Setting up a business in Singapore

Setting up a business in Singapore
Updated 2017-09-15 13:24

When we talk about entrepreneurial hubs, locations such as Israel, the Silicon Valley or Berlin spring to mind. But Singapore is not far behind; thanks to intelligent government decisions and sound governance, the country has become an ideal breeding place for new businesses.

Singapore's Block 71 was recently described by the Economist as 'the world's most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem'. It is home to hundreds of start-ups, only a few miles away from government-sponsored innovation hubs such as the Fusionopolis. It might appear somewhat surprising that a country like Singapore, long known for its respect for traditional values and its appreciation of job security and structured career progression should today be a hotbed of entrepreneurial innovation. However, a spate of government-led policies have pushed locals to try their hand at entrepreneurship and the Singaporean scene is now booming. The forward-looking government of Singapore has also sought to draw foreign entrepreneurs, and the most convenient pathway is the Singapore Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass) scheme. Ranked as one of the best places in which to do business, and with a corporate tax rate of only 17%, Singapore truly presents the ideal conditions to set up a thriving business.

The EntrePass scheme

Launched in 2004, the objective of the EntrePass is to attract foreign entrepreneurs to Singapore. It is targeted towards foreign entrepreneurs who want to relocate to Singapore. Alternatively, should a foreigner wish to start a company whilst remaining abroad, other incorporation procedures can be considered. The incorporation of a company only needs to happen after an EntrePass application is approved.

Following approval, entrepreneurs need to incorporate the company and satisfy capital requirements within 30 days. There are strict eligibility requirements for applicants to EntrePass, including relocation to Singapore, the potential to create local employment, as well as the degree of innovation of the business idea. For example, businesses such as coffee shops, employment agencies, or bars would not be eligible for the pass. Importantly, the business needs to be registered as a Singaporean private limited company and not as a sole proprietorship or partnership, with a minimum paid-in capital of SGD 50,000. Applicants will need to furnish a business plan, including details of the business idea, market analysis, a marketing and operating plan as well as financial projections.

Depending on the nature of the company and the available budget, it might be relevant to seek the assistance of a professional firm to provide guidelines, support in the preparation of documents, as well as any guarantees which might be required by the authorities. For further details on the scheme, consult the EntrePass website of the Ministry of Manpower. Additional information, including advice on funding and access to Business Angels, can be obtained from Spring Singapore.

Setting up a business whilst securing permanent residency

Singapore also provides other schemes for individuals willing to set up businesses in the country. The Global Investor Programme (GIP) provides a pathway to Permanent Residency (PR) through the launch of a new business corresponding to an investment of SGD 2.5 million or more. Alternatively, foreigners can also invest similar amounts in existing businesses. There are specific criteria to be met in order to be considered for the scheme, including having three years of business track record and the provision of audited financials. Specific industries are also targeted and include aerospace engineering, electronics, shipping and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.

Seeking help from government agencies

There are numerous government entities working towards improving the ease of setting up businesses in Singapore. To start with, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) provides registration services and acts both as a regulator and facilitator. Other agencies such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Economic Development Board (EDB), SPRING Singapore, and International Enterprise Singapore can provide useful information, especially in the case of companies wishing to expand into the country.

Singapore is a great place in which to set up a business, especially when it comes to high-end, innovative ideas. Whereas immigration laws becoming increasingly stringent in other parts of the world, Singapore has set up multiple schemes to draw entrepreneurial talent ' make the most of it!

Useful links:

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority:
SPRING Singapore:
Monetary Authority of Singapore:
Economic Development Board:
SME Portal:

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