EntrePass – enhanced scheme

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How do the changes to the EntrePass scheme affect you?

Launched in 2003, the EntrePass was devised as a work visa for foreign entrepreneurs to establish their business here in Singapore. On 3 August 2017, changes were made to the scheme by the Ministry of Manpower (MoM), paving the way for entrepreneurs to establish innovative businesses Singapore. The enhanced scheme is a part of Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative.

If you are an entrepreneur looking to apply or are already an EntrePass holder, here is what you need to know about the changes. Firstly, two of the three basic eligibility criteria have been reformed:

  • S$50,000 paid-up capital requirement scrapped (new). Applicants no longer need to seek capital before applying for an EntrePass. This is to recognise the importance of expertise and talent and allow entrepreneurs in the early stage of their business to still apply.
  • EntrePass renewal is now deferred until the end of the first year (new). The EntrePass holder will need to prove the progress of the business at the end of the first year before being granted an extension for another year. Thereafter, EntrePass renewals will be valid for 2 years to provide more certainty for global entrepreneurs in scaling up their business.
  • The company must be less than 6 months old on the date of application, if registered. If the company has not been registered, this can be done after EntrePass approval has been given.

Assessment criteria changes were introduced to allow global start-up talent to enter Singapore on government support during the exploration stage. Whether the applicant is an entrepreneur, innovator or investor, they must meet one of the following seven conditions:

Entrepreneur

  • Have funding from a Government-recognised VC or business angel
  • Hold intellectual property
  • Have a research collaboration with an IHL or research institute in Singapore

Innovator

  • Be an incubatee at a Government-recognised incubator/accelerator
  • Have business network and entrepreneurial track record (new)
  • Have extraordinary achievements in key areas of expertise (new)

Investor

  • Have investment track record (new)

New Partner agencies for application evaluation. In addition to SPRING Singapore, the enhanced EntrePass scheme will see the inclusion of two new partner agencies, Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation, supported by SGInnovate. These will work with the Ministry of Manpower to evaluate the applications in their respective sectors.

Changes to business spending and number of locals employed. In this area, entrepreneurs will see their business spending requirements reduced and favourable changes regarding the number of locals employed.

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Renewal. Entrepreneurs must abide by these changes in order to obtain EntrePass renewal, in addition to providing proof of business activities such as payment receipts, CPF contributions and shareholding information.

Changes to Dependant’s Pass (DP) have also been revised with EntrePass holders able to qualify for DPs for their spouses/children upon meeting Year 2 renewal criteria.

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If you have any general questions about the changes to the EntrePass or you would like to enquire about how we can help you with your work pass matters, then please do get in contact.

Changes to the Personal Data Protection Act

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The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) in Singapore has announced changes to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). These amendments will affect all organisations, including sole proprietors, in Singapore and so it is important to understand the implications.  

In accordance with the PDPA, it is now mandatory for all organisations to employ a dedicated Data Protection Officer (DPO). This is to help companies develop and implement policies and procedures and remain compliant with all personal data protection obligations.  

The PDPC has stated these key points: 

  • All organisations, including sole proprietorships, must designate at least one person to become a DPO to ensure the organisation complies with the PDPA. 

  • At least one (if you have more than one) of your DPO’s email or phone details must be available to the public and that person must be easily reached if contacted. 

  • Even though your DPO must be contactable, they do not need to be based in Singapore. 

  • The position does not need to be filled by an employee and can be outsourced to a third party. 

  • The DPO must have the appropriate expertise and knowledge to comply with the PDPA. 

  • You can register your DPO at www.pdpc.gov.sg/dpo-contact. It is not required under law to disclose the details but you are strongly encouraged to. 

Having your own DPO will help you to mitigate data violations in the growing digital age. The crucial role will involve: 

  • Ensuring compliance with PDPA when developing and implementing policies and processes for handling personal data; 

  • Fostering a data protection culture among employees and communicate personal data protection policies to stakeholders; 

  • Managing personal data protection related queries and complaints; 

  • Alerting management to any risks that might arise with regard to personal data; and 

  • Liaising with the PDPC on data protection matters, if necessary. 

Once you have selected your DPO, if they do not have the relevant skills required it is not a problem. The PDPC has developed a training and competency framework, which has been designed to equip them with all the skills and knowledge they require in order to comply with regulations now and in the future. It also provides the role with professional accreditation. 

An alternative to employing an in-house DPO is to engage CSLB Asia to do the job for you. We have already completed the specialised training and can effectively fulfil your DPO role immediately. This will allow you to hit the ground running, saving you time and disruption, as we professionally handle all the data requirements for you. We are happy to work with you to register as your DPO so you can get compliant immediately! 

