Expats FAQ in Singapore

Bank

Q: What are the biggest local banks in Singapore?

A: DBS Bank Ltd, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank Ltd are not only considered biggest in Singapore, but also in the South East Asia region.

Q: What are the services included when opening a bank account in Singapore?

A: The standard services include managing savings/current accounts, fixed deposits, mutual funds or trusts, credit card facilities, crediting of foreign checks and payment through NETS cards that allow for electronic payment for goods and services.

Q: What are the documents needed to open a bank account?

A: A completed application form, valid passport, employment pass and proof of mailing address are all needed to apply and open a bank account in Singapore.

Business

Q: What is the process for registering a business name in the country?

A: Registration of name and new business is made online via the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) website (www.acra.gov.sg).

Q: What are the corresponding costs when registering a business?

A: Registration fees for local is at S$50 – S$600 while foreigners need to pay S$300 – S$1,200. Approval of business names cost S$15 per name.

Q: Can a foreigner start a business in Singapore?

A: Foreigners can set up a business in Singapore seamlessly. The individual and companies registering a business need not be Singaporeans or incorporated in Singapore.

Children

Q: Are there special museums for children in Singapore?

A: Museum that children can explore and enjoy include the ArtScience Museum at the Marina Bay Sands, Asian Civilisations Museum and Fort Siloso located in Sentosa.

Q: Are there many parks in Singapore that cater to children?

A: Every district in Singapore has its own park for jogging and leisure stroll, and most importantly for children that features garden and playground; notable parks are West Coast Park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tiong Bahru Adventure Playground, Eat Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park.

Q: What are some activities that children can do during the weekend?

A: There are aplenty things to do such as trekking at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with the whole family, spending the whole day at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden for a fun learning experience, discover the nocturnal creatures at The Night Safari, and go for a nature weekend at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Cost of living

Q: What are the most expensive items for an expat living in Singapore?

A: Expat-driven items include accommodation e.g serviced apartment, condo, landed house; international schools; getting a private medical insurance; and items such as liquor and cigarettes are all considered costly.

Q: What are the fees to settle when purchasing a car in Singapore?

A: Aside from the actual cost of the vehicle, one needs to pay the Registration Fees, GST of 7%, Excise Duty (20% of OMV), Open Market Value (OMV) as Assessed by the Singapore Customs, Certificate of Entitlement (COE) in 5 categories 1) Cat A (Cars 1600CC below & Taxi), 2) B (Cars above 1600CC),3) C (Goods Vehicle & Bus), 4)D (Motorcycles), 5) E (Open); and other additional registration fees.

Q: What is the expected payment for a 2-year contract apartment?

A: Whether it's a condo or an HDB, for a two-year contract, one needs to pay two months deposit and one month advance. If your course through an agent, the agent feel is equivalent to two months rent. Accordingly, tenants can negotiate with the landlord. Stamp Duty will also have to pay plus GST.

Health

Q: Can a foreigner get public hospital services?

A: Foreigners can stay in the A-class and B1-class in one of the seven public hospitals across Singapore.

Q: What are the most popular private hospitals for expats in Singapore?

A: Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Thomson Medical Centre and Raffles Hospital; all located in the city/town area.

Q: What are the common health risks in Singapore?

A: There are no alarming health risks in Singapore, but due to high population density, aggravated by erratic weather, communicable disease like the common cold is contagious.

Housing

Q: What areas do expats frequent in Singapore?

A: East Coast/ Marine Parade, Bukit Timah/CBD areas are popular amongst expats and their families.

Q: Is HDB a form of housing in Singapore?

A: Yes, HDB is a public housing in Singapore established in the 60s, managed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB); most of the locals live in HDB houses.

Q: What is a landed house?

A: Some may call bungalow, complete with a garden, but in Singapore, these are called landed houses.

Leisure

Q: What are the best rooftop bars in the city?

A: Ku Dé Ta atop the spectacular Marina Bay Sands, 1-Altitude, being the world's highest alfresco bar and Loof, the pioneer rooftop bar in the city-state.

Q: What are the places best for families with children?

A: Among family-oriented attractions are the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari, River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park. Universal Studio and Sentosa are themed parks best suited for family entertainment.

