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How To Start A Business In Singapore On A Dependent Pass

A Dummy’s Guide To Help Realise Your Business Dream

Many expatriates settling down in Singapore are often attracted to the relative ease of starting a business here to jumpstart their own entrepreneurial dreams. Singapore has remained among the top of the list in World Bank’s rankings for the easiest country to conduct and set up a business. Compared to the traditional business hubs, it is much easier and faster to start businesses in Singapore. Yet with the changing rules and regulations in recent years, it can be a tad bit confusing to keep up.

With that in mind, here are the few fundamental steps you need to take in figuring out how to turn your business ideas into reality on your dependent pass.


Type Of Business Structure To Register For: Sole Proprietorship Or Private Company?

There are two main business structures that you can register your business as: Sole Proprietorship (SP) or Private Limited Company. For those who wish to work for themselves and start their own business, an SP is by far the most common option. The sole-proprietor has absolute say in running of the business and the business is not a separate entity from the person. This business structure tends to be more attractive since they are cost-effective, simpler and more flexible to set up and administer.

However, in May 2016, the governing body the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revised the rules so that applications for Letter of Consent (LoC), the necessary document to be granted permission to work in Singapore, are now considered only for employment with Singapore employers. Previously, if you were on a Dependent’s Pass (DP) and wanted to start a small business – or work as a freelancer or consultant – you could simply register your own business and apply for the LoC that would enable you to work. Since the revisions in May this year though, MOM is no longer allowing LoC’s for DP holders to register for an SP, where the DP holder is sole owner of the company. Instead, a Singaporean or Permanent Resident (PR) must now own the SP, whom will then be able to apply for a LoC for the DP holder to work for them. Essentially, it’s now impossible to be both a foreign business owner and be approved for a LoC. 

Another alternative then, is to incorporate a Private Ltd Company that requires a Singaporean or PR director or shareholder. The local partner can then apply for a LoC to work for the company on your behalf.


Where To Register And Processing Time?

After determining the legal entity your business will operate under, you can register directly with ACRA with the following documentations:

· ACRA-approved company name

· Company director, secretary and shareholder details

· Company address

· Description of business activities

· Constitution

The registration involves an online application form accessible through the BizFile portal on ACRA's homepage. There are also designated kiosks at ACRA's headquarters at International Plaza for you to register in-person. The process involves a fee, that varies from S$50 to S$600 depending on the type of company registered. This should roughly take around 15 minutes from confirmation of payment. However, if additional government approval is required, the registration may take longer.

Alternatively, you could bypass the hassle and consult a business incorporation service firm to guide and expedite the process from pre-registration document preparation to post-incorporation tax registration.