In our role as your DPO we will ensure that you: 

  • Remain compliant with PDPA requirements, even as they are updated. 

  • Be able to focus on your core business while adhering to all PDPA obligations. 

  • Leverage CSLB Asia’s readily available knowledge base and capabilities in Data Protection. It is important to comply with the new regulations. Your company collects sensitive data about your customers, employees and members on a daily basis. Failure to protect this data can lead to a fine of up to $1 million per breach under the Act so it makes sense to take action as soon as possible.  

If you have any general questions about the new regulations or you would like to enquire about our DPO services, then please do get in contact with us.

What you need to know about the new regulatory requirements regarding registrable controllers and register of nominee directors

As of 31 March 2017, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) announced changes to the Companies Act and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP’s) Act. These changes were introduced to reduce compliance costs; make ownership and control of business entities more transparent; and increase efforts to position Singapore as a trusted and clean international business hub.

The most significant change introduced affects all Singapore companies and LLP’s, including foreign companies registered to do business here in Singapore. From now, all companies are required to keep a register of beneficial owners, significant controllers and nominee directors.

These new requirements apply to the following entities:

  • All companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP’s) incorporated / registered in Singapore. These will be obliged to maintain registers of controllers and of nominee directors.
  • Foreign companies registered in Singapore. However, these will only need to maintain a register of controllers.

However, some entities are exempted and these include:

  • Singapore-incorporated companies listed on an approved exchange.
  • Singapore financial institutions, and their wholly owned subsidiaries.
  • Companies (Singapore as well as foreign) listed on a foreign securities exchange with regulatory disclosure requirements and adequate transparency obligations regarding beneficial owners. However, the wholly owned subsidiaries of these companies are not exempt.

So what is a register of registrable controllers?

It is a record of all individuals or corporate bodies within a company that have a significant interest in, or significant control over, it:

  • A person with “significant control” - has the right to appoint or remove a majority or directors or has the permission to use significant influence or control over specified matters.
  • A person with “significant interest” - has an interest more than 25% of the shares held and/or 25% of voting rights in the company.

If you are unsure about the rules determining whether a particular person appears on a company’s register of registrable controllers then please do contact us or visit the ACRA website.

It is also important to know that a company’s obligation extends beyond just the register itself but how the company acquires the information:

  • A company is required to take reasonable steps to find out and identify their registrable controllers. It must send out a notice to each member and each director of the company at least once annually, whether electronically or in hard copy format. Addressees have 30 days to reply to the notice and companies have two days to update their register with the information received.
  • A company must keep the particulars in the register accurate and up-to-date and must send out such a notice once it is alerted to a possible change.
  • If the company does not receive a response to an enquiry, the company may state in the register that the particulars of the relevant registrable controller have not been confirmed. The company is not required to ensure that a response is received. 

What is a register of nominee directors?

All Singapore-incorporated companies are also required to keep a register of nominee directors from 31 March 2017. Unlike the register of registrable controllers, a company is not required to ascertain whether it has any nominee directors. It is the obligation of the nominee director to notify the company of his status and particulars of his nominator.

A nominee director is a person who is accustomed or under an obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions, instructions or wishes of any other person, e.g. a contract, trusts or informal arrangement. 

Additional Information

You must also be aware that ACRA has made it mandatory for the registers to be available at any time for inspection by themselves and law enforcement authorities. However, the registers are not for public review.

The new registers must also be located at either a company’s registered office in Singapore or at some other location in Singapore. ACRA must be informed where the register is kept. There is currently no exemption from this requirement.

As always, it is important that companies comply with these new regulations, Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence and the offender can be liable to a fine of up to S$5,000.

Please contact us via email at info@cslb-asia.com if you want to find out how these changes affect your company. Alternatively, additional guidelines and information is available at www.acra.gov.sg/CA_2017

The Start-Up Workshop with Business Women Network

On 22 February, I will be speaking at an information morning held by Business Women Network to discuss options for Dependant Pass holders who would like to work in Singapore.

For more details and to register please visit: 
http://www.businesswomennetworksg.com/start-up-workshop.html

Singapore Employment Pass New Salary Criteria

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As a part of MOM’s continuous review of the manpower needs to support the Singapore economy, MOM have issued a press release updating the employment pass (EP) salary criteria for foreigner’s applying for an employment pass to work in Singapore from 1 January 2017.

