Relocating to Singapore: things to know before you go

9 May 2023 | Icon Relo

Singapore is a popular relocation destination. Its strategic location, low taxes and pro-business policies are just a few factors which combine to make it a very favourable business environment. Of Singapore’s approximate population of 5.7 million, around 29% are non-residents, encompassing foreign workers, students and expatriates. Aside from being an important business centre for Asia, Singapore is also known for its cleanliness, multiculturalism and safety.

If you are relocating to Singapore, here are some things you should know before you go.

Employment and work visas

One of the most important things to consider when relocating to Singapore is your visa. Singapore has strict rules on foreign workers to ensure that Singaporeans are not displaced in the job market. There are quotas for foreign workers in certain industries which limit the number of foreign workers that employers can hire.

You will need a work permit to be able to work in Singapore, for which you must meet certain salary requirements (the minimum for an employment pass is currently SGD 4,500 per month) and have the necessary skills and qualifications. Highly skilled workers are typically given preference over those will lower skill levels.

If you are granted a work permit, you may be able to bring your family to Singapore as dependents. However, they must also obtain the necessary visas and permits to live in Singapore.

Housing

There is a high demand for housing in Singapore so it can be difficult to find a place to live. Rents are also very high, especially in popular neighbourhoods. Rents have been increasing sharply in the past couple of years, causing issues for assignee budgets. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can range from SGD 1,800 to SGD 3,500.

Apartments and condominiums are the most popular type of properties in Singapore, which are usually part of larger residential buildings and often come with pools, gyms and security.

The Singapore government provides public housing (known as housing and development board flats) which is available to the majority of the population. These are typically more affordable than private housing, but they are subject to a number of restrictions including minimum occupancy periods before they can be sold or rented out.

Healthcare

The Singaporean healthcare system is a combination of public and private healthcare options. Patients can choose to receive treatment at either public or private facilities and can switch between the two. Public healthcare is heavily subsidised by the government, funded by taxes and fees for services, and provides affordable healthcare to citizens and permanent residents. Public healthcare is also available to foreign workers in Singapore, but they often have to pay higher fees than citizens. Private healthcare is also widely available in Singapore, offering faster access to treatment and a higher level of personalised care for a higher price.

Cost of living

Singapore is consistently seen as one of the most expensive cities in the world. In 2022, the World Economic Forum ranked Singapore as joint first with New York City as the most expensive. The cost is driven up by the high real estate prices, high transportation costs and import costs.

It is worth noting that it is particularly expensive to own a car in Singapore. You must obtain a certificate of entitlement, which permits you to own a car for a period of 10 years, and can be renewed thereafter. The cost of a CoE for category A (a standard-size car) is currently over SGD 100,000, whereas in 2021 it was at SGD 50,000.

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