With a stable socio-economic environment, low taxes, respected government and status as a world class city, Singapore makes for an attractive destination for many overseas entrepreneurs.
If you’re a foreigner seeking to set up a company in Singapore, read on for a general overview of the process, as well as key requirements to note.
Setting up a company in Singapore as a foreigner
Foreigners wishing to establish a business in Singapore are welcome to do so as long as they register their business entity. They can register a company and have 100% shareholding, as long as they fulfil the following criteria:
- 18 years or older
- Have not been charged with bankruptcy or convicted of any legal offences
The regulatory body that oversees business registration in Singapore is known as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
Business registration may be performed online, even from overseas. However, there are some additional requirements to fulfil as a foreigner setting up a company in Singapore, as follows:
- Appoint a registered filing agent
- Appoint a locally resident authorised representative
- Apply for a valid visa if you’re planning to move to Singapore
Appoint a registered filing agent
All business registrations in Singapore have to be submitted via the Bizfile+ portal on ACRA’s website. Logging in requires a Singpass ID, which is only available to Singapore citizens.
As such, foreigners setting up companies in Singapore will need to appoint a registered filing agent to submit the business registration on their behalf.
There are several entities that offer this service, including law firms, accounting firms and corporate secretarial firms.
It is recommended to choose a firm that offers a range of corporate and accounting services. Not only will they be able to manage your business registration professionally and speedily, they can also offer essential services such as the provision of company secretary, filing annual returns, book-keeping, corporate tax planning, preparing financial statements and maintaining and updating records.
Working with a singular agent that can cover all your corporate needs is a much more convenient option, especially if you’re attempting to coordinate your enterprise from overseas.
Appoint a locally resident authorised representative
A core requirement of setting up a business in Singapore is that a local resident must be appointed as an authorised representative.
The authorised representative must hold a position in the company as a director, general partner or manager, and must have a residential address in Singapore – i.e., either a citizen, a Permanent Resident or someone holding an EntrePass or Employment Pass.
Note that the authorised representative is answerable for all acts required to be performed by the company under the Companies Act (CA). They would also be personally liable for all penalties arising from contravention of any of the provisions of the CA.
Apply for a valid visa if you’re planning to move to Singapore
As a foreigner setting up a company in Singapore, you are free to choose whether to manage your business from overseas, or to move to Singapore to work on your enterprise.
If you choose to remain overseas, you’ll need to appoint a nominee director. This appointee must be ordinarily resident in Singapore – in other words, a citizen, Permanent Resident, or a holder of a valid work pass.
If you’re planning to move to Singapore to lead the business, you can do so by applying for an EntrePass or an Employment Pass.
Foreign entrepreneurs may apply for an EntrePass if they have started, or intend to start soon, a registered company that is venture-backed or owns innovative technology. They should also fulfil any of the three categories of entrepreneur, innovator or investor.
Besides EntrePass, foreigners can also apply for an Employment Pass (EP) to work on their businesses in Singapore. The process is slightly more convoluted, as EP candidates do not apply on their own behalf. Instead, they have to seek a local company to act as a sponsor, and apply for the EP on their behalf.
Foreigners who want to set up a company in Singapore can enjoy a high degree of flexibility, with a highly developed ecosystem of service providers available to assist them at every step of the way.
For best results, foreign entrepreneurs should choose a filing agent that is able to offer a full range of services and expertise.
Need a hand? Our highly professional and knowledgeable team is standing by to help you with all your business registration and corporate service needs.