How Can Foreigners Set Up Businesses in Singapore?

Last updated on May 23, 2019

If you are a foreigner looking to start a business in Singapore, you’ll be happy to know that this task is not as daunting as you think it is. This guide aims to help you navigate the procedures required to incorporate a business in Singapore.

1. Registering A Sole-Proprietorship

Foreigners can apply for sole-proprietorships in Singapore, but they have to appoint an authorised representative who is ordinarily resident in Singapore whilst they reside outside of Singapore. Ordinary residents include Singapore citizens, Permanent Residents and EntrePass holders. Should you wish to reside in Singapore instead and run your business, you will have to apply for an EntrePass on the MOM website to set up your sole-proprietorship.

Other steps in the registration process, such as choosing a suitable name and address, and eventually completing the entire form on BizFile+ using SingPass, are the same for foreigners as they are for locals. If you do not have a SingPass, you will have to engage the services of a registered filing agent such as a law firm to fill out the application for you.

You may wish to refer to our guide on forming a sole-proprietorship for more information.

2. Registering A Partnership

Similar to sole-proprietorships, foreigners are also able to register partnerships in Singapore if one of the partners is ordinarily resident in Singapore. Should all of the partners be foreigners, you will have to appoint an authorised representative who is ordinarily resident in Singapore. However, should you or your partners wish to reside in Singapore and run the partnership yourself, you will have to apply for an EntrePass on the MOM website as per setting up a sole-proprietorship.

Other steps in the registration process, such as choosing a suitable name and address for your business, and eventually completing the entire form on BizFile+ using SingPass, are the same for foreigners as they are for locals. If you or your partners do not have a SingPass, you will have to engage the services of a registered filing agent such as a law firm to fill out the application for you.

You may wish to refer to our guide on forming a partnership for more information.

3. Incorporating A Company

Setting up a local company

Unlike sole proprietorships and partnerships, the setting up of foreign companies in Singapore is a more tedious and time-consuming process. There are 2 categories – foreign companies wishing to set up in Singapore and foreigners wishing to set up a local company in Singapore.

If you are a foreigner looking to set up a local company in Singapore, you will have to appoint at least 1 locally-resident director while you continue to reside outside of Singapore. The rest of the incorporation process is the same as that for a locally-incorporated company. However, should you wish to reside in Singapore to manage your company’s operations, you will have to apply for an EntrePass with MOM and then you can proceed with your company’s incorporation.

As per sole-proprietorships and partnerships, if you do not have a SingPass, you will have to engage the services of a registered filing agent such as a law firm to fill in the application for you.

You may wish to refer to our guide on Singapore company registration for more information.

Registering a foreign company in Singapore 

If you own a foreign company and wish to set up in Singapore, there are 4 entry options available to you – a branch office, a subsidiary, a representative office and redomiciliation. Each entry option has its pros and cons and various points to consider such as tax exemptions and extent of liability. Hence, foreign companies looking to set up in Singapore will have to take these into account before deciding which is the best entry option to go with.

Please refer to our article on how foreign companies can set up in Singapore for a more detailed explanation of the topic.

Setting Up Your Business

In summary, foreigners are also able to open their business in Singapore – be it a sole-proprietorship, partnership or company. The steps for registration or incorporation are largely similar, with additional steps for foreigners such as appointing a local authorised representative or director, or applying for an EntrePass so that they can be in Singapore to manage the business themselves.

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