Are you a Work Permit holder looking to elevate your career prospects? Are you perplexed by the distinctions between a Work Permit, Skilled Pass (SP), and an Employment Pass (EP)?

In essence, the E-Pass and the S-Pass are distinct work passes designed for professionals possessing high-level qualifications and technicians with mid-level skills, respectively. Conversely, Work Permits are designated for unskilled workers with lower-level skill sets, typically employed in labor-intensive industries. Despite all three work passes bearing the “Work Permit” label, they exhibit significant disparities in features, salary levels, and benefits. This differentiation may prompt you to contemplate an upgrade if you are presently holding a Work Permit.

Before we delve deeper, let’s elucidate the key distinctions between these passes:

Work Permit

Work Permit holders are generally categorized as low-skilled or semi-skilled foreign workers. They are commonly employed in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, services, shipyards, and manufacturing. Eligibility for this pass is limited to workers from pre-approved countries, with no minimum qualifying salary. Additionally, family dependents cannot be sponsored under the Work Permit Pass. The pass is typically valid for two years, subject to renewal based on the worker’s age.

However, one noteworthy drawback of the Work Permit is that each sector imposes specific quotas that employers must adhere to. As of September 1, 2023, employers can hire migrant workers from Non-Traditional Sources (NTS) for a restricted set of occupations listed in the NTS Occupation List. This policy change may intensify competition for limited job opportunities, potentially posing a threat to your current job security.

Skill-Pass (SP)

The S-Pass is open to foreigners of any nationality possessing mid-level skills. Unlike Work Permits, obtaining an S-Pass entails meeting essential criteria, including the following:

  • Holding a job with a minimum salary of $3,000 (as of February 2023)
  • Possessing a degree, diploma, or specialized technical certificate
  • Demonstrating relevant sector-specific experience

Similar to Work Permit holders, S-Pass holders are subject to quotas, with a 10% cap in the service sector and 18% in other sectors, reduced to 15% in 2023. Monthly levies and medical insurance are mandatory for employees, and the pass is typically valid for two years. Importantly, dependents are permitted to reside in Singapore under this pass.

If you are a Work Permit holder aiming to upgrade your work pass, consider enrolling in courses to enhance your skills and knowledge. A recognized educational certificate in Singapore could potentially facilitate an upgrade.

Update – February 2023: Starting from September 2023, the minimum qualifying salary for new S-Pass applicants will be raised to $3,150, ensuring fair employment for both locals and foreign employees. It’s worth noting that the qualifying salary will see progressive increases in 2025.

Employment-Pass (EP)

Now, let’s discuss the Employment Pass (E-Pass). E-Pass holders typically comprise foreign professionals with highly specialized expertise, often holding positions as specialized executives, managers, or directors. To qualify for an E-Pass, one must possess a globally recognized university certificate and earn a minimum monthly salary of $5,000 (as of September 1, 2022). For older and more experienced candidates, the qualifying salary requirements may vary.

However, starting from September 1, 2023, EP candidates must fulfill a two-stage eligibility framework. In addition to meeting the qualifying salary (Stage 1), EP candidates must successfully navigate a points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) (Stage 2). COMPASS facilitates the selection of high-quality foreign professionals by employers while promoting workforce diversity and cultivating a strong Singaporean talent pool.

Similar to the S-Pass, dependents are eligible to reside in Singapore for up to two years, subject to pass renewal. With the information provided, as a Work Permit holder, you may consider upskilling yourself to unlock new opportunities on your career journey.

Update – February 2023: Starting from September 2023, EP candidates must also pass a points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), in addition to meeting the qualifying salary.

This information should help you make informed decisions about your work pass options and potential career advancement.


If you have any company-related queries, you may email us at [email protected]. When in doubt, seek legal advice or consult an experienced licensed Employment Agency with the Ministry of Manpower.

Yours Sincerely,
The editorial team at Singapore Employment Agency

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Little Big Employment Agency Pte Ltd is a licensed Employment Agency with the Ministry of Manpower with license number 19C9790.