transfers to Malaysia and Indonesia are also very convenient.
- Singapore is a food haven for culinary delights, from hawker centers to Michelin-star fine dining. The city boasts just about every type of cuisine imaginable.
Singapore has one of the finest public healthcare systems in the world. As such, Singaporeans enjoy tremendous good health and have one of the world’s longest life expectancies at 84.8 years. Singapore citizens and permanent residents (known as PRs) are entitled to subsidized government healthcare services. This is because they contribute to the national mandatory savings plan and are required to subscribe to an approved medical care plan known as Medishield Life to access this subsidized healthcare.
Foreigners don’t qualify for Medishield Life. Foreigners living in Singapore are exempt from making contributions to the Central Provident Fund, which helps fund healthcare and social services. However, as they are exempt from paying, they are thus unable to access government-subsidized health plans and related services. If they were to visit a public hospital, they’d have to pay for it.
In general, the cost of a simple medical appointment is not prohibitively expensive. Physicians in public hospitals speak English, have undergone extensive training, and provide excellent care. However, medical and healthcare costs can quickly spiral upwards should you need any diagnostic tests, specialist consultations, or surgical procedures. In turn, private hospitals in Singapore have shorter wait times and more comfortable and private facilities.
Most employers in Singapore include a basic private healthcare package as a perk. Some will even cover medical and dental check-up expenses. The bigger the company, the more coverage employees are likely to have. However, it is not compulsory for businesses to provide medical insurance for anyone other than manual laborers and foreign domestic help, and mostly their corporate healthcare will also not cover their dependents. Employees should check carefully to see if healthcare is included in their contract. With Singapore healthcare being costly, it is important that expats have private healthcare insurance outside of any basic insurance provided by their employer. This is not just for health reasons, though you should always feel able to access healthcare. Extra cover will provide for you in case any unexpected healthcare issues create large expenses, without affecting your personal savings.
Expats have multiple options for health insurance in Singapore. You can choose between local insurers, Singapore-based international insurers, or insurers from outside of the nation. While expats with valid visas can access the plans available for local Singapore residents, the best plan for foreigners in Singapore is likely to be an international health insurance plan.
Singapore currently has some 70 international schools and kindergartens that teach in English. They have over 5,000 full-time staff and about 50,000 students, according to the International School Consultancy, which provides data on the international school market.
The medium of instruction in local schools is English. Getting a place is extremely difficult for a foreigner, as preference is given to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. There is a plethora of international schools to choose from based on the needs of every family.
National Curriculum Schools
Choosing national curriculum schools ensures a minimum disruption when transferring between countries. For older children, it helps with easy entry to a university in their home country.
International Curriculum Schools
Many expatriates are happy to immerse their younger children in an international curriculum where no nationality is dominant. Such schools offer a truly immersive melting pot, and children learn to understand other cultures at a young age. The number of such international schools has increased over the years due to increased demand from expatriates. They exhibit a diverse mix of cultures, with all students having an equal footing and celebrating global festivals.
SECTION 3: LEGAL AND IMMIGRATION ASPECTS
Legal Considerations When Moving to Singapore
Before entering Singapore, you must check if you require an entry visa based on your nationality. For those who do not require an entry visa, they will be given a Short Term Visit Pass to remain in Singapore between 30 to 90 days for social visits. If you require an entry visa, then this has to be applied for via the Immigration Checkpoint Authority unless you have an In-Principal Approval from other authorities, e.g., the Ministry of Manpower. For those moving long-term to Singapore, here are the common visas issued (some may need local sponsors while some are based on the visa holder’s own merits):
- For professionals: Employment Pass, Entre Pass, Personalized Employment Pass, Overseas Networks & Expertise
- For skilled and semi-skilled workers: S Pass, Work Permit for migrant workers, migrant domestic workers, confinement nannies, and performing artists.
- Trainees and students: Training Employment Pass or Permit, Work Holiday Pass, Student Pass
- Family Members: Dependant Pass, Long Term Visit Pass
Process of Acquiring Work Visas for Professionals and Their Families
Using the Employment Pass as an example, as this is the most common professional pass applied for by professionals, managers, and executives relocating to Singapore. Employment Pass applicants have to earn at least S$5,000 a month (depending on sectors and increasing progressively from age 23 upwards) and pass the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS).
What Documents for a Singapore Business Visa Application?
List of Documents and Other Requirements:
- Passport copy with validity of no less than 6 months.
