Discover boundless opportunities for your business in Singapore, the ultimate destination for global entrepreneurs. With its strategic location, pro-business environment, and unrivaled economic stability, it has emerged as a magnet for ambitious ventures.
This guide will show you how to registering a company in Singapore as a foreigner, including citizens from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan.
Let’s unlock the potential of starting a business in Singapore with its tax incentives, streamlined registration processes, and world-class infrastructure.
First, you need to understand the country’s business environment.
Understanding Singapore's Business Environment
In this section, we’ll unveil Singapore’s progressive economy, vast market potential, and the business entities you can engage in.
In addition, we will look into the regulation around owning property and investing as a foreigner.
First, is there an economy or market potential? Let’s find out.
Singapore's Economy and Market Potential
If you are worried about Singapore’s economy, worry not. The economy is large and resilient, suitable for business thriving.
First, the country is located in a strategic place.
Secondly, it has political stability and pro-business policies suitable for business growth. Thirdly as a global financial hub, it offers an ideal platform for businesses to thrive and expand.
In addition, it has a developed infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and strong trade connections. These developments present a vast market potential in different industries.
As a result, these factors present an attractive environment to capitalize on the city-state’s dynamic economy.
Types of Business Entities in Singapore
Singapore offers business entity choices to cater to your different entrepreneurial needs. Here are the main entities;
Private Limited Company
A private limited company is one of the business entities in Singapore. It’s a popular business setup where shareholders have limited liabilities.
Also, the set-up is considered a separate legal entity providing a clear distinction between the company and its owners.
Additionally, with a minimum of one and a maximum of fifty shareholders, it provides an easy ownership transfer attracting local and foreign investors.
A sole proprietorship is a one-person business.
In this business setup, you must take all responsibility and make decisions on all matters. Also, you are fully responsible for the company’s debts and losses.
A partnership in Singapore is a business structure where two or more individuals join forces to operate a business venture. This set-up offers shared ownership, profits, and decision-making among the partners.
Foreign Ownership and Investment Regulations
Singapore is business-friendly with an open economy. The country welcomes foreign investments and allows foreign ownership in most industries.
However, the government has regulations and restrictions. These restrictions help to facilitate national security and protect local businesses.
Some of the restrictions exist in;
Despite these regulations, you can engage in them with government approval. Also, it’s best to consult relevant government agencies for up-to-date information.
Let’s look at how to prepare yourself to register a company in Singapore.
How to Registering a Company in Singapore
Many businesses thrive in Singapore. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to registering a company in Singapore as a foreigner.
Let’s start with business idea research.
Business Idea and Market Research
The first step to a company registration is ensuring you have a viable business idea.
To come up with the idea, spot a market gap or a problem and work to give a solution. However, you need a great idea in Singapore to stand in the crowd for never-ending market competition.
In addition to your business idea, you must do sufficient market research to determine its feasibility. Luckily, the country has an enabling business environment with skilled labor, making it easy to start up.
To start, you must decide on an appropriate business structure.
Choosing the Right Business Structure
Here are your options if you need help with the available business structures.
- Private Limited Company (Pte. Ltd.): The most popular choice for entrepreneurs. It is a separate legal entity, providing limited liability to shareholders. The structure allows for easy fundraising, expansion, and attracting investors.
- Sole Proprietorship: Suitable for individual business owners. It offers a straightforward setup, but you have unlimited personal liability for debts.
- Partnership: Businesses with two or more partners should share profits and liabilities.
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Suitable for professional services firms. Combines elements of a partnership and a company, providing limited liability to its partners.
- Branch Office: Representing a foreign company, not a separate legal entity. This business can undertake commercial activities in Singapore for its parent company.
- Subsidiary Company: A locally incorporated company with its own legal identity but wholly or partially owned by a foreign company.
Among the above set-up, a private limited company is the most common among foreigners.
Advantages of Registering a Private Limited Company in Singapore for Foreign Entrepreneurs
Let us examine why registering a private limited company in Singapore is more popular.
- Shareholders are not personally liable for the company’s debts and liabilities beyond their investment.
- The company can enter into contracts, own assets, and sue or be sued in its name.
- The company structure allows for easy fundraising and attracting investors.
- The company’s life is not dependent on its owners.
- Enhances credibility in the eyes of suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders, leading to better business opportunities.
- As a Pte. Ltd.; your business can benefit from various tax incentives, exemptions, and low corporate tax rates.
- Allows easy expansion into international markets and attracts foreign customers and partners.
However, you need to meet legal and compliance requirements.
