How to move to Singapore: a guide for expats

Published 2022-01-13 13:07:57
Singapore city line - Water photo created by mrsiraphol -

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This article will explore everything you need to know about making the move to Singapore.

The small island nation of Singapore is a popular destination for expats from all around the world. In fact, it was ranked as the top destination for expats by HSBC in 2018, and there are plenty of reasons why. It has a booming economy with low unemployment rates and high salaries to go along with that. The city-state also offers an accessible healthcare system and good quality education options for children, making it ideal for those who have families to consider too.

What to expect from life as an expat in Singapore

If you opt to move and live in Singapore, you can expect a high quality of life. The city has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable in the world and it is easy to see why. With its safe streets, diverse culture, excellent infrastructure and abundance of leisure activities, expats will feel right at home in Singapore. The country also has some of the best indicators of happiness in the world, especially in the areas of health and social support.

Expats comprise a huge portion of Singapore's population: a massive 29%, as of 2020. As far as dream expat locations, Singapore tops the list.

Visa requirements and essentials checklist

Before making the move it's important to know Singapore's VISA and entry requirements.

To enter Singapore, you'll need an EP: an Employment Pass. This will be organised by your Singaporean employer or agent.

You'll need to maintain a minimum salary of (SGD)$4,500 a month to keep this Pass (and in the financial sector, the minimum income is $5,000 - data from 1 December 2020). This applies to younger professionals under 40, while older professionals must earn around double this minimum qualifying salary. Long Term Visit Passes will need to be obtained for unmarried spouses and stepchildren.

Once here, expats can apply for Permanent Residency after having worked in Singapore with their pass for two years continuously.

Is it expensive for expats living in Singapore?

Unlike many of its South-East Asian counterparts, the cost of living in Singapore is quite high. When relocating, many companies will offer expat relocation packages to ease the transition as well.

Singapore is still an attractive proposition. The cost of living does correlate with the very high quality of life. The average wage is high, and Singapore is one of the most well-maintained nations in the world.

Look at where you intend to live, school fees, and the cost of lifestyle to calculate how much it would cost to support yourself or your family living in Singapore.

What is the language of Singapore?

Singaporeans speak English and Malay, as both are the official languages of Singapore. Mandarin is also widely spoken.

While English is the predominant language spoken in Singapore, expats will likely need to learn some basic phrases in Malay to get by comfortably.

If you'd like to hone your Malay speaking skills, Inlingua is a local provider that offers tuition, though there are many other providers out there.

Do you need a car living in Singapore?

Singapore has an excellent public transport system, a subway referred to as Mass Rapid Transit or MRT. If you do opt to drive your license will need to be converted after a year.

Getting a job in Singapore

As a thriving Mecca of commerce and industry, there are plenty of jobs in Singapore. With that said, there's also plenty of talent and competition.

It's best to secure a job prior to arriving. If you can't, however, there are plenty of opportunities for freelance work, tutoring, and more.

Housing in Singapore

Typically, expats will live in certain neighbourhoods or communities in Singapore. This makes it easy to meet fellow expats.

Expats are allowed to purchase specific types of homes in Singapore and can get mortgages. If you're renting, you can expect to pay (SGD)$700-750 a month for a shared apartment.

If you are looking for a nice place to stay with great potential investment returns, you may like to consider an upcoming luxury high-rise apartment Liv MB located at the prime district 15 of Singapore's east coast.

Schooling in Singapore

One of the most popular schooling options for expat children living in Singapore is International Schools, though these can range from $10,000 AUD to $50,000 AUD. Expat's children can attend local schools, but spots aren't guaranteed.


While Singapore offers universal healthcare, temporary residents don't qualify. Therefore, it is highly advised you secure international health insurance.

With that said, Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, so you're in good hands.

The process of relocating to a new country can be daunting, but it is worth it once you are living in one of the most liveable cities in the world. With this guide, you will have everything you need to make the move to Singapore as an expat!

> For more information about living in Singapore, see our Guide for expats in Singapore

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