- Highest Academic Qualifications (to be translated into English if it is in another native language). Verification and/or authentication of academic certificates are required if the certificate is declared in the application. This process may take 4-6 weeks and can be done in advance.
- All foreigners aged 13 and above based on their birth date who are applying for new passes must be fully vaccinated with WHO EUL vaccines (including a booster, if required) to get their passes issued.
- Upon submission of all required documents, the outcome of the application is typically updated within 10 working days unless further documents or verifications are required.
For Employment Pass holders relocating to Singapore with family members:
There are two types of passes for family members (dependent or long-term visit pass), and the main pass holder must earn at least S$6,000 per month. The outcome of the application requires 3 weeks for most cases.
Dependant Pass (check document requirements)
- Legally married spouse
- Unmarried children under 21 years old, including those legally adopted
Long-Term Visit Pass (check document requirements)
- Common-law spouse
- Unmarried handicapped children aged 21 and above
- Unmarried step-children under 21 years old
- Parents (main pass holders earning at least S$12,000 per month)
Processes for Setting Up a New Business or a Branch of an Existing Company
If you wish to carry out an activity on a continual basis for the purpose of profit, you must register the business entity with ACRA. Foreigners can register a company and own 100% of its shareholding. Please refer to “Before You Start” for essential information on starting a business in Singapore.
If you are a foreign entrepreneur residing in Singapore and wish to start and operate a business here, you can apply for an Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Eligible foreign entrepreneurs can apply for the EntrePass before incorporating a company with ACRA or within 6 months after incorporating a company with ACRA. For more information on which businesses are eligible and the application requirements, please visit MOM’s website.
Any other pass holders are advised to check with the relevant pass-issuing authority (e.g., MOM/ICA) on their eligibility before registering or taking on an appointment.
One of the requirements for setting up a business in Singapore is that one of the directors/authorized representatives/general partners/managers must be a local resident. If you are a foreign entrepreneur looking to set up a business entity in Singapore, you must appoint a locally resident director/authorized representative to manage the company or business if you wish to continue to reside outside Singapore.
As a foreigner, you may choose to register any type of business entity provided you are able to fulfill the local residency requirement for the entity selected. Foreigners who wish to set up a business entity in Singapore will need to engage a registered filing agent (such as a law firm, accounting firm, or corporate secretarial firm) to submit the application in BizFile+ on their behalf.
These agents also provide a host of other services, such as:
- Provision of Company Secretary;
- Filing Annual Returns with ACRA;
- Maintaining and updating of information with ACRA; etc.
The fees may vary among the filing agents. You are advised to select an agent that suits your business needs.
Requirements for Permanent Residency or Citizenship
As a foreigner, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence if you are:
- Spouse of a Singapore citizen or Singapore permanent resident (PR)
- Unmarried child aged below 21 years old, born within the context of a legal marriage to, or have been legally adopted by, a Singapore citizen or PR
- Aged parent of a Singapore citizen
- Holder of an Employment Pass or S Pass
- Student studying in Singapore
- Foreign investor in Singapore
NOTE: ICA considers factors such as the individual’s family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions, qualifications, age, family profile, and length of residency to assess the applicant’s ability to contribute to Singapore and integrate into our society, as well as his or her commitment to sinking roots in Singapore.
A PR refers to a foreigner who has been granted permanent residence status, which allows him/her to reside in Singapore on a permanent basis. PRs aged 15 years and above will be issued with the Singapore blue Identity Card (IC). A PR is required to have a valid Re-Entry Permit if he/she wishes to travel out and return to Singapore as a PR. A valid Re-Entry Permit (REP) is necessary whenever a Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) wishes to travel out of Singapore. It enables a PR to retain his/her PR status while away from Singapore. A PR who remains outside Singapore without a valid REP will lose his/her PR status.
All applications for permanent residence are carefully considered and reviewed by ICA. The general processing time for each application is six months. Some applications may take longer to process. You will be informed of the outcome by email or post. For more information, please visit https://www.ica.gov.sg/reside/PR/apply.
Becoming a Singapore Citizen
- Have been a Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) for at least two years and are aged 21 and above (you can apply together with your spouse and any unmarried children aged below 21 born to you within the context of a legal marriage or legally adopted by you).
- Have been a PR for at least two years and have been married to a Singapore citizen for at least two years.
- Are an unmarried child aged below 21 born within the context of a legal marriage to, or have been legally adopted by, a Singapore citizen.
