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Aarathi Arumugam

Aarathi Arumugam is a licensed immigration specialist and the co-founder of SES International and The SES Solutions Agency that enables foreign businesses and expats to get set up and settled in Singapore and the Asian market.

SES International

May 21, 2018

10 Things to Consider Before Relocating to Singapore


Relocating to Singapore?

Here's a 10-point checklist of things to consider for your move to the Red Dot.

Obtaining permission to work in Singapore

1.  Visas – or Work Passes as they are referred to in Singapore. As with any country, there is an application process to follow and The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has a useful website which is a good starting point. Allow up to 8 weeks to obtain your permit to work. Note that the government requires all supporting documentation for applications to be translated into English.

Once an Employment pass (EP) is obtained, then Dependents passes (DP) can be applied for your immediate family. There is also a student pass for children which may be quicker if your child needs to attend school prior to the DP being obtained. Spouses accompanying the main Employment Pass holders will need to apply for a separate work permit.


Business set up process

2.  There are various options on how to set up, depending on the type/size of business and visa status. Again, the MOM website is very useful here.

Opening a bank account is generally straightforward. Choosing a local bank may make remittance and payments easier in the long run. Depending on the structure of entity, banks will advise on the best type of account needed.

3.  Hiring staff – how are you going to build your team? Consider advertising locally first. If the position requires specific expertise not found in Singapore, a relevant work visa will need to be obtained. A company with proof of local advertising before searching outside of Singapore may improve the chance of visa approval. A new Singapore jobs “bank” has been created by the government:

4.  Office space – what size and type of space will you require? Exclusive only to your employees or a coworking space? Singapore provides numerous options from standalone offices to being part of a larger coworking community (a good way to network too). Check out


Preparing for the local way of life

5.  Have your factor fifty ready! It is 32 degrees year-round with at least 70% humidity (28 degrees is considered cold). In addition to your sun hat, keep a sweater with you for the air con inside.

It is common to have a live in foreign domestic worker (FDW) or “helper”. The application process for a helper is online though the MOM website and very straightforward. There are also numerous agencies that can set up interviews and do the process for you. Facebook groups are a good starting point for a referral or a transfer maid. Live-in help is the preferred route as it is better value than live-out.



6.  Housing – Singapore is divided into 28 districts. It is best to start your search by district driven by work and school location. With land being a precious commodity, the next step will be to choose between a house or condo. The benefits of condo living are the security and community. Most have a pool, gym and play area. With a house, consider the additional costs of upkeep such as fogging and garden maintenance.



There is a wide variety of international schools, including Eaton House, Dulwich College, Marlborough, and many more. Expect popular ones to have long waiting lists. Some schools will take year-round applications while others only take submissions once a year. There are also a couple of annual international school fairs that provide a showcase of options. Sites such as Sassy Mama and Honey Kids are a good reference for children's events. Applications to local schools have a very specific process where citizens and PRs will be prioritised before those on DPs. There is a Facebook group for Singapore Expats in Local Schools which has a wealth of information for those new to Singapore.

Car – should you lease or buy?

8. Foreigners who reside in Singapore for under 12-months are permitted to drive locally with their international driving licence. The Singapore government oversees the number of cars on the roads by releasing only a certain number of Certificate of Entitlements (COE) per year (which only has a 10 year validity). A basic COE can start at S$20,000 and her's how you work out the price of a car:

Open Market Value + Registration Fees + Certificate of Entitlement + Road Tax + Additional Registration Fees 

Depending on how much utility your vehicle is getting, you might look at leasing options instead.

However, owning a vehicle is not necessary on the tiny island, with efficient modes of public transportation (bus and trains) as well as an abundant taxi market. With Uber's recent sale to their competitors, the de facto ride-hailing platform is Grab.



9.  A great way to start your settling-in process is to connect with an expat group such as the American, Swiss, ANZA, or British Associations. The American Association (where anyone can join) has an expat jobs board and runs career workshops for job seekers. There are also numerous clubs and societies with newcomer events and specific networking groups such as Business Women Network (BWN), Prime Time and Business Network International (BNI).


Practicalities of moving

10.  Shipping costs can be expensive, and items can take up to 6-8 weeks to clear customs. Your moving company should be able to help with storage or hiring furniture if necessary. There are a variety of serviced apartment options in Singapore that can provide a temporary base while you wait for your things and decide on a new place. They will also include services such as a daily maid, laundry and baby-sitting. Metro Residences gives you an idea of what is available.

One last tip: don’t forget to explore the parks and gardens. Singapore has some wonderful green spaces that provide a break from the city. The Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay are well worth a visit:

New to Singapore? Check out '8 Things That Make Singapore Unique'.



Aarathi Arumugam is a licensed immigration specialist and the co-founder of SES International and The SES Solutions Agency that enables foreign businesses and expats to get set-up and settled in Singapore and the Asian Market.



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