Q: Where are the best places to go for a local culture trip?

A: To get a sense of the local culture and Singapore's rich heritage, head down to Chinatown, Little India or Bugis. Tourists can walk around Merlion through the three Quays: Boat Quay, Clark Quay and Robertson Quay.

Looking for a job

Q: What are the types of employment passes in Singapore?

A: The type of pass issued to an employee will be based on skills, work experience and salary bracket. Note that these criteria changes so it is recommended to check the Ministry of Manpower's official website. For Employment Pass (EP), applicants will need to earn at least SGD 3,300 with above average qualifications while S Pass holders are mid-skilled with monthly salary of at least SGD 2,200. There is also a Training Employment Pass (TEP) for a foreigner undergraduate undergoing training in Singapore.

Q: What are the best employment sites when job hunting?

A: Top employment sites are jobsdb.com.sg, jobstreet.com.sg and st701.com.sg

Q: Which industries are sought after by expatriates in Singapore?

A: Information technology remains the top ranking industry for expat job while banking and finance follows. Other fields that attract expats include logistics and engineering.

Money

Q: How can an expatriate know when to file tax in Singapore?

A: Expat will receive a letter, a form via mail, or SMS notifying that you need to file for an Income Tax Return. Filing is mandatory regardless of the amount of one's annual income.

Q: What is the GST Tax in the country?

A: GST, which is known as the Value Added Tax (VAT) for goods and services is at 7%.

Q: Aside from salary, what other employment income can be taxable?

A: Year-end bonus and other bonuses, director’s fee, commission, allowance, company benefits such as housing, car, medical, salary in-lieu of notice and stock options are all taxable.

Moving

Q: What is the number to call for emergencies including medical urgency?

A: The number to call for any emergency is: 999; 995 if for ambulance service.

Q: What are the observed public holidays in Singapore?

A: Being a diverse and multi-racial, Singapore public holiday is reflective of the religion and culture. The observed public Holidays are New Year's Day Chinese New Year, Good Friday, Labour Day ,Vesak Day, National Day, Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali, Christmas Day

Q: Can you find Western food and other items in grocery stores?

A: Definitely. NTUC, Carrefour, Cold Storage, Giant and others smaller chains have Western food (American and European) and other household items popular in the US and UK.

Pets

Q: What is the process for pet import in Singapore?

A: Check the list of countries if you are allowed to import pet in Singapore at Agri-Food And Veterinary website. Imports of dogs and cats from Category A (Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom) and B (Cayman Islands, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and US *note: Guam & Hawaii only) must be accompanied by an Airline Declaration.

Q: Is there a need to quarantine dogs and cats that enter Singapore?

A: If your are coming from a country under category A & B (refer to Agri-Food and Veterinary website), quarantine of pet is not necessary. But if your are coming from countries that fall under category C & D, pet must undergo quarantine upon arrival in Singapore. Even then, one apply for a quarantine space at https://qms.ava.gov.sg/public/login.aspx as early as 6 months prior to your pet’s arrival in Singapore.

Q: What are the restricted breeds of dogs in Singapore?

A: The following breed are not permitted in Singapore: Pit Bull - including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog; Akita; Neapolitan Mastiff; Tosa; and any crosses of any of Pit Bull, Akita, Neapolitan Mastiff or Tosa.

Schools

Q: What are the public universities in Singapore?

A: There are six highly-esteemed public universities namely National University Of Singapore (NUS), National Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Q: What is polytechnic education in Singapore?

A: Polytechnics education offers 3-year diploma courses in various fields, including engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, digital media, biotechnology, etc. Polytechnic train students with relevant and specific skills to bring in a more competitive edge in the local workforce.

Q: Do expat children need a student pass?

A: Expat children on a Dependent’s Pass and studying in a qualified school do not need to obtain a student pass.

Shopping

Q: Are there flea markets in Singapore?

A: China Square Market in Chinatown hold a weekend flea market mostly selling vintage items and toys, but the largest and oldest flea market in this small city-state is the Sungei Road Thieves Market located between Jalan Besar and Rochor Canal Road selling everything that you can find under the sun.