- Are a PR studying in Singapore; have been residing/living in Singapore for more than 3 years (of which, at least one year as a PR); and have passed at least one national exam (i.e. PSLE, GCE ‘N’/‘O’/‘A’ levels), or are in the Integrated Programme (IP).
- Are a PR and an Aged Parent of a Singapore citizen.
Singapore Citizenship applications usually take 12 months to process. For more information, please visit https://www.ica.gov.sg/reside/citizenship/apply.
Note: National Service Obligation Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents, unless exempted, are required to serve National Service (NS). Following the completion of full-time NS, they will become Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen). An NSman’s obligation will end at the age of 50 years (for Officers) or 40 years (for other ranks).
NS-liable persons are required to register for NS upon reaching 16 1/2 years old and will be scheduled for enlistment at the earliest opportunity upon reaching 18 years old. MINDEF allows students to attain educational qualifications up to the ‘A’ Levels certificate, the polytechnic diploma, or an equivalent before they are required to serve NS. They are enlisted at the earliest opportunity when they have finished such courses or after turning 18 years old, whichever is later. MINDEF does not grant deferment for university studies, regardless of whether such studies have begun. All male applicants are required to access www.cmpb.gov.sg for information on NS deferment, pre-enlistment process, and Exit Permit requirements before proceeding with the application.
SECTION 4: BUSINESS CULTURE AND WORK ETHIC
Singapore has a work culture that comprises a unique blend of Asian and Western influences. These cultural elements give rise to unwritten rules and regulations governing the behavior of Singaporeans in various settings, including the workplace. The Singaporean government’s non-interventionist approach fosters an environment where cultural norms tend to prevail.
Large Western multinational corporations (MNCs) based in Singapore often exhibit a predominantly Western-style work culture. In contrast, the majority of local government and private companies are influenced to a greater extent by traditional Asian culture in their work environment. Local firms are primarily shaped by cultural traits such as high power distance, collectivism, high uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation.
Singaporeans generally uphold a strict attitude towards life, characterized by clear authority structures and well-defined social status hierarchies.
Multiple Ethnicities – Multiple Cultures
While it may be true that some Singaporeans, especially the younger and more modern ones, may not fully practice traditional Singaporean values centered around the group, hierarchical relationships, and preserving “face,” it is strongly advised that you learn and understand these behavioral patterns. This is because the majority of Singaporeans you will work with still adhere to traditional values, regardless of how Westernized they may appear. “Face” holds particular significance in many Asian cultures, where great care is taken to uphold personal and public integrity in social interactions.
As a foreign employee who has just started working in Singapore, keep the following tips in mind to save “face”:
- Avoid correcting, questioning, or disagreeing with your employer or superior’s mistakes in public.
- When one person causes another to lose “face,” it is seen as a public humiliation. The consequences of “face” loss can be severe, including distrust, resentment, and bitter feelings.
- The best approach is to discuss matters of disagreement and confrontation discreetly, delicately, indirectly, and in private.
Many businesses in Singapore are family-owned, which means that personal relationships play a significant role in conducting business. Understanding the individuals you’re working with and the dynamics of the partnership will help align your expectations.
- Punctuality holds great importance when it comes to meetings and appointments.
- When making introductions, do so in order of seniority, as hierarchy matters in Singapore, and people generally defer to those of higher seniority. A person’s age and position typically indicate their higher status. It’s worth noting that job titles can sometimes be inflated; for example, a recent graduate may hold the title of vice president.
- During the exchange of business cards, it’s polite to take a moment to learn the person’s name as a sign of respect and interest. After receiving a name card, place it face up on the meeting table throughout the meeting. It’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about the correct pronunciation of their name. There’s no need for gift-giving, as it may be perceived as bribery. If you do wish to give gifts, small and modest corporate items such as a pen or notebook will suffice.
- In the realm of business, Singaporeans can be demanding. Provide a brief introduction about your company and explain what you can offer to your customer if they express interest. Be prepared for flexibility during negotiations, and incorporate this into your pricing before the meeting. This approach will leave a positive impression on your host and strengthen the business relationship.