Legal and Compliance Requirements for Foreign Citizens
As a foreigner, you need to comply with legal requirements for the smooth running of your business. Here are the requirements when setting up a company in Singapore.
- Company name approval
- Register a company address
- Appoint a local director
- Engage a company secretary
- Decide on share capital and shareholders
- Prepare a memorandum and articles of association
- Submit necessary documents to ACRA for online registration through the BizFile+ portal.
- Register for taxes with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) after company registration.
- Get specific licenses or permits to operate legally.
- Comply with all relevant regulations and statutory requirements.
- Employment Pass (EP) for Foreign Employees if your company intends to hire foreign employees.
Once you have all that takes to register a company, it’s now time to think of the initial capital.
Minimum Initial Capital Requirements
According to the ACRA (accounting and corporate regulatory authority), you need a minimum of S$1 to start your business. For sure, this amount is convenient for most entrepreneurs.
After registration, your capital requirements will depend on your business plan and operations.
Let’s look at the steps to follow to register your company.
Step-by-Step Process for Company Registration in Singapore
Business in Singapore has high chances of success. Also, assuming you have at least minimum capital to kick off. It’s time to register and start.
Name Reservation and Approval
First, you must create a unique company name and submit it to ACRA for approval. Your choice of name should not infringe on existing trademarks and must comply with naming guidelines.
After approval, the name reservation is valid for 120 days. Whereby you should be through with the entire registration process.
Appoint Company Directors and Shareholders:
You need at least one director, who ordinarily resides in Singapore (Singaporean citizen, PR, or EP/DP holder), and one shareholder (individual or corporate entity). As a foreigner, you can act as a director and shareholder; one person can hold both roles.
Register an Office Address and Appoint a Company Secretary
Your company must have a local registered office in Singapore. Also, appoint a qualified company secretary within six months of incorporation. The company secretary must be a natural person and a resident of Singapore.
Draft a Memorandum and Articles of Association:
Next, prepare the Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA) outlining the company’s constitution and internal governance rules. This document governs the company’s relationship with its shareholders and directors.
Decide on Capital Structure and Share Allocation
Include the company’s total shares and their par value. Also, determine the share allocation among shareholders, defining their ownership percentage.
File Required Documents with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)
Submit all required documents, including the MAA, details of directors and shareholders, and the company’s registered office address, to ACRA for registration. You can do this through the BizFile+ online portal.
Obtain the Necessary Business Licenses and Permits
Depending on the nature of your company’s activities, you may require specific licenses and permits to operate legally.
Taxation and Financial Considerations
Singapore has reduced corporate income tax rates and incentives to attract global foreign investors. Let’s explore the available considerations;
Singapore Corporate Tax Rate for Foreign Companies
The Singapore corporate tax rate for foreign companies is a flat rate of 17%. This rate is applied to the company’s chargeable income, which is the net income after deducting allowable expenses and tax incentives.
Tax Treaties and Avoidance of Double Taxation (DTA's)
DTAs provide relief through reduced withholding tax rates and other benefits. Singapore has an extensive network of Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) avoidance with various countries.
These agreements aim to eliminate double taxation of income that may arise when the same income is subject to tax in Singapore and another country.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) Registration
Goods and Services Tax (GST) refers to the consumption tax levied on the supply of goods and services in Singapore. You must register for GST if your business’s annual turnover exceeds SDG 1 million.
Also, there is voluntary registration if your business has lower turnovers, allowing you to claim input tax credits.
Opening a Business Bank Account in Singapore
After registration, you must open a business bank account to handle your financial transactions. However, the requirements may vary among banks.
You’ll need the company’s incorporation documents, company resolution authorizing the account opening, and identification documents of directors and signatories.
Business Visa for Singapore
You need a visa to visit Singapore if you come from any visa required countries. However the application process is similar but the requirements are different.
Singapore eVisa Application Process
Nowadays, visa application is easy, convenient, and straightforward with the online application. You only need a few minutes to complete the application and processing fees. To apply;
- Log into Singapore Visa online and fill out the visa application form. After filling in all the required details, upload a valid passport and a recent photograph.
- Next, after filling out the form, you need to pay the processing fees. You can either use a debit or a credit card.
- Receive your visa approval letter in two to six days, depending on your preferred package. You are ready to travel once you get your Singapore visa approval letter.
But note that all the documents for your visa approval are essential. Let’s explore the requirements for different counties.
Here are the requirements for a Singapore visa for Russian citizens.
To apply for a Singapore visa, you need the following;
- Have a valid passport. Please check the passport requirement example here.
- Upload an up-to-date colored passport photograph taken within three months. Please check an example here.
