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Written Answer by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng on Foreigners on Student Pass Undertaking Part-Time Work

Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis asked the Minister for Manpower for foreign students holding a student pass (a) whether there is a requirement for foreign students holding a student pass to declare if they are undertaking part-time work during the school term; and (b) over the last five years, what is the annual number of student pass holders found to be working where a work pass would have been required.


Foreign students who are accorded a Student’s Pass should be primarily here to study. To guard against potential abuse, Student’s Pass holders need a work pass in order to work, just like any other foreigner in Singapore.

However, we do allow Student’s Pass holders to work during term-time without a work pass if they meet highly specific requirements. First, the work must not exceed 16 hours a week, or must be for an industrial attachment that is part of course requirements. The 16-hour limit allows foreign students to engage in part-time work to defray their living expenses, while ensuring that the bulk of their time remains dedicated to their studies, which is the primary reason for them to be in Singapore. Aside from defraying living expenses, some students also use the flexibility to gain practical experience that are relevant to their course of study or to take up volunteer work. Other educational hubs offer foreign students similar flexibilities to undertake part-time work during term-time – in the United States and the United Kingdom, the limit is higher at 20 hours a week.

Second, the Student’s Pass holder must be enrolled in an approved institution. These are institutions with stringent admissions criteria, and where the intake of international students is controlled. There are currently 20 approved institutions, 14 of which are MOE’s Institutes of Higher Learning, such as our local universities and polytechnics. The remainder are foreign universities and business schools with campuses in Singapore. MOM, together with the relevant supporting agencies, like MOE and EDB, assesses all approved institutions, and placement on this list requires approval from the Minister for Manpower. The list is tightly-scoped, and we have rejected many appeals from businesses to include more educational institutions on this list to augment labour shortages.

This balanced approach has allowed us to guard against abuse, while maintaining a vibrant educational ecosystem in Singapore for top international students, who may stay on to contribute meaningfully to our economy even after graduation. Our own Singaporean students who venture overseas have also benefitted from similar flexibilities accorded to them by their host countries to work during their studies.

Given the strict requirements, we do not require foreign students who are eligible for work during term-time without a work pass to declare their undertakings. We take a firm stance against foreign students who work illegally. From 2016 to 2020, MOM and ICA took enforcement action against 73 Student’s Pass holders who were found to be working illegally. These students were not from the list of approved institutions. Student’s Pass holders found to be working illegally can face a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment of up to two years or both, upon conviction. MOM and ICA will also cancel their Student’s Pass, deport them, and debar them from future employment in Singapore.

Employers will need to make sure that they are in compliance with MOM’s regulations when hiring foreign students. Employers who illegally employ these Student’s Pass holders, or abet these Student’s Pass holders in illegal employment, can face a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $30,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both. Their work pass privileges may also be suspended.