Typical Workday and Work Week
Many companies in Singapore operate on a 5-day per week schedule, typically from 9 am to 6 pm. Hybrid working has become a clear preference, stemming from the pandemic and the resulting restrictions, and it has become firmly entrenched in our work culture, persisting long after those restrictions were lifted. A hybrid work model need not be binary; that is, employees don’t have to work solely from home or the office; it can also be a combination of both. This depends on factors such as the industry, nature of work, and organization size. Some organizations have implemented fixed office days for face-to-face meetings or employee onboarding, others have split teams or staggered schedules, while some provide employees with the flexibility to choose their work location.
Normal working hours range from 40 to 45 hours per week, with the potential for more depending on workload. Typically, there is a one-hour lunch break, and overtime is not applicable to most professional and managerial positions.
Singapore observes 10 public holidays, and your annual leave entitlement depends on your years of service with your employer, starting at 7 days for the first year.
Tips for Making Good Business Relationships
Singaporeans plan for the long term. You can acknowledge this by investing in the relationships you build there. Be present in the market regularly to show your commitment to doing business there. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need a clear engagement plan to stay connected, especially via WhatsApp.
Singaporeans value strong business relationships over superficial ones. Be prepared to invest time and effort to build trust and rapport with your business partners. Most Singaporeans enjoy talking about food and travel, so use these topics to get to know them.
Singaporeans are direct and straight to the point when conducting business. They may not elaborate further unless asked to. If your partner is silent, they could be taking the time to consider what you’ve said. If so, it’s important not to jump into the conversation. Humor will help disengage from tricky situations.
Singaporeans also value harmony and avoid outward signs of conflict or confrontation. Be sure not to question or disagree with your business partners in public. Don’t be forceful or confrontational in public with others on your team, and don’t reject business partners or supervisors outright.
SECTION 5: HOUSING AND ACCOMMODATION
Commonly Available Accommodation
Private apartments and condominiums come in various sizes, ranging from 500 sq ft to 3,000+ sq ft. Private residential projects offer studio, 1, 2, 3, 4 bedrooms, and penthouse units. Residents share common areas and facilities such as the clubhouse, playground, gymnasium, swimming pool, tennis court, and BBQ pit. Some developments may provide 24-hour security and surveillance and intercom systems.
Landed properties on Singapore real estate listings refer to houses that come with private gardens or yards. The Singapore Government imposes restrictions on foreign ownership of private landed property, and approval is required for a purchase.
The various types of landed properties:
- Bungalow: Free-standing house with no shared wall except the fence.
- Semi-Detached: A pair of houses, two houses joined side by side.
- Inter Terrace (Intermediate Terrace House): A row of houses joined side by side.
- Corner Terrace (Corner Terrace House): The last houses on both ends of the row of houses.
- Townhouse/Cluster House: Landed house that shares the same compound or facilities (if any).
HDB (Housing Development Board) is a common feature in Singapore’s real estate listings, with more than 80% of the population living in public housing. The purchase of HDB flats is restricted to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. However, they can be rented out if the owner meets the eligibility requirements of HDB. HDB has a quota on the subletting of whole HDB flats to non-citizen (NC) subtenants. This is to prevent the formation of foreigner enclaves in HDB estates and to maintain the Singaporean character of our HDB heartlands.
Regarding the HDB flat classification system, please note that the living area is counted as one room. For more information, please refer to www.hdb.gov.sg.
Housing Prices Across Different Regions
|Low Range (Outskirt areas other than Near & Core Central Area) About 20-30 mins to City Centre||Mid-Range (Near Central eg Upper Bukit Timah, Serangoon Gardens) About 10-20 mins to City Centre||High Range (Core Central eg Orchard, Holland) Inside City Centre|
|Studio Apartment||S$2,200 to S$2,800||S$2,600 to S$3,800||S$4,000 to S$4,800|
|1 Bedroom Apartment||S$3,000 to S$3,600||S$3,500 to S$4,500||S$4,500 to S$6,000|
|2 Bedroom Apartment||S$4,000 to S$4,600||S$4,500 to S$5,800||S$5,800 to S$8,500|
|3 Bedroom Apartment||S$4,800 to S$6,000||S$6,300 to S$9,000||S$8,500 to S$15,000|
|4 Bedroom Apartment||S$6,200 to S$11,500||S$7,500 to S$12,000||S$13,000 to S$20,000|
|1 Bedroom House||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|2 Bedroom House||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|3 Bedroom House||S$6,800 to S$9,000||S$7,000 to S$14,000||S$10,000 to S$15,000|
|4 Bedroom House||S$7,300 to S$15,000 (without pool) S$15,000 to S$20,000 (with pool)||S$12,000 to S$18,000 (without pool) S$18,000 to S$45,000 (with pool)||S$15,000 to S$28,000 (without pool) S$22,000 to S$55,000 (with pool)|
Key Considerations When Searching for Housing
- Budget: Set your rental budget before you start looking for a unit to ensure you don’t make impulsive decisions, and so that you can easily start shortlisting units.
