MOM to carefully vet applicants for new One Pass, put in place safeguards against abuse: Tan See Leng

SINGAPORE – Two levels of safeguards will be put in place to ensure recipients of the new Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass deserve it, even as Singapore competes more fiercely to attract the best international talent to its shores.

In a ministerial statement to Parliament on Monday, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said his ministry will carefully vet all applications and engage holders of the new pass during their time in Singapore.

This comes after Dr Tan first unveiled enhancements to the work pass framework on Aug 29.

Sixteen MPs had filed questions on the new pass, with Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), Mr Yip Hong Weng (Yio Chu Kang), Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer) and Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) asking specifically about plans to prevent abuse or fraudulent applications for the new pass.

The One Pass targets top foreign professionals drawing a fixed monthly salary of $30,000 or more from a single employer, or those with outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, as well as academia and research.

This Pass is meant for talent comparable to the top 5 per cent of the Republic’s Employment Pass (EP) holders, estimated to be around 8,000.

The One Pass allows spouses of pass holders to work in Singapore on a Letter of Consent without requiring a work pass – a move to keep up with competitors such as the United Kingdom and Hong Kong that offer work privileges for spouses.

“When people make major relocation decisions, it is usually a family decision. Without certainty for the spouse, these talents may choose to go elsewhere,” said Dr Tan.

Elaborating on the safeguards, Dr Tan said the Manpower Ministry (MOM) already conducts back-end checks to sieve out potential cases of false salary declarations. These checks will be extended to all One Pass applications.

“This includes scrutinising applications from companies with a limited track record, and asking for more documents to verify that the salary declared will in fact be paid,” he said.

The MOM will also scrutinise the personal income tax filings of existing Employment Pass (EP) holders who wish to convert to the One Pass with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. This is to ensure the filings are consistent with the salaries they declare.

“For overseas candidates, we will further assess their company’s market capitalisation and revenue based on verifiable sources,” Dr Tan said.

Overseas applicants will need to demonstrate that they have been working for a firm with a market capitalisation of at least US$500 million (S$700 million) or annual revenue of at least US$200 million for at least a year, or will be working for such a firm in Singapore.

Pass holders will also need to update MOM on their professional activities and annual income annually.

Dr Tan said such details will factor into MOM’s assessment on whether their passes are eligible for renewal.