Singapore

General Information Banking
Business Etiquette Tips Embassy Locations and Registration
Employment-Legal Requirements Entry and Exit Requirements
Intellectual Property Legal and Registration of a Business Entity
Safety and Crime Taxes

General Information

SingaporeA small country located off the southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It also has an extremely high literacy rate estimated at 92.2 percent, attributable to free primary and secondary education. More than 7,000 multinational companies are represented in Singapore as a result of a near corruption-free and highly competent government and a skilled workforce. The country has one of the lowest unemployment rates worldwide, and it is considered one of the safer places to live. Singapore is also recognized as being one of the world's "most prosperous countries with strong international trading links."

The United States has maintained formal diplomatic relations with Singapore since its independence in 1965. The United States and Singapore signed a bilateral free trade agreement that went into force on January 1, 2004. The growth of U.S. investment in Singapore and the large number of Americans living there have enhanced opportunities between the two countries, and today many Singaporeans visit and study in the United States.

Major Cities Capital: Singapore (The country is a city-state)
Official Currency Singapore dollar (SGD)
Time Zone UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. during Standard Time) Government Type
Language English (preferred for business and professionals), Malay (national language), Mandarin and other Chinese dialects, and Tamil

 
Legal System and Government

Type of Legal System

The Singaporean legal system is based on English common law. It has not accepted compulsory International Code of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction.

Form of Government

Parliamentary republic

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Banking

General Information

Singapore is served by many international financial institutions recognized as being some of the top banks in the world. Some operate as full, restricted, or offshore banks, while others maintain representative offices or operate as merchant banks.

Available Banking Services

Numerous 24-hour ATMs
Online banking
Banking in English 
Overdraft protection
Credit card services
Personal and corporate loans
Worldwide services

Bank Holidays

New Year's Day 
Chinese New Year / Tet/ Losar
Good Friday 
Labor Day 
Vesak-Buddha Purnima-Visakha Bucha 
National Day
End of Ramadan 
Deepavali/Dipabali
Hari Raya Haji 
Christmas Day

U.S. and Other Major Banks in Country

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

Standard Chartered Bank-Principal Office
6 Battery Road,
Singapore 049909, Singapore
Phone: (65) 62258888
Fax: (65) 67893756
Web: http://www.standardchartered.com/sg/

Citibank-AMK Hub Branch (#03-02/03)
53, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3
Singapore 569933
Phone: (65) 6225-5225
Web: http://www.citibank.com.sg/portal/bluehome/index.htm

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Business Etiquette Tips

Business Attire

A strict, formal dress code is preferred for both men and women (e.g., business suits for men and conservative dresses for women).

Business Negotiations

Doing business in Singapore is far more structured and formal than in Western countries and as in many countries, establishing personal relationships can be key to successful negotiations. It is very important to avoid causing anyone to lose face and to carefully word your responses in order to maintain a positive business relationship.

Proper Greetings

Shaking hands is both common and acceptable among both men and women. 

Scheduling Appointments

Punctuality is crucial for all business meetings, though it is not as important for social engagements. Appointments should be scheduled a minimum of two weeks in advance and, prior to the meeting, it is recommended to send a list of attendees and their respective titles.

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Embassy Locations and Registration 

Americans living or traveling in Singapore are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration Web site and obtain updated information on travel and security within Singapore. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

(Note: Address and contact information subject to change.)

Singapore Embassy in the United States
3501 International Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: 202-537-3100
Fax:  202-537-0876
Web: http://www.mfa.gov.sg/washington/

U.S. Embassy in Singapore
27 Napier Road
Singapore 258508
Phone: (65) 6476-9100  After hours:  (65) 6476-9100
Fax:  (65) 6476-9340
Web: http://singapore.usembassy.gov/

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Employment-Legal Requirements

Foreigners entering Singapore to take up or continue employment require permission from the Comptroller of Immigration and approval of eligibility for the proper employment or training permit or pass. The Ministry of Manpower provides detailed information, the requirements per classification, and necessary application forms for nonresidents interested in working in Singapore.

A typical work day is eight to nine hours per day and up to 44 hours a week for full-time employees, and it can consist of either a five- or six-day work week. For employers requiring overtime hours, a work week may extend up to a maximum of 48 hours per week for a maximum of 88 hours in any two-week period and no more than 72 hours during any one month timeframe. 

In addition, notwithstanding exceptional circumstances, an employee may not be required to work more than 12 hours in a 24-four hour period.  Overtime is payable at the rate of no less than one-and-a-half times the regular wage. 

A contract of employment can exist either verbally or in writing. Note that there is a key difference in extending a "contract of service" versus that of a "contract for service."  In a "contract for service" there is no implied employee/employer relationship, and the individual is considered self-employed. Under such an agreement, no benefits are accrued or paid, and the individual provides their own materials and equipment necessary for completing the work.

