Expats’ Guide To Migrating To Singapore: Here’s What You Need To Know Before Moving
With enviable standard of living, world-class healthcare, a great educational system and an economy that has a perpetual need for talented workers, Singapore is a great place for those with the right skillsets to work and develop their careers.
Whether you’re coming here for a few months on a work rotation, a few years on an extended stint, or planning to call Singapore your home for good, here’s a guide to get you started on the most important things to get you started on your new life on the right foot, including immigration matters, healthcare, and banking services.
If you already have a job secured in your home country, your employer will need to help you make an application for your Employment Pass (EP). You can take a look at the Ministry of Manpower website to find out what are the relevant documents you need to prepare in support of the application.
Once your online Employment Pass application is approved (around 3 weeks), you’ll receive an in-principle letter, which is valid for 6 months. You’ll then need to complete any medical examinations/declarations and collect your EP in person.
If you’re bringing your family with you, you need to apply for Dependant Passes, which allows them to stay in Singapore for 2 years, and are renewable.
Upon arrival, the main concern would be having a comfortable, affordable roof over your head that meets your needs. Proximity to your workplace will be one important consideration, though if your children will living with you in Singapore, their choice of school will perhaps be an equally important consideration as well.
Unless you’re staying in Singapore for good, you’re most likely going to be renting. Renting a home has its perks, since you can always move after a few months after you get a better feel of Singapore and are clearer on where you want your ideal home to be. PropertyGuru is one of the largest portals for Singapore property hunters, so you can do some research on your shortlisted locations and get a sense of the rental prices.
When you’re based overseas, you no longer have access to the healthcare system you’re used to in your home country. Singapore has a great private and public healthcare system with one of the best outcomes in the world, but it can be really expensive if you do not have the right insurance.
First check with your employer what medical and insurance benefits you’ll be enjoying. Next, international medical insurance should be another key area that you should look into prior to coming to Singapore for work.
Essentially, international medical insurance covers any healthcare costs that you incur overseas, including hospital bills, surgeon fee, specialists’ consultation, physiotherapy, among others. In addition to the medical insurance, expats can also opt for riders that cover international outpatient treatment, visual and dental treatment, health and wellness, and medical evacuation.
Of course, one crucial step for every major move is setting up a local bank account.
Getting your money matters settled within the first week or so is essential, so that your salary can be credited to your new bank account and you can deposit your cash in hand into a safe place.
DBS Remit offers same-day transfers at lower fees and preferential foreign exchange rates. $0 remittance fees are valid for same-day transfers to Australia, China, Eurozone countries, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, UK and USA.
With PayNow, you can send money instantly with just the mobile number or NRIC/FIN (National Registration Identity Card/Foreign Identification Number) of any recipient. Once you’ve opened your bank account and registered for a mobile line, you can register for PayNow using your mobile number or FIN to start sending and receiving money.
Bring your passport, your employment pass, and a company ID. Most standard credit cards require a minimum annual income of $30,000 – sometimes more. Some banks may require a copy of a recent payslip to prove your income.
In the past few years, the government has recently some banking regulations, allowing banks to offer credit cards with no minimum income requirement. These cards have a maximum credit limit of $500.
Another good option for those under the minimum income requirement is a debit card. Various banks offer Visa and Mastercard affiliated debit cards, with no minimum income threshold.
You’ll be spoiled for choice in Singapore when it comes to credit cards. There are lots of good offers. Almost every card offers some kind of rebate and a bunch of freebies.
Once you have your Employment Pass endorsed, you can open a bank account. Any bank should be fine, but check the minimum maintaining balance and watch out for bank fees, so you don’t get charged unnecessarily.
Bring your green embarkation card (the Employment Pass), your passport, and enough cash for the opening balance.
Bank-to-bank electronic transfers within Singapore typically take 1-2 days. DBS Bank (of which POSB is a subsidiary) seems to be the most popular, but shop around. Check the credit card offerings too, to help you decide.
A few days’ visit to Singapore is good enough to accomplish a lot if you plan well. Take time off to visit your office and new colleagues, and interview other expats in the area. Arrange with a real estate agent to take you on a tour of expat-friendly residential neighbourhoods to explore your options. Make an appointment with schools and bring along your children’s curricula, as well as check out the transportation services. A great one-stop shopping centre for expats, Tanglin Mall is within minutes away from Orchard Road by taxi or walking, carrying a well-stocked supermarket, clothing stores, hairdressers, etc. Get a map or a city guide as well from either Borders or Kinokuniya; two famous bookstore giants situated a short walk from Orchard Road or Orchard MRT station.
If you’re leaving your home for a longer period, you may want to consider giving “powers of attorney” of your financial matters to someone while you’re away. Look into resolving or closing any insurance, banking, mortgages or loan related matters, as well as settling all unpaid utility and telephone bills before you relocate. Check to see how your pension will be affected and whether you or your employer can/will make contributions.
Inform the tax authorities that you’re leaving (and pay any outstanding tax bills and loans) as in some countries – you may be prohibited from leaving if caught for this offense. Also, do notify your bank and cancel any accounts or credit cards to ensure you’re no longer paying interest.
Pay a visit to your medical physician and dentist to get examinations, vaccines and a copy of your records or results (these may also be needed for your insurance cover).
Look for a relocation company to help you pack and move. Moving is labor intensive, but look at it as a way to streamline your life as well – and cut down on unnecessary baggage! Decide what should be shipped over to your new home, what should be stored, and what should be sold or simply given away.
It pays to do some financial planning before you leave home, particularly if you don’t expect to be returning often.
If you’re maintaining home country bank accounts and credit cards, make sure you can access your accounts and make payments and transfers online. Ask your bank whether your account might be classified as “inactive” after a certain period of time. If it does – do you risk losing any money to fees or account seizures? Find out what you might need to do to reactivate your account.
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