- In/outbound travel tickets, in some cases
- Proof of stay; you must prove where you will when in Singapore. You can use a hotel booking ticket or prove you’ll live with a friend or relative. But please note Airbnb bookings are unacceptable.
Any Russian citizen can apply for a Singapore visa only. You only need to meet the requirements; have a valid passport, a recent photograph, travel and hotel ticket.
Singapore visa for Ukrainian citizens is now available online.
- Visit Singapore online visa and complete an online application form.
- Valid Ukraine passport must have six months validity from your entry date to Singapore. Please check the sample here.
- A recent passport photo is at most three months old. Here is a sample.
- In/outbound travel tickets.
- Hotel reservation ticket.
- As a Ukraine citizen, you will also need an arrival card Singapore to enter.
You only need to have all the requirements and fill out the application form to be eligible for a Singapore business visa.
Singapore visa for Kazakhstan citizens traveling for business is now convenient and straightforward with Singapore online visa application. But before you apply, here are the requirements.
- Be a Kazakhstan citizen.
- Have a valid passport with six months validity from the day of the entrance to Singapore. Also, make sure it has a blank page for approval stamps. Here is a passport sample.
- Recent passport-size photograph. Here are the requirements and sample.
- To and from air booking tickets. Alternatively, you can provide Airbnb booking details.
- Apply for an SG Arrival card.
To qualify for a Singapore business visa, have all the required documents. Then fill out the application form.
Uzbekistan citizens need a visa to visit Singapore. Here are the requirements to get your Singapore business visa;
Singapore Visa for Uzbekistan Citizens requirement
To get a Singapore visa, here are the requirements;
- Visit Singapore online visa, fill out and submit your online application form.
- A valid passport. Your passport must meet these requirements for approval.
- A recent passport photo was taken within three months. Please check this sample and the eligibility criteria.
- Attach hotel reservation ticket. Please note that Airbnbs are not accepted.
- Flight return ticket indicating the date of arrival and departure from Singapore
To be eligible for the Singapore business visa, complete the application form correctly. Also, you must meet all the requirements.
Azerbaijan citizens need a visa to visit Singapore. For your business trips, here are the requirements;
Requirement of Singapore Visa for Azerbaijani Citizens
- Original passport valid six months and beyond from the day you enter Singapore.
- Complete the application form on Singapore visa online website.
- A recent passport photograph was taken within three months. Please check this for the correct format.
- Confirmed flight and accommodation ticket.
- Apply for an SG arrival card after receiving your visa approval.
To be eligible for the Singapore visa, complete the application form correctly and submit all the requirements.
Work Pass Options for Entrepreneurs
After getting your visa, you’ll need a pass to enter Singapore. You can opt for EntrePass, meant for foreign entrepreneurs launching new businesses. The other option is S Pass available for mid-skilled workers.
However, please note that each pass has specific criteria and benefits, contributing to Singapore’s vibrant startup ecosystem. Once you get your work pass, you may need a dependent pass.
Dependent's Pass for Family Members
Dependent’s Pass (DP) allows you to take your spouses, children, and other family members to Singapore. DP holders can work, study, or stay in Singapore. This pass is a valuable support to maintain a work-life balance.
Employment and Work Passes
On top of getting your visa, you’ll need a pass in Singapore. Let’s explore the available options.
Employment Pass for Company Directors and Key Personnel
The Employment Pass (EP) is legible for professionals, managers, executives, and technical personnel seeking employment in Singapore. These passes are mainly meant for company directors and key personnel meeting eligibility criteria.
You must meet the qualifications, including a $ 5,000 monthly salary and job roles contributing to Singapore’s economy.
S Pass for Mid-Level Skilled Employees
The S Pass suits mid-skilled foreign employees working in various sectors, such as manufacturing, services, and construction. Applicants are assessed based on qualifications, work experience, job type, and salary. But you need to earn at least $3,000 monthly.
Dependent's Pass for Family Members
Dependent’s Pass (DP) allows eligible family members of Employment Pass or S Pass holders to live in Singapore. People eligible for this pass are spouses and unmarried children under 21.
Please note the sponsoring pass holder must meet the qualifying criteria. Also, the validity of the DP is tied to the validity of the sponsor’s work pass.
Next, let’s look at the application process.
Eligibility and Application Process for Work Passes:
Singapore’s work pass system is structured to bring in skilled talent while ensuring a balance with the local workforce.
You need a job offer from a Singapore-registered company to qualify for an EP or S Pass. In this case, the company becomes the sponsor for your pass application.
