Letter of Consent in Singapore: Eligibility and How to Apply

Last updated on June 4, 2021

man holding a letter

There are various ways that a potential foreign employee may be allowed to legally work for a Singapore company. One of these ways is through the application of a Letter of Consent by an employer.

If you are an employer in Singapore who wants to know how to apply for a Letter of Consent for the hiring of foreign employees, read on.

This article will cover:

What is a Letter of Consent?

A Letter of Consent (LOC) is an authorisation certificate issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that allows the following pass holders to work in Singapore:

  1. Holder of Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP or LTVP+) who is married to a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident, where the pass is valid for at least 3 months from date of application of the Letter of Consent; and
  2. Holder of LTVP and is the unmarried child (under the age of 21) of a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident where the pass will be valid for at least 3 months from date of application of the Letter of Consent.

If a Dependant’s Pass holder wants to run a business in Singapore, then they will have to apply under the separate Letter of Consent scheme for Dependant’s Pass holders who want to run businesses in Singapore.

On the other hand, if a Dependant’s Pass holder or a dependant of an S Pass holder wants to work in Singapore as an employee, they will need to secure a work permit, S Pass or Employment Pass instead.

The potential foreign employee seeking to be employed under a Letter of Consent must NOT be holding a directorial role or be a shareholder in the employer company. Letter of Consent holders are also not allowed to work in objectionable occupations such as being a bar/dance hostess or masseur.

In order to validly work under a Letter of Consent, the potential foreign employee must have already secured a job offer from a Singapore employer since it is actually the employer that applies for the Letter of Consent (as will be discussed further in a later part of this article).

However, if a foreigner wants to be able to work in Singapore even prior to securing a job offer, then a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent (PLOC) may be a viable option instead.

What is a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

The Pre-Approved Letter of Consent allows foreign spouses or unmarried children (below 21 years of age) of a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident (who are eligible for an LTVP or LTVP+) to secure jobs faster and switch employment more conveniently. This is because the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent may be applied for without securing a job offer beforehand, as mentioned above.

The Pre-Approved Letter of Consent is tied to an individual and not to a specific employer or employment, as opposed to the Letter of Consent which is only valid for the duration of the employment. Therefore, the holder of the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent need not renew or reapply for a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent upon any change of employment.

Similar to Letter of Consent holders, there are also a list of restricted occupations for Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders (which is much more exhaustive) such as, but not limited to:

  • Journalist;
  • Art critic;
  • Media producer/editor; and
  • Religion-related occupations.

Who Can Apply for a Letter of Consent or a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

The employer or an appointed employment agent can apply for the Letter of Consent. The Letter of Consent will be sent to the employer, and the foreign employee can begin work only when the employer has received the Letter of Consent. It must be noted that only Singapore employers can apply for a Letter of Consent.

On the other hand, PLOCs are applied for by eligible foreigners. They will be given the option to apply for a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent when applying for or renewing their LTVP/LTVP+, for no additional fee.

How Does the Employer Apply for a Letter of Consent for their Potential Foreign Employee?

An application can be submitted online via the Ministry of Manpower’s Employment Pass (EP) Online portal. Before applying for the Letter of Consent however, the employer needs to obtain the potential foreign employee’s written consent to be gainfully employed by that employer.

There is no particular format for the fulfilment of this requirement, and the MOM will accept any document that clearly shows a foreign employee’s acceptance of the employer’s job offer. An example of this written consent may be a signed contract of employment.

For some professions or occupations, additional documents must be submitted when applying for the Letter of Consent. These occupations include:

  • Regional representatives of overseas companies
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Lawyers
  • Football players or coaches
  • Employees in food establishments

For a detailed list of the additional required documents, please check the Ministry of Manpower’s website here.

If the additional required documents are not in English, then both the original documents, as well as an English translation, must be submitted. The MOM also reserves the right to ask for any other necessary documents while reviewing the Letter of Consent application.

Once the letter is approved, the Letter of Consent may be obtained and printed from the EP Online portal.

Similar to the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent, there is no application fee for Letter of Consent applications.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Letter of Consent?

Letter of Consent applications may take 1 week for most cases.