- Lifestyle requirements: Some landlords may not allow pets or smoking within the rental property. These restrictions may rule out some rental options for you. Even if your landlord has no pet restrictions, please ensure that your pet is on HDB’s list of approved dog breeds. (Also, cats are not allowed in HDB flats).
- Living space: Decide on the amount of space you’ll need to be comfortable. In general, singles tend to rent units that are around 500 to 600 sq. ft., while families tend to seek units that are at least 1,100 sq. ft.
- Accessibility: Location, proximity to public transport, proximity to the office and school, amenities in the vicinity. Properties that are close to MRT stations and malls tend to have higher rental rates, but the convenience may be worth it.
- Rental inclusions: utilities and internet are Tenant’s expenses and are usually not included in the rental. Maintenance like air con servicing and pest control are commonly under Tenant’s responsibility unless pre-negotiated to be under the Landlord’s responsibilities.
- Furnished, partially furnished, or unfinished:
Partially furnished is common for 3-bedroom units upward and includes:
- Built-in wardrobes in all the bedrooms o Air-con & ceiling fans (optional)
- Bathroom fittings and water heater o Lighting throughout the apartment
- Curtains or roller blinds
- Kitchen cabinets, fridge, stove, oven/microwave, washing machine, tumble dryer. A dishwasher is optional, depending on the space available.
- Common for studio, 1 to 2 bedrooms
Includes all of the above mentioned in partially furnished and in addition, may include moveable items like sofa, coffee table, TV console, dining set, bedroom furniture, mattresses, or optional appliances like TV or lamps
- Crockery, utensils, bed sheets, pillows, towels are not provided
- Commonly a personal lease
- 2 years lease with 12+2 diplomatic clause. A 1-year lease is usually a fixed lease without a diplomatic clause.
- Short-term rental below 3 months is illegal.
- 3 months initial deposit (1 month Holding + 2 months Security Deposit) payable to secure a lease.
- Rental is payable monthly in advance of the rental cycle.
- Stamp Duty (0.4% x Lease duration in months x monthly rental) is payable by the Tenant to legalize the lease.
- Finder’s Fee (up to 1 month rent) if you engage a realtor to help you.
Process of Purchasing a Property
Eligibility for Foreigners Buying Property in Singapore
Here are the common property types for which foreigners are eligible to buy:
- An apartment or condominium unit
- A strata-landed house in an approved condominium development
- A leasehold estate in a landed residential property for a term not exceeding seven years, including any further term that may be granted by way of an option for renewal
- A landed property on Sentosa Cove
Foreigner Restrictions for Buying Private Property in Singapore
There are certain restrictions for foreigners when buying a landed property on the main island of Singapore. As such, you will need to write to the Land Dealings Approval Unit when looking to purchase the following:
- Vacant residential land
- Terrace house
- Semi-detached house
- Bungalow/detached house
- Strata landed house that is not within an approved condominium development under the Planning Act (e.g. townhouse or cluster house)
- Shophouse (for non-commercial use)
- Approval is on a case-by-case basis. Applicants stand a better chance if they can show proof that they have made an “exceptional economic contribution to Singapore,” as SLA puts it.
Procedures for Buying Property in Singapore
- Engaging a Property Agent (optional but recommended):
You might want to consider involving a licensed property agent to assist you.
A good property agent will:
- Understand your purchase objectives and tailor recommendations to you according to these objectives.
- Ensure sound financial planning has been done.
- Help you navigate the market and bring your attention to important factors/potential pitfalls to look out for.
- Advise on the right price by conducting past transacted data and comparative market analysis.
- Handle all negotiation of terms in your interest and manage all necessary paperwork, which you may not be familiar with.
- Please clarify if the agent is charging you (the buyer) any commission or will they be collecting the commission from the seller’s agent. Commonly, it’s the latter. An agent can only collect a commission from one party. The seller typically pays 1-2% commission based on the transacted selling price.
