New work pass to attract top-tier tech professionals

It is aimed at giving Singapore edge in race to woo highly skilled talent in fields such as AI

The tech sector is poised to be a large engine of growth for Singapore. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore is launching a new work pass next year to attract top-tier professionals in fields such as e-commerce and artificial intelligence. Called Tech.Pass, this new work pass is aimed at giving the Republic an edge in the global race to woo highly skilled technology professionals.

Tech.Pass will be valid for two years and, depending on certain criteria, can be renewed once for another two years. Applications for it will start in January, and 500 places will be available when it is launched.

Having such experts in Singapore will not only allow them to bring their capital, networks and know-how to the country's tech ecosystem, but it will also create opportunities for Singaporeans, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

"Tech.Pass will add to the critical mass of established tech talent in Singapore and create a flywheel effect to further strengthen our position as a leading tech hub for the region," he said, when announcing the launch of Tech.Pass.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) will administer Tech.Pass, with the support of the Ministry of Manpower.

EDB said that Tech.Pass would help the Republic develop a strong base of technology companies and talent to ensure that Singapore remains globally competitive.

"This will also create more opportunities for local tech talent to work in globally competitive teams alongside top tech talent from all over the world," it added.

The tech sector is poised to be a large engine of growth for Singapore, and a study done by Temasek, Google and consultancy Bain & Company published on Tuesday found that the country's Internet economy - or business conducted online - is on track to reach US$22 billion (S$29.7 billion) by 2025.

The same report noted that Singapore housed the headquarters of a large number of big firms, including e-commerce platform Lazada and Internet platform Shopee's owner Sea.

To be eligible for Tech.Pass, candidates must meet at least two of three criteria:

• A last drawn monthly salary of at least $20,000 in the past year;

• At least five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in a tech firm with a valuation or market capitalisation of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million funding and beyond; or

• At least five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users or at least US$100 million in revenue.

Pass holders can start and operate a business, serve on the board of directors of a Singapore-based company or be a shareholder or investor in companies here.

They can also take up lecturing roles in institutes of higher learning, serve as a mentor or adviser to companies here, and conduct corporate training.

Those renewing Tech.Pass would need to have earned at least $240,000 in assessable income over the first two years or demonstrated total annual business spending of at least $100,000, among other requirements.

Tech.Pass builds on the Tech@SG programme, which spells out more flexible requirements for foreign professionals to apply for an Employment Pass to work here with a fixed monthly salary of at least $4,500.

Singapore is not alone in the quest to woo global top-tier talent, and Mr Chan noted yesterday that many countries have their own schemes to compete for them.

He said in Parliament last year that countries like Thailand, China and France are already making their pitch for highly skilled tech professionals. He pointed out how both France and Thailand have special visa programmes to make it easier for tech talent to be employed there.

He had warned then that Singapore would likely be left behind unless it also attracted such talent.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2020, with the headline New work pass to attract top-tier tech professionals. Subscribe