Work visa scheme for foreign entrepreneurs enhanced

Aim is to attract global startup talent; new assessment criteria include business network and key achievements


THE EntrePass scheme - a work visa for foreign entrepreneurs keen to start a business in Singapore in areas such as deep technology - will be enhanced to attract global startup talent.

This was jointly announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Spring Singapore and Startup SG on Wednesday.

Starting on Aug 3, new criteria such as entrepreneurial and investment track record, business network and key achievements in their areas of expertise will be used to assess applicants, going beyond the existing four innovation criteria during the business exploration stage.

Under the current innovation criteria, applicants have to:

  • have funding/investment from a government-recognised venture capitalist or business angel; or
  • hold intellectual property; or
  • have a research collaboration with an institute of higher learning or research institution in Singapore; or
  • be an incubatee at a government-recognised incubator/accelerator.

Other key enhancements to the EntrePass scheme, announced earlier during the MTI's Committee of Supply debate in March 2017, include the removal of the S$50,000 paid-up capital requirement to recognise the non-monetary contributions of global startup talent such as expertise and relevance to industries.

Additionally, the validity period of each EntrePass will be extended from one to two years after the first renewal to provide more certainty for global entrepreneurs in scaling up their businesses.

In addition to Spring Singapore, the enhanced EntrePass scheme will see the inclusion of two new partner agencies: the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation, supported by SGInnovate. These agencies will work with MOM to evaluate the applications in their respective sectors.

The joint announcement said that the enhanced scheme would strengthen and add vibrancy to Singapore's tech startup ecosystem to position it as a leading startup location. The changes also aim to create jobs in Singapore.

According to the Department of Statistics, as at 2015, foreign startups employed more than 19,000 people.

From 2013 to 2015, local employment in foreign startups increased by an average of 500 per year.

Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said that startups are becoming increasingly important as the nation transforms into an innovative economy. "These enhancements are part of the government's efforts to develop a vibrant startup landscape that is attractive to global startup talent while promoting our local startups to establish and build innovative businesses, thus creating new industry sectors and job opportunities."