- Financial Planning
If you require a housing loan to purchase your property, apply for an In-Principal Approval (IPA) of a loan from a bank to ascertain your maximum loan amount for your total property budget. If you are getting a loan from a local bank, the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) threshold is set at a maximum of 55% of the borrower’s monthly income. Monthly debt obligations count toward this threshold. Exceptions exist for certain situations.
- Check If You Need to Pay Taxes
Foreigners are required to pay Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) on top of Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) when buying private property in Singapore.
“Foreigners were hit with the highest ABSD hike effective 26 April 2023 – they now have to pay a rate of 60 per cent when buying any residential property, up from 30 per cent.”
Please click on the following link to understand the:
- Offer To Purchase
Once you find a suitable property, discuss with your agent regarding the negotiation strategy and make an offer to the seller. It is very important to clearly include terms such as price, option period (the time you get to confirm your decision and secure your financing), completion period (the time from you exercising your option to you becoming the legal owner), furnishings, and other conditions if any.
This way, the seller can consider your offer with a full picture, and there would not be any miscommunication subsequently causing the deal to fall through midway.
- Acceptance and Option to Purchase (OTP)
When the seller accepts your offer, an Option to Purchase (OTP) is signed, accompanied by a deposit (usually 1% of the purchase price unless negotiated otherwise).
Your agent will perform the due diligence necessary, such as obtaining Proof of Ownership, before you proceed with the payment of the deposit.
You will now have 2 weeks (unless negotiated otherwise) until the expiry of this OTP. If you do not exercise this OTP by the expiry date, your deposit will be forfeited. You can now proceed to review bank loan packages and secure a Letter of Offer (LO) from the bank.
You must now engage a conveyancing firm to handle all legal matters pertaining to this purchase.
- Exercising the OTP
Within 2 weeks, once you have signed your Letter of Offer (LO) with the mortgage banker and engaged a conveyancing firm, you will head down to the firm in person to exercise the OTP. This is accompanied by the remaining deposit, typically 4% of the purchase price.
The conveyancing firm will also collect the payments for your Buyer Stamp Duty and legal fees.
- Completion and Legal Matters
After exercising the OTP, what’s left is just the waiting time to the completion date, which is when you become the legal owner of the property. You would need to pay the remaining down payment before the completion date.
- Property Transfer and Handover
On the completion date, ownership of the property is officially transferred to you. You will receive the keys to the property and can take possession unless you have purchased a property with tenancy.
SECTION 6: TRANSPORTATION AND CONNECTIVITY
Main Forms of Transportation
Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and bus systems have an extensive network of routes that will help you zip around the city. Within the city, it will be underground, while when you approach outward from the city, it will be over-ground. Our bus routes are also some of the most scenic, allowing you to indulge in the lush greenery and beautiful architecture of our ‘city in a garden’. All public buses are wheelchair accessible, and open strollers are allowed. These are the cheapest way to get around town.
Taxi or Ride-Hailing Apps
Taxis are comfortable and especially handy if you want to go to places not accessible by bus or MRT. Cabs here are metered, but there may be surcharges depending on when, where, and which company’s taxi you board. To get a rough idea of the final fare, check with the driver on the surcharges and ask for a receipt at the end of the trip.
You can hail a taxi by the roadside at most places or by queuing for one at a taxi stand, which you’ll find at most malls, hotels, and attractions. Alternatively, you may use one of the ride-hailing applications available in Singapore to book a ride from your preferred pick-up point to your desired destination. Some options available include Grab, Gojek, Ryde, and TADA.
Cycling around our sunny island is a great way to get your dose of Vitamin D and enjoy the green spaces that dot our city. Singapore boasts a well-connected network of cycling paths but do note that there is a scarcity of bicycle parking at public areas, and motorists could be quite inconsiderate towards two-wheelers, as there are no separate bicycle lanes on the road. Feel free to bring your foldable bike onboard our trains and buses but check if they’re too bulky. E-bikes are a legal transport device on roads and shared paths (not pedestrian pathways) as long as they are Land Transport Authority (LTA) approved, affixed with an LTA orange seal, registered, and used by a person aged 16 years old and above.
In Singapore, cars and other vehicles drive on the left side of the road—due to its historical rule by the United Kingdom. As a result, vehicles are catered to right-hand drive. Buying a car is extremely expensive, so many foreigners may start off with leasing or renting to avoid the high down payment. You can drive for the first 12 months with your valid foreign driving license. For non-English licenses, an International Driving Permit or a translation done by the government body of your home country’s non-English-language passports and driving license are required. If you would like to continue driving in Singapore beyond 12 months, you will need to convert to a Singapore driving license.
