Digital is the future. To modernise Singapore’s workforce, we need to be able to train local employees with the right skills to take up good jobs and entrench Singapore as a global hub. At the same time, we need to bring in top tech talent to disrupt the status quo in a big way – and one way is through the newly announced Tech.Pass.
Just last week, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing spoke about the importance of attracting tech talents in order to position Singapore to succeed in the transformed global economy after COVID-19, and create opportunities for Singaporeans.
He cautioned that there is only a small window to act before such talent gets scooped up by other countries, and that actions taken now will determine if Singapore can establish herself as a tech hub.
This sentiment was echoed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a week later during his remarks delivered virtually at the Singapore Tech Forum, where he shared Singapore’s multi-pronged approach to build world-class tech teams to ensure Singapore remains globally competitive.
Among other initiatives to attract top-tier tech talents to Singapore, Tech.Pass was launched by the Economic Development Board (EDB) in November 2020. This scheme expands the Tech@SG programme, and complements existing visa schemes for skilled talents.
This is also timely as the mooted increase in taxes on high income earners and corporations in the US by Joe Biden’s administration could spark an exodus. This is coupled with the rise of remote working arrangements globally and increasing hostility towards high income earners and immigrants in the US.
Here’s what prospective Tech.Pass applicants and companies in Singapore need to know about this new scheme and how to make use of it.
Purpose And Benefits Of EDB’s New Tech.Pass
Competition for tech talents has been a big problem for companies and countries all around the world, which seem to have an insatiable hunger for hiring technical staff. Singapore is no different, and we have to compete for the best tech talent to contribute to and develop the local tech ecosystem.
Tech.Pass was launched in order to attract tech entrepreneurs and leaders to live, work and invest in Singapore. Tech.Pass gives holders the flexibility to start and run businesses in Singapore, as well as become investors, employees, consultants or directors in Singapore-based companies, among other activities here. Here is the full list of 7 allowable activities under Tech.Pass:
- Start and operate a business;
- Be an employee in one or more Singapore-based companies;
- Take up lecturing roles in institutes of higher learning;
- Serve on the Board of Directors of a Singapore-based company;
- Be a shareholder or investor in Singapore companies;
- Serve as a mentor or advisor of start-ups or companies in Singapore; and
- Conduct corporate training or workshops.
Pass holders will also be able to bring along their spouse, children, and parents to live with them in Singapore.
Eligibility Criteria For Applying For Tech.Pass
To apply for Tech.Pass, applicants need to meet any two of the three criteria:
- Last drawn fixed monthly salary of at least $20,000 during the last year;
- At least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in a tech company that has either a valuation of at least US$500 million or US$30 million in funding and beyond;
- At least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at the very least 100,000 monthly active users or US$100 million in revenue.
Given the criteria, Tech.Pass does feel like it is aimed at the top end of the global talent pool.
Once granted, Tech.Pass has a two-year validity, with a one-time renewal for another two years subject to meeting certain criteria, such as having earned at least $240,000 in assessable income, demonstrating total annual business spending of at least $100,000, employing locals and more.
Tech.Pass will be open for applications in January 2021, with 500 slots available upon launch.
How Tech.Pass Is Different From Employment Passes (E Pass) For Professionals Or EntrePass For Entrepreneurs
Flexibility is the defining characteristic of the Tech.Pass.
Mid-level foreigners who wish to work in Singapore would traditionally require their employer to apply for an Employment Pass or S Pass on their behalf, subject to salary and quota restrictions.
In contrast, Tech.Pass aims to attract “top-tier talents” and is tied to the individual, who has the ability to work for a company, do consulting, teach or mentor, join a board as a director, or even start their own companies – without needing to seek any further permission or waivers.
Before Tech.Pass, foreigners who wish to start businesses would have needed to apply under Enterprise Singapore’s EntrePass.
For more information about Tech.Pass and news when it comes time to apply come January 2021, you can visit the EDB website.
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