Job-Hunting for International Students

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The gradsingapore Team
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If you are an international student, you may be able to stay and work here after you graduate.

If you have come to study in Singapore from overseas, you may have the right to stay and work here. Before you start applying for work, though, you will need to know a few things.

Applying for a work visa

As an international student, there are two types of work visas you can qualify for if you plan on working here in Singapore: the Q1 Employment Pass and the S-Pass.

• The S-Pass

S-Passes are awarded to foreigners who manage to secure mid-level skilled or executive-level jobs in Singapore. To qualify for an S-Pass, your employer must be paying you a minimum salary of S$2,200 per month.

You must have a degree or a diploma, and some relevant work experience.

• The Q1 Employment Pass

The Q1 Pass is typically awarded to graduates from renowned academic institutions who are hired for professional or executive-level work. Your employer must be paying you a minimum salary of S$3,300 a month.

Because the Q1 Pass is essentially one step removed from a Singapore Permanent Residency (PR), applications for this permit are subject to much stricter evaluation criteria than those for a S-Pass.

The Singapore government has identified a number of key growth sectors requiring skilled talent. If your area of work falls within one of these sectors, your application may be given special consideration.

You can find the full updated list on the Ministry of Manpower's website.

For detailed information on the application process, visit the "Foreign Manpower" section of the Ministry of Manpower's website.

Foreign employee levies and quotas

The Singaporean government has imposed a pricing mechanism known as the Foreign Worker Levy to regulate the number of foreign employees that a company can hire.

This is because employers do not need to pay Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions to foreign staff, and the levy is there is to ensure that Singaporean employers do not over-hire internationals as a means of cutting back staff costs.

In addition, companies in Singapore are only allowed to hire a limited number of internationals in proportion to the number of Singaporeans they currently employ.

This number, known as the Foreign Worker Quota, varies depending on the business activity conducted by the company and the size of the company's existing workforce.

It's also important to note that while S-Pass holders are subject to the Foreign Worker Quota, Q1 Pass holders are not. An employer can theoretically bring on as many Q1 Pass-holders as they wish, so long as they are willing to bear the cost of employing them.

When searching for jobs as an international student, it may be a good idea to find out whether the employer you are applying to has a track record of hiring foreign employees.

If a company is already employing internationals, chances are that they are already dedicating a portion of their overheads to the Foreign Worker Levy.

They would likely be more receptive to hiring you than a company which has never hired foreign employees in the past and would now need to start blocking out additional finances to pay the levy. 

While it's true that not all employers in Singapore are willing (or able) to hire international students, there are also plenty of others out there who will! Come prepared to be a bit more proactive, and be ready to make a couple of speculative applications.

Your university careers service and/or international office will be able to answer any questions you have about working in Singapore, the process of applying for an employment permit, or about the local workplace culture.

Drop by and ask if there's anything you want to know!