Q: What are the best shopping malls in Orchard Road?

A: Orchard Road is Singapore's shopping centre with Ngee Ann City, ION Orchard, Paragon, Wisma, Orchard Centrepoint - all housing big-named luxury brands.

Q: Where are the best places to buy gadgets?

A: Funan DigitalLife Mall is a six-storey haven for geek gadgets. One can also check out the quarterly IT Show, PC Show, COMEX, SITEX at Singapore Expo. Other shopping malls also have Harvey Norman, Challenger and Courts that features electronic items. For late night gadget shopping, Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping mall, is your best bet.

Telecommunications

Q: How does a phone plan work in Singapore?

A: One can sign up with one of the three major telcos: Singtel, M1 or Starhub. When applying a plan, it will usually include a mobile phone; the type of phone model comes with a plan paid in a monthly basis. Most plans come with a 24-month contract; breaking a contract means paying the penalty based on the number of months remaining.

Q: How can one apply for a mobile plan?

A: To subscribe to a mobile service plan, visit any of the shops of Singtel, Starhub or M1 found in shopping malls or visit their respective websites.

Q: What are the requirements for a foreigner to sign up for a mobile or Internet plan?

A: An expatriate need only to present his/her pass that is valid for 6 months, proof and billing and depending on the pass, a deposit of 200 SGD.

Transport

Q: What is considered as the best mode of public transportation in Singapore?

A: Although packed during peak office hours, the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is the standout among the other mode of public transport. Commuters find the MRT easy, efficient and cost-effective. It is also the safest way to travel with friendly staff and tourist-friendly directions.

Q: Can a foreigner convert a foreign driving license to a Singapore license?

A: Foreigners can opt to convert their foreign driving licence to a Singapore licence. First off, they must pass the Basic Driving Theory test. Once they have passed the test, they can apply in person at the Traffic Police Department, bringing along the required documents such as passport; identity card; the result slip from the Basic Driving Theory Test; a valid foreign driving licence; and a certification from the licensing authority of the date of test. Note: If driving license is not in English, one must present an official translated driving license.

Q: How much is the cost of a taxi fare in Singapore?

A: All Singapore taxis are metered. Passengers pay the metered fare plus any surcharge at the end of the trip, without the need to tip the driver. Flag-Down rate (inclusive of 1st km or less) is at 3.40 SGD. Midnight surcharge is 50% of metered fare (12am - 5.59am). Weekday surcharge is at 25% of metered fare (6.00am to 9.30am) while weekend and Public Holidays surcharge is also at 25% of metered fare (6.00pm to midnight). Travelling to CBD areas also incur surcharge at $3.00 from 5.00pm to midnight. Other places such as Changi airport, MBS also have a surcharge depending on location.

Travel

Q: What is the weather like in Singapore?

A: As a tropical country, expect high temperatures during the day, usually at 28 Celsius. At night, temperature drops. December and January are the coolest months. It is best to wear comfortable clothing and always bring an umbrella when going out, both against the scorching sun and the unexpected rain.

Q: Are there any mobile applications to help newly arrived expats in Singapore?

A: For Navigation, purchase the application gothere.sg or get the free app WhereTo.sg. For transport services download the free apps such as SG Buses, SMRT Book a Taxi and ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking.

Q: What is the best way to go to Changi Airport?

A: If you don’t have much luggage, take the MRT instead of a taxi or a bus. Not only it's cheaper but also the fastest way to travel. Alight at Tanah Merah train station and board the train to Changi Airport. MRT starts operations at 5am.

Visa

Q: What is e-Visa?

A: In Singapore, e-Visa is a newly introduced visa measure that allows a local contact or an authorised visa agent/strategic partner to print the approved visa electronically without visiting the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) office to obtain the physical visa sticker.

Q: Can a foreigner extend his/her stay in Singapore?

A: With a social visit pass, a foreigner can apply for extension, whether for social purposes or medical proposes through the Immigration and Checkpoints website at https://extend.ica.gov.sg

Q: Can working expats apply for Permanent Residency (PR) as soon as they start working?

A: PR application can be done as after six months of employment, as one needs to present six months of payslip as part of the required documents.