Moving to Singapore

For many people, moving to Singapore is something they can only dream of. The lifestyle, the quality-of-life, the city, the food. There is so much that makes Singapore the perfect place to pack your bags and leave to; which is why so many people do.

Singapore is an efficient and clean Asian city that possesses much of the charm from the days it was a British colony, whilst at the same time offering a cutting-edge, advanced environment that attracts so many from overseas. Located on the southern tip of Malaysia, it has developed into one of the most important finance and trade centres in the whole of Asia, making it one of the wealthiest places in the world and one of the most popular places for expats to live and work.

An expat destination

As a result of its safe, modern and welcoming culture, expats from all over the world move to Singapore each year in huge numbers to both live and to work. Offering high-quality education, low priced homes and strong levels of security, it has become an ideal place to move permanently and raise families. The standard of living is notoriously high with healthcare facilities being rated second-to-none and low crime rates making it a safe place to explore day and night. With such a huge influx of expats in Singapore, you’ll never be too far from expat groups and clubs for a variety of nationalities, making your transition to life abroad an easy one.

So, if you’re planning on becoming one of the many Singapore expats, here are a few of things you will need to keep in mind before making the move, whether it’s for a short-term or long-term stay.

Getting the right visa   

Before you can jet off to start your expat life in Singapore, you’ll need to apply for a visa and the right visa at that. The length of your stay and the reasons behind your move will ultimately determine which visa type you will need to apply for. One thing you’ll be glad to hear, however, is that visa requirements in Singapore are mostly based on salary, making it a much simpler process than most other countries.

  • Permanent Residence Visa – This visa is for expats who are planning on making the Lion City their long-term home and comes with a number of benefits including lower education fees, ability to purchase public housing and participation in the social security system. Expats can apply for permanent residency in Singapore under the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS) pretty much as soon as they acquire their P, Q, or S Work Pass
  • Work Permit Visa – There are different types of work permits for Singapore, which are determined by your purpose and length of stay. Your monthly salary will also determine the type of Employment Pass you’ll need. Generally speaking, Employment Passes apply to those who earn at least 3,300 Singapore Dollars (SGD) per month, and work visas are designed for workers with a lower income.

Expat jobs & career opportunities

If you are highly educated and/or have a strong level of work experience, you will find job opportunities in Singapore far easier to come by. However, the level of competition is fierce as Singaporeans are themselves well-educated. It is recommended that if you are planning on moving to Singapore, either short or long-term and are not transferring with your current employer, you should have a job lined up before you arrive.

Once you have arrived in the country, networking may the best way to land yourself a job, with a significant amount of people finding work through who they know as opposed to through job advertisements. For expats specifically, there is a substantial amount of jobs available in the finance and banking sectors, as well as the electronic, IT and shipping industries.

Finding accommodation

With a visa and job hopefully lined up, the next thing on the Singapore expats list is to find somewhere to stay or live. Your choice of accommodation in Singapore may depend on your citizenship, so as an expat, you will be limited to the type of housing you can buy and the conditions of your stay.

Singapore citizens are able to buy new public housing and get financial help to buy a home, while permanent residents can only buy resold public housing and are not eligible for financial assistance. Before you can become a permanent resident, however, you are classed as a foreigner and will only be able to rent a flat or a room from a local landlord.

  • Renting – Unless you are planning on buying property in Singapore, which, due to a shortage of real estate and land for expats, can be very expensive, short-term rentals might be the best solutions. The average price for temporary rentals in Singapore differs depending on how central the property is, its size, facilities, special services, and more. A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre, for example, could cost 2,645 SGD. Whereas a one-bedroom outside the city centre could cost 1,511 SGD.
  • Buying - Understanding how to buy a property as a non-resident in Singapore can be complicated, but as long as you understand the rules and regulations on non-nationals purchasing properties, the process should be smooth. Research has shown that the most expensive properties in Singapore’s 28 neighbourhoods varied in price from 1.4 million SGD to 110 million SGD. Whereas in the cheapest neighbourhoods, the top prices went from 200,000 SGD to 2.2 million SGD. Read our guide to buying property abroad here to learn how to prevent exchange rates impacting your purchase.

Cost of living

One of the main attractions for expat life in Singapore is the very high standard of living, however, this can come at a price. In Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey, Singapore was rated as the third most expensive region to live in the world. Expats who are looking for living conditions similar to what they experienced in their home country, may find that the cost of living is very high in comparison. As well as house prices which have already been discussed, alcohol is also taxed at a high rate along with cars. Foods and groceries are reasonably priced with local stalls and shopping malls offering very cheap dining options.

Language

The official language of Singapore is Mandarin Chinese; however, English is the most common language which is used for business and trade. School generally teach students in English but will also expect children to learn Mandarin as well. Other common languages include Tamil, Malay and Cantonese. An additional thing to note is that many Singaporeans speak a language that has come to be known as Singlish; a mixture of English and other languages. This can be difficult for English speakers to understand but on the whole, they seldom experience any real problems communicating with people in Singapore.

Climate

As Singapore lies close to the equator, it enjoys a tropical climate with no sharply divided seasons. It possesses a year-round temperature as well as high humidity and large levels of rainfall. The temperature can range from 22 °C-34 °C, with humidity levels capable of reaching 100% with increases in rainfall. Singapore’s hottest months are June and July, with its monsoon seasons coming in November and December.

Facts every Singapore expat should know

  • In Singapore, you are required to pay tax in order to own a television.
  • There is a restriction on which breeds of dog you can bring into the country.
  • There is a limitation on the number of animals you are allowed to own depending on the type of building you live in.
  • Left-hand drive cars are not allowed in Singapore.
  • You may drive in Singapore using your own license from your native country for up to one year but after this period you will be required to convert to a Singapore license.
  • It is warmer and drier in Eastern Singapore.
  • Public holiday range from the Christian holiday of Good Friday to Vesak Day; a Buddhist holiday.
  • Singapore also has its very own National Day during which it celebrates Singapore’s independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965.

Sending money to Singapore

Working or living as an expat in Singapore, you’ll most likely want to open a local bank account in order to receive your salary in SGD. However, if you want to send money back to your native country, or even make a payment into your Singaporean bank account from outside the country, you should pay particular attention to your foreign exchange needs.

Making an international payment through your bank to a Singaporean bank account could incur additional transaction fees, which you’ll most likely want to avoid. In addition to the extra cost, you could be given a poor exchange rate, which will impact the amount you’re getting for your money on the other end of your transfer. Fortunately, with Universal Partners FX, you can receive an extremely competitive exchange and zero transaction fees, getting your expat life in Singapore off to the best possible start. Simply sign-up for a free account with us today to get started.

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For more information on how Universal Partners FX can help with your expat life in Singapore, be sure to get in touch with one of our foreign exchange experts today.