The eligibility criteria include relevant qualifications, work experience, and a job that aligns with the pass type’s requirements. Visit Singapore’s Ministry of manpower for more information on different work passes and their qualifications.
Meanwhile, once you set up a business in Singapore, you have obligations to meet.
Compliance and Reporting Obligations
As a foreigner in Singapore, here are some commitments you must meet.
Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Returns
Foreign companies in Singapore must hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) within six months of their financial year-end. During the AGM, you should present financial statements to shareholders for approval.
Additionally, foreign companies must file annual returns with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) within one month of the AGM with up-to-date company information.
Next are the financial reports and professional audits.
Financial Reporting and Audit Requirements
Foreign companies must prepare financial statements per the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards (SFRS). The statements should give an accurate and fair view of the company’s financial position.
However, depending on the company’s size, appointing auditors to work on financial statements might be necessary.
Moreover, there are set employment regulations and contributions.
Employment Regulations and CPF Contributions
Compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Laws
As a foreign company operating in Singapore, you are subject to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations. For instance, you must implement robust Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures to verify your clients and business partners’ identities.
Also, you must report suspicious transactions and comply with regulations to avoid financial crime.
Let’s look at the available business support available in Singapore.
Business Support and Resources in Singapore
Singapore is known for its business support, including foreign businesses. This support includes;
Government Grants and Incentives for Foreign Businesses
Singapore offers a range of government grants and incentives to support foreign companies. You can enjoy grants for research and development, capability development, and internationalization efforts.
In addition, incentive programs like the Global Investor Programme (GIP) offer Permanent Residency to foreign investors. The Economic Development Board (EDB) and other agencies provide information and assistance in accessing these resources.
Business Networking and Support Organizations
Singapore boasts a vibrant business ecosystem with numerous networking opportunities and support organizations. Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, and industry-specific groups provide platforms for networking, knowledge exchange, and business development.
Moreover, professional services are readily available in Singapore.
Professional Services - Accounting, Legal, and Consulting
Once you set up your business in Singapore as a foreigner, you can tap into its well-developed professional services sector. For example, accounting firms offer auditing, tax advisory, and financial consulting services. At the same time, legal firms provide guidance on business law, contracts, and compliance.
Additionally, consulting firms specialize in market entry strategies, regulatory compliance, and business expansion planning. So, you have sufficient support navigating the local landscape.
It’s now time to look at successful case studies from Singapore.
Case Studies of Successful Foreign Companies in Singapore
We have a few case studies on successful foreign businesses if you are still in a dilemma about setting up your business in Singapore. One, Google’s Asia-Pacific headquarters started as a small office in 2007. They are all grown and in a bigger space, hosting over 2000 users.
Facebook strategically manages its regional operations from Singapore, specifically at Marine One, since October 2018. Thirdly, Amazon Web Services (AWS) leverages Singapore’s tech hub status.
However, these are just a few.
Take the bold step and be the next successful foreign entrepreneur in Singapore.
Real-Life Examples of Foreign Entrepreneurs' Ventures in Singapore
Due to its favorable business environment, foreign entrepreneurs find Singapore an ideal launch pad. Grab, founded by Anthony Tan, a Chinese and Tan Hooi Ling, revolutionized Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing industry.
Also, Tanoto Foundation, established by Sukanto Tanoto, a foreign entrepreneur from Indonesia, contributes significantly to education and social welfare.
These are real examples underscoring how foreign entrepreneurs utilize Singapore’s resources to innovate and create impactful ventures. So, what are the lessons?
Lessons Learned and Best Practices
You can learn several lessons from successful foreign entrepreneurs in Singapore.
- You need to capitalize on Singapore’s strategic location to enlarge regional outreach.
- Two, it’s important to adapt products or services to local preferences so as to fosters customer engagement.
- Third, you must collaborate with local stakeholders and government entities to foster your business growth. Lastly, nurture talent through recruitment, development, and retention to drive innovation and competitiveness.
Company registration in Singapore presents an array of advantages. It offers a strategic location, business-friendly policies, robust infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and a competitive tax framework. These factors create an optimal environment for international ventures.
In addition, you enjoy seamless registration procedures, access to government grants, and a well-connected business network.
Embarking on international expansion can be a transformative step. Embrace the opportunities and challenges around Singapore’s resources and support. If necessary, seek expert guidance for seamless compliance and strategic growth.
Your determination and Singapore’s conducive ecosystem will propel your business toward global success. As you navigate this journey, remember innovation and resilience are Singapore’s hallmarks. These qualities can elevate your venture and lead to a prosperous future on the international stage.