Internet and Mobile Connectivity
Singapore boasts one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world, with over 90% of its population having access to the internet. This high level of connectivity has had a profound impact on Singapore’s economy and society, enabling the growth of various industries, such as e-commerce, fintech, and digital media. With blazing fast 5G networks and up to 10Gbps home broadband, Singapore’s internet affordability is ranked second in the world.
Singapore has a ton of free Wi-Fi hotspots in public places. Just connect to the Wireless@SG network, and you’re good to go, with speeds from 5Mbps onwards. You’ll need to log in to Wireless@SG with your mobile number via any web browser. A one-time PIN will be sent to your phone. Changi Airport, MRT stations, and most shopping malls, restaurants, and cafes also offer free Wi-Fi.
Singapore has become one of the first countries in the world to be covered by standalone 5G, with over 95% standalone 5G network coverage. If you’re a traveler in Singapore, you can gain access to increased download speeds with 5G prepaid SIM cards, such as the Hi!Tourist 5G Sim Cards from Singtel.
The provision of 2G network services has not been available in Singapore since 2017. As such, visitors are advised to bring along a 3G or 4G-enabled mobile device when visiting Singapore.
If your existing operator does not support 3G or 4G roaming, be sure to purchase a prepaid SIM card on arrival so you can be instantly connected. Prepaid SIM cards are easily purchased at the telcos’ retail counters and islandwide convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Cheers, as well as at Singapore Changi Airport’s Changi Recommends booths and telco retail counters.
You will have to produce your passport for registration when purchasing a prepaid SIM card.
SECTION 7: SOCIAL INTEGRATION AND NETWORKING
Singapore’s social and ethnic fabric is a unique blend of cultures, and Singapore’s lifestyle is multicultural, with each of these ethnic communities maintaining their unique way of life while living harmoniously. The Singapore government has laid down five basic ‘Shared Values’ to develop a distinct Singaporean identity – nation before community and society above self; family as the basic unit of society; community support and respect for the individual; consensus not conflict; racial and religious harmony.
Integrating into Singapore is not hard, as the city-state is already a multiracial society with English as its main language. Most Singaporeans are very welcoming, but immigrants have to make an effort too. That could mean spending some time in local communities, connecting with co-workers, learning some Singlish, joining a local place of worship, and soaking in the various festivities happening year-round. Most of all, integration requires a commitment to Singapore and its values, learning its history, and getting involved in charity work or neighborhood groups.
Exercising sensitivity towards local cultural nuances and showing a level of courtesy go a long way to earn the trust and respect of a Singaporean. Some tips to share:
- Criticizing the Country: Talking badly about the government and the city-island as a whole is a no-no in Singapore. The general public may find this person or critic scandalous, rude, and unpatriotic.
- Moving Things Using Your Feet: It is also a cultural taboo in Singapore to touch or move things using your feet because they believe that this body part is unclean.
- Snacking on Public Transport: Eating and drinking while riding the Singapore mass transit systems would get you in trouble. Those caught violating this rule will be charged S$500.
- Spitting in Public: Other than appearing rude, inconsiderate, and unrefined, people caught spitting in public are prohibited and could face lawsuits or fines of up to S$1,000.
Communities or Groups for Expats
Online Forums/Social Media – Among the top expat forums in Singapore are Singapore Expats Forum, British Expats, American Expats in Singapore, Singapore Expats Facebook Group, Singapore Expat Women.
Family-friendly social clubs: The British Club, The American Club, The Hollandse Club, The Swiss Club, Tanglin Club.
For business and professionals: American Chamber of Commerce, British Chamber of Commerce, Australian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce.
Associations: American Association of Singapore (AAS), The British Association (BA), and the Australian and New Zealand Association (ANZA) organize sports leagues and regular meetings, outings, charity events, book clubs, and social gatherings. Women’s organizations include the American Women’s Association (AWA), Scandinavian Women’s Association, the Italian Women’s Group, the Indian Women’s Association, and the Spanish Speaking Women’s Association.
Socializing and Networking
Social clubs are a great way to cater to your recreational and leisure needs. They offer a variety of sports, games, events, and activities to enjoy while helping you find and connect with like-minded peers and fellow hobbyists. Popular clubs include The Singapore Recreation Club, The Polo Club, The Singapore Island Country Club, and Changi Sailing Club.
