Skip to main content

Services sector: Work Permit requirements

To employ foreign workers for the services sector, you will have to meet specific requirements for business activity, worker's nationality, quota and levy. Find out how you can meet these criteria.

These requirements are additional and specific to the services sector. You should refer to the more general conditions and requirements for Work Permit as well.

Types of business activities

Your company can be considered to be under the services sector if it has registered any of the following as its principal business activity:

  • Financial, insurance, real estate and business services.
  • Transport, storage and communications services.
  • Commerce (retail and wholesale trade).
  • Community, social and personal services (excluding domestic workers).
  • Hotels.
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, food courts and other approved food establishments (excluding food stalls or hawker stalls).
Licences for food establishments are issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA). Only operators with foodshop licences issued by NEA are allowed to employ foreign workers. The NEA licence must bear the name of the company, sole proprietor or partner. For private limited and limited liability partnership (LLP) companies, we do not accept licences bearing the name of an individual.

Foreign worker eligibility

You can only hire foreign workers who meet the conditions for source countries, age when applying and maximum period of employment.

Source countries

You can employ foreign workers from these countries:

  • Malaysia
  • People’s Republic of China (PRC)
  • North Asian sources (NAS):
    • Hong Kong (HKSAR passport)
    • Macau
    • South Korea
    • Taiwan

Age when applying

The minimum age for all non-domestic foreign workers is 18 years old.

When applying for a Work Permit:

  • Malaysians must be below 58 years old.
  • Non-Malaysians must be below 50 years old.

Maximum period of employment

For the services sector, the maximum number of years a foreign worker can work in Singapore on a Work Permit is as follows:

Nationalities Type of worker Maximum period of employment
PRC Basic skilled (R2) 10 years
PRC Higher skilled (R1) 18 years
NAS, Malaysia All No maximum period of employment.

Note: All workers can only work up to 60 years of age.

Quota and levy

The number of Work Permit holders that you can hire is limited by a quota (or dependency ratio ceiling) and subject to a levy. The levy rates are tiered so that those who hire close to the maximum quota will pay a higher levy.

The quota and levy rate for the services sector are as follows:

Quota Basic skilled – monthly Basic skilled – daily Higher skilled – monthly Higher skilled – daily
Basic Tier / Tier 1:
Up to 10% of the total workforce
$450 $14.80 $300 $9.87
Tier 2:
Above 10% to 25% of the total workforce
$600 $19.73 $400 $13.16
Tier 3:
Above 25% to 40% of the total workforce
$800 $26.31 $600 $19.73

Calculate your quota

Note: The daily levy rate only applies to Work Permit holders who did not work for a full calendar month. The daily levy rate is calculated as follows: (Monthly levy rate x 12) / 365 = rounding up to the nearest cent.

Qualifying for higher skilled worker levy

You pay less levy for higher skilled foreign workers. You can apply for the higher skilled worker levy rate for workers who meet the following requirements:

Requirements What is needed
Academic qualifications

Malaysia – Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). If you wish to use a diploma or higher qualification, you need to produce a copy of the transcript or a letter from the institution stating the course duration.

North Asian sources (NAS) – High school certificates

People’s Republic of China (PRC) – Diploma

Skills Evaluation Test (SET) conducted by ITE SET Level 1 or National ITE Certificate (Nitec)
Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) Composite Assessment for Landscape, Hotel, F&B (Service) and Retail
Market-Based Skills Recognition Framework (MBF)
  • Earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $1,600
    - you can update your worker’s salary using WP Online.
  • Worked in Singapore as a Work Permit holder for at least 4 years.

Additional requirement for hotel, retail and F&B industries:

  • To qualify as higher skilled workers, non-Malaysian Work Permit holders working in the hotel, retail and F&B industries must also obtain level 4 of the Workplace Literacy (WPL) listening and speaking assessments administered by WDA. The WDA will then inform us automatically. You do not need to apply to MOM for conversion to higher skilled worker levy.
    • You can register for the WPL assessments through the CES Online Booking e-portal. For more information, refer to the FAQs.
    • Those who qualify under MBF are not required to go through additional WPL assessments.

Job Flexibility Scheme

The Job Flexibility Scheme allows Work Permit holders in the services sector to multi-task across occupations. Refer to the Tripartite Guidelines on the Job Flexibility Scheme for implementation practices.