Terminating Employees

Either party to a contract of service may give notice to the other of his intention to terminate the contract. The length of such notice shall be the same for both employer and employee, and it shall be determined by any provision made for the notice in the terms of the contract of service, or, in the absence of such provision, will be as follows: 

Legally Mandated Benefits and Leave

Annual Leave 7 days (upon completion of 12 months eligible to take accrued leave upon completion of 3 months)
Child-care Leave 6 days (upon completion of 90 days employment)*
Infant-care Leave 6 days (for a child under 2, upon completion of 90 days employment)*
Maternity Leave 16 weeks (4 weeks prior to birth and 12 weeks following) 100 percent pay
Sick Leave 14 days (upon completion of 6 months-where no hospitalization required)
60 days maximum (where hospitalization required and upon medical proof)  


*Parents of children younger than 2 are eligible to take both child-care and infant-care leave. Certain other restrictions may apply to the above benefits and leave listed above. 

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Entry and Exit Requirements

A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa if their visit is for business or social purposes and their stay is for 90 days or less. Travelers to the region should note that Singapore and some neighboring countries do not allow Americans to enter under any circumstances with fewer than six months of validity remaining on their passport. Female U.S. citizens who are pregnant when they apply to enter Singapore for a social visit are no longer required to make prior application through the nearest Singapore overseas mission or to provide documentation from a U.S. embassy concerning the nationality the child will acquire at birth.

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Intellectual Property 

A patent is a monopoly right given by the government to the owner of an invention to enable him to prevent others from using, copying, or making the invention without his consent in the country in which he has obtained patent protection. The patent application should contain a full written explanation or disclosure of the invention and the mechanics by which the invention works.

Apart from using the patent to prevent others from exploiting the invention, the patent owner can utilize his patent in many ways. He can use his patent to raise funds for his business, license it to third parties for commercial returns, or sell the patented invention for a sum of money. Inventions that are considered or expected to encourage offensive, immoral, or antisocial behavior will not be published or considered patentable even if they satisfy the three key criteria.

Nature of Rights and Terms

Patents

A patent confers on the owner the right to prevent others from exploiting an invention without the owner's consent during the term of the patent. A patent is a form of property and can be assigned, licensed, or mortgaged. The term of a patent is 20 years from the date of filing subject to the payment of annual renewal fees, which are due from the end of the fourth year from the filing date and every year thereafter.

Industrial Design Patents

A design patent refers to the features of shape, configuration, pattern, or ornament applied to an article by an industrial process. It is the appearance of articles we see everyday. An article refers to any object to which the design is applied. A registered design is protected for an initial period of five years from the filing date. Thereafter the registration may be renewed every five years up to a maximum of 15 years, subject to the payment of renewal fees.

Trademarks

A registered trademark can last indefinitely. The initial term is for 10 years from the filing date, which can be renewed every 10 years upon payment of renewal fees and with proper use of the mark. An individual, firm, or company claiming to be the owner of a trademark can file for a trademark registration as long as they are using or intend to use the mark in the course of their business. There are no restrictions or discrimination as to nationality or residency. But an applicant who is not a resident in Singapore must provide the Registry of Trade Marks with an address for service in Singapore to which all correspondence will be sent.

Copyrights

The duration of protection varies according to the type of copyrighted work concerned. Literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, sound recordings and films, and performance works are protected for the lifetime of the author/creator and an additional 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. If the work is published after the death of the author, it lasts for 70 years, from the end of the year in which the work was first published.

Published editions of literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works (layout) are protected for 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published. 

Broadcasts and cable programs  are protected for 50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable program.

Enforcement

Infringement occurs when an invention of a patented product or process is used without the consent of the patent owner while the patent is in force. In general, infringement occurs when an individual makes or disposes of, uses, or imports a product or keeps it without the consent of the patent owner. Infringement also occurs when an individual uses or offers the process in Singapore when he knows that the use would constitute infringement of the patent owner's rights.

A patent owner can take civil legal action against an infringer and seek relief in the form of an injunction to stop the infringing action, demand the profits gained by the infringing party at his expense, and/or seek damages for the loss suffered. 

It is a criminal offence to make unauthorized, false claims about patent rights or pending patents about a product, and those doing so may be subject to legal proceedings.

Trademarks: Whenever and wherever possible, a registered trademark should be appropriately used to reinforce the trademark identity with its associated type(s) of goods or services. Legal action must be taken promptly to prevent misuse or infringement of the registered trademark. In certain circumstances a trademark owner who is aware of an infringing use of his trademark and who has failed continuously for five years to object to the use of it may find that he can no longer oppose the use of that trademark. If a registered trademark has not been used consecutively for five years, there is a risk of the trade mark being removed from the register.