From 1 January 2017, the qualifying salary for new EP applications will be raised from $3,300 to $3,600.  All new EP applications will be assessed on the new qualifying salary subject to meeting other criteria based on academic qualifications and work experience. The current practice of assessing new EP applications for applicants with many years of work experience and the requirement to command higher salaries will continue.

Employers will have sufficient time to adjust to the new salary threshold for their existing EP holder employees as follows:

a. EP’s expiring before 1 January 2017: Renewal: for a duration of up to three years, based on existing EP criteria ($3,300 threshold).

b. EP’s expiring between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2017 (both dates inclusive): Renewal:  Will be able to renew, for a duration of one year, based on the existing EP criteria ($3,300 threshold).

c. 1 July 2017 onwards: Renewal: Will have to meet the new criteria ($3,600) for renewal, for a duration of up to three years.

If you have queries regarding the changes to the qualifying salaries for new EP applications and your current EP holder employees, please contact us at CSLB Asia via email at info@cslb-asia.com.

Recent Changes to the Working Landscape for Dependent Pass Holders

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It was great to meet with members and guests of the American Association on the 30th September. Thank you to the CRCE for the opportunity.

Here are the PowerPoint slides on our topic "Recent changes to working landscape for DP holders". 

Please get in touch if you require more information. 

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH DEPENDENT PASS HOLDERS WHO WANT TO WORK FOR THEMSELVES IN SINGAPORE?

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What’s happening with Dependent Pass holders who want to work for themselves in Singapore?

First, I need to make sure you know – I am not a registered Employment Agent and have merely assembled this information from research from registered agents and the MOM and ACRA websites. Please do not take this information as gospel truth, please do your own research. Please also know these rules change.

Up to May this year, Dependent Pass holders who wanted to pursue freelance, consultant or other sole proprietorship businesses could go through a fairly simple process: First, set up a Sole Proprietorship business via the ACRA website (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority – the Singapore regulator of all business entities) and then, apply to the MOM (Ministry of Manpower – regulator of employment permits, agencies, contracts and work safety) for a Letter of Consent to work for your own business. A Letter of Consent is like a stand-in for an Employment Pass and its what you would also apply for if you were taking a job at another company but were not going to earn enough to be eligible for an Employment Pass.  As with an EP, an LoC entitles you to work for one business or company only. Employment Passes are generally for positions with a salary of over $3500SGD per month.

As of May this year, MOM are no longer allowing LoC’s for Dependent Pass holders to work for an SP, where that DP holder is also the owner of that SP.  The SP must be owned by a Singaporean or PR, who could then apply for an LoC for the DP holder to work for them, however, MOM are only approving these applications on a case by case basis. 

 What is the different between a Sole Proprietorship and a Private Ltd Company?A sole-proprietorship is a business owned by one person or one company. There are no partners. The sole-proprietor has absolute say in the running of the business and the business is not a separate entity from the person.

A Private Ltd Company is an entity in it’s own right. It is governed by shareholders and by law needs to hold an annual AGM, and have a local director being a Singaporean, PR holder or EP holder and a Company Secretary.

ACRA has a nice video series outlining different company structures available through it’s You Tube Channel, called ‘Doing Business in Singapore’.

What Now for Dependent Pass holders wanting to work for themselves in Singapore?

It seems there are two options:

  1. A Singaporean or PR can act as a nominee registered owner of a Sole Proprietorship and can then apply for a Letter of Consent to employ the DP holder. Approval for this is not guaranteed.
  2. Incorporate a Pte Ltd Company subsidiary of a home country company that you may already have OR incorporate a new Pte Ltd Company with a Singaporean or PR acting as a nominee Director/ Shareholder. They can then apply for an Employment Pass or a Letter of Consent to work for that company.

If you wish to transfer your SP or incorporate a new company with a “nominee registered owner” who is a Singaporean or PR and you have concerns about their involvement in your business, you can always enter into an agreement with them to safe guard your interests.

What about the EntrePass?

 The EntrePass is earmarked as being for foreign entrepreneurs in Singapore but is fairly restrictive. Businesses must have a paid up capital of at least $50,000 and must met at least one of these requirements:

-       funding from a Govt-accredited VC or business angel

-       holds an intellectual property  registered with an approved national IP institution.

-       has an ongoing research collaboration with a recognised institution in Singapore.

-       is an incubatee at a Singapore Government-supported incubator.

 What about current Sole Proprietors operating on a Letter of Consent?

Its shaky ground, to be honest. Some renewals are being approved and some are not. I would take the time now to start assessing different options. Please remember though that things are very fluid. Employment Agents are sent the latest advice and legal changes directly from MOM so they will have the most up to date information.