For the high rollers: 33 Club, The Grande Whisky Museum, 67 Pall Mall, Mandala Club, and 1880.
How to be involved in local activities or community events
Lifestyle magazines, both in printed and digital formats, will highlight upcoming monthly activities. Do subscribe if you don’t want to miss out on what’s happening in town. Most clubs will also circulate their regular newsletters to keep members updated on upcoming events. If you join a specific group of shared interests, for example, a running group, most will set up chat groups to organize regular meet-ups for running and socializing thereafter.
There are more than 2,000 charities in Singapore where you can volunteer your time. Volunteering opportunities span from working with disadvantaged communities to volunteering with kids in need, volunteering with animal shelters, soup kitchens, and more.
SECTION 8: DEALING WITH EMERGENCIES
In the event of a civil emergency in Singapore, the Singapore Civil Defence Force is well trained and equipped to deal with contingencies. It offers an emergency handbook that provides step-by-step procedures in emergency situations. Copies can also be downloaded from the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s website. In the event of a civil emergency situation in Singapore, there would be widespread guidance and instructions transmitted via local English language television and radio.
Singapore’s Internal Security Department has a hotline (6256 6657) to which suspicious activities may be reported. The local authorities encourage people to report such activities, and those with concerns should do so.
General emergency numbers include Fire and Ambulance on 995, and Police on 999.
How to call an ambulance
Accident & Emergency (A&E) Departments at the hospitals are open 24 hours and have access to “on-call” specialists. However, they can be more expensive and very busy and should be used only for emergency care.
Private ambulance – 6272 6018
Non-emergency ambulance – 1777
Please note that 995 for emergencies will call the government ambulance that takes you to the nearest government hospital A&E Department. To go to a private hospital, phone the A&E department of that hospital or the private ambulance.
Singapore is fortunate enough to have been spared from major natural disasters such as typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
Singapore experiences smoke haze from time to time. The haze is caused by forest fires in the region, which arise when open burning is carried out to clear land for agricultural uses. It can be made worse by dry seasons, changes in wind direction, and when precipitation is low. Prevailing winds sometimes carry smoke haze produced by the forest fires over Singapore’s skies, particularly during the Southwest monsoon season.
While the ultimate solution to the issue of haze lies in collaborative efforts to reduce the burning of forest cover, Singapore is taking steps to ensure its population is equipped to deal with haze when it occurs. Such steps include the provision of early haze warnings, measurement and dissemination of air quality information, and guidelines for dealing with haze-related issues.
For practical tips for households to reduce exposure to haze particles at home, click here.
Support in Emergency Situations
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is a uniformed organization under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The main role of SCDF is to provide fire-fighting, rescue, and emergency medical services; mitigate hazardous materials incidents, as well as formulate, implement, and enforce regulations on fire safety and civil defense shelter matters.
All residents are encouraged to download the Emergency Handbook as it covers important protocols like peacetime emergencies, wartime emergencies, and terrorism.
Please visit the SCDF website for more information: https://www.scdf.gov.sg/
The SMS 71999 Service is an SMS text messaging platform by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for all members of the public who require emergency assistance and when it is not safe to call ‘999’ or when they are unable to speak. Examples include a hostage situation when the informant is hiding or when the informant is unable to speak for fear of revealing their position. For full details, visit https://www.police.gov.sg/SMS-71999.
You are advised to report emergencies via ‘999’ if it is safe for you to call. Unlike SMS 71999, calling ‘999’ ensures prompt police response as it allows direct communication and clarification between you and the police.
An embassy can help you in a crisis but with limits. For instance, embassies can help with emergency evacuations amid natural disasters, war, or other forms of civil unrest; however, that assistance does not include paying for your flight home or providing government transportation to safety. You are encouraged to contact your respective embassy in Singapore to get more info on the type of support they offer.
Reloc8 Asia Pacific Group
Reloc8 consists of key partners located in 12 countries across the Asia Pacific region. Together, we offer employee mobility services to clients seeking assistance in 23 locations throughout Asia, including: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. In addition to these, we extend our services to the following destinations: Fiji, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, The Solomons, The Maldives, and Guam. Our members represent the premier destination and immigration service providers in the Asia Pacific region. Each partner maintains their unique style and cultural identity, contributing to the Alliance’s diverse and multicultural atmosphere. However, they all share a collective commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and service excellence.