Useful intellectual property Web sites:

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore
www.ipos.gov.sg
Singapore Statutes Online http://statutes.agc.gov.sg
World Intellectual Property Offices (WIPO) www.wipo.int
World Trade Organization (WTO) www.wto.int

 

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Legal and Registration of a Business Entity

Foreign companies wishing to operate in Singapore may set up public or limited liability companies, sole proprietorships, establish a representative office, or register as a branch. Prior to doing any of the above requires that the following forms first be registered with the Registrar of Companies: (1) a certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation and charters, statute, or memorandum and articles of the foreign company; (2) a memorandum of appointment of two or more local agents of the foreign company; and (3) a statutory declaration in the prescribed form made by the agent of the company.

Registration Formalities (Including Timing)

The World Bank estimates a timeframe of three days and three steps to establish a business presence in Singapore. Particularly useful is their friendly one-stop shop known as Enterprise One where information, forms, and everything necessary to properly register a business is located. 

Briefly, the steps required to start a business are:

  1. Registration on-line with ACRA including company name search and filing the company incorporation and tax number (GST).
  2. Make a company seal.
  3. Sign up for Work Injury Compensation Insurance at an insurance agency.

(Source:  The World Bank, Doing Business - Singapore)

Below is an additional listing of resources to assist in establishing an office.

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority
http://www.acra.gov.sg/
Enter Singapore Business
http://www.entersingaporebusiness.info/ 
Enterprise One
http://www.business.gov.sg/ (One-stop location for business forms, registrations, permits, etc.)
Investor's Guide to Property Tax by IRAS
https://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/uploadedFiles/Quick_Links/e-Tax_Guides/Property/2006-PT-4.pdf
Ministry of Law
www.minlaw.gov.sg
Ministry of Manpower
http://www.mom.gov.sg/publish/momportal/en/home.html (Employment regulations, forms, etc.)
Singapore InfoMap http://app.www.sg/Directory.asp?type=Business&id=19 (Resource of variety of Web site portals to obtain business information)

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Safety and Crime

Singapore is considered one of the safest countries in the world. But it has become a target of interest for terrorist groups.

Visitors should be aware of Singapore's strict laws and penalties for a variety of actions that might not be illegal or might be considered minor offenses in the United States. These include jaywalking, littering, and spitting. Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses, and caning may also be imposed for immigration violations and other offenses. There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing.

There are also "Outrage of Modesty" laws, defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person, intended to, or knowing it to be likely to, outrage the modesty of that person. Penalties can include imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, caning, or a combination thereof. 

Crime: Major crimes against tourists in Singapore are uncommon. Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and purse-snatching or briefcase-snatching may occur in tourist areas, hotels, and at the airport. Travelers should exercise the same level of caution they would in any large city.

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Taxes

The income tax system in Singapore is administered by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) under the direction of the Comptroller of Income Tax. Currently there is a limited treaty regarding double taxation in place between the United States and Singapore that will not affect the average individual's situation. But a credit for foreign tax paid on income generated from outside of the country and any foreign taxes already paid may apply. The tax year follows that of the calendar year and ends on December 31st. 

Individual and Employee Taxation

Determining Tax Residence

An individual is considered a resident if he or she resides in Singapore for 183 days or more during the preceding year, and they will be treated as a resident for that year.  Residents are entitled to tax exemption if there income falls below a certain amount, and then progressive tax rates thereafter.

Nontax Resident Employees

An individual or short-term visiting employee who is in Singapore for some temporary purpose only, and not with the intent to establish residence there and who has not actually resided for at least six months in the year of assessment, is not considered a Singapore resident. Nonresident individuals are subject to income tax, with Singapore employment income being taxed at a reduced rate as compared to non-Singaporean employment income.

Corporate and Employer Tax Obligations

A company is considered to be resident in Singapore if its control and management are exercised there. Control and management are normally considered to be exercised at the place where the directors' meetings are held.

Nonresident Companies

The Singapore tax laws apply equally to resident companies, nonresident companies, and branches of foreign companies regarding the method of taxation or the rate at which tax is charged. Nonresident companies have the same obligations and rights under the act, are entitled to claim all the deductions provided in the act, and generally enjoy the same privileges as resident companies. 

Every employer is responsible for making monthly payments into the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for resident employees and/or Singapore citizens, including those on temporary, probationary, part-time, or piece-rated employment. This is a compulsory retirement fund established and managed by the government for all local employers.  Employers contribute a portion of an employee's gross remuneration into this pool, and employees contribute a percentage of their remuneration by way of deduction by employers.

Goods and Service Tax (GST)

GST was implemented as part of a major tax structure reform. GST is charged whenever a registered business supplies goods or services in the course of its business where that supply is a taxable supply made by a taxable person in the course or furtherance of any business carried on by that person ("output tax").

For more information on employee and employer tax responsibilities, as well as the GST, please visit http://www.guidemesingapore.com/taxation/topics/singapore-tax-rates.

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