Employers may check the application status in the EP Online portal after 1 week from submission of application. If more information is required, the application may take longer to process.

What is the Duration for the Validity of the Letter of Consent and the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

The Letter of Consent is valid for the duration indicated by the employer in the Letter of Consent application or until the expiry of the employee’s LTVP or LTVP+, whichever occurs earlier.

Accordingly, the Letter of Consent stops being valid in the following instances:

  • Once the LTVP or LTVP+ is cancelled;
  • Once the LTVP or LTVP+ expires; or
  • If the foreign employee is no longer employed by the employer that applied for their Letter of Consent. In this instance, however, the employer still needs to cancel the Letter of Consent.

For Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders, the duration of the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent will be the same as that of their LTVP/LTVP+. Hence similar to the above, once the LTVP/LTVP+ expires or is cancelled, the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent ceases to be valid.

Is there a Minimum Salary Requirement to Obtain a Letter of Consent or a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

No, there is no minimum salary requirement for Letter of Consent and Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders.

No foreign worker levy or quota is also required when an employer wishes to hire Letter of Consent or Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders.

What are the Conditions That Foreign Employees Need to Abide by in Order to Validly Work Under a Letter of Consent or a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

For employees under a Letter of Consent

Per the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations 2012, the foreign employee shall:

  • Engage only in the trade, profession or occupation specified in the Letter of Consent; and
  • Obtain prior consent from the MOM before engaging in any trade, profession or occupation not specified in the Letter of Consent.

Furthermore, the foreign employee shall inform the MOM, within 7 days, of the:

  • Termination or completion (without renewal) of the employment that is the subject of the Letter of Consent; or
  • Cancellation or expiry (without renewal) of their LTVP or LTVP+.

For employees under a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent 

Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders who take up employment in Singapore must show their employer the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent that was issued alongside their valid LTVP/LTVP+.

Other legal requirements specific to practice of certain professions, such as registration requirements, must also be complied with.

What is the Obligation of an Employer That Wishes to Hire a Potential Employee Holding a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent?

Employers of Pre-Approved Letter of Consent holders are required to notify the MOM of the employment before the employee starts work. They also have to notify the MOM of any termination of employment within 7 days from the employee’s last day of work.

What are the Factors That May Affect the Outcome of an Application for a Letter of Consent?

Each application is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the outcome of the application is entirely at the discretion of the MOM. The following are some factors that can affect the successful grant of a Letter of Consent:

  • The potential employee’s age, salary, citizenship, qualifications (including education, work experience and skills).
  • The potential employee’s overall job profile.
  • The economic viability of the Singapore company applying for the Letter of Consent on behalf of the potential employee.
  • The availability of local candidates for the position being offered to the foreign potential employee. For example, the outcome for the successful grant of the Letter of Consent increases if the job or position being filled by the employee is in a field where local candidates (i.e. Singapore citizens or permanent residents) are not readily available.

How Can a Letter of Consent be Cancelled?

The employer or an appointed employment agent may apply for the cancellation of the Letter of Consent within 1 week after the foreign employee’s last day of the notice period for the termination of employment.

Before cancellation, however, the following need to be accomplished:

  • A tax clearance must first be sought from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore; and
  • All outstanding employment issues, including full payment of salaries, should first be settled.

Cancellation can be done via the EP Online portal and takes immediate effect.

What Should be Done If a Letter of Consent is Lost?

In instances when the Letter of Consent is lost or misplaced, the loss must be reported to the MOM and a replacement should be requested through here.

Can the Letter of Consent be Renewed and If So, How?

The employer or an appointed employment agent may apply for the renewal of the Letter of Consent in order to continue valid and lawful employment of the foreign employee.

For LTVP/LTVP+ holders, application for renewal can be done up to 6 months before the Letter of Consent expires. However, the LTVP/LTVP+ must be valid for at least 3 months in order for the Letter of Consent to be renewed. If it is not, the foreign employee must first renew the LTVP/LTVP+.

Similar to the application for cancellation of Letter of Consent, renewal can be done via the EP Online portal. There is no application fee required for renewal of a Letter of Consent.

If you are a Singapore employer intending to hire a LTVP/LTVP+ holder via a Letter of Consent, do note that the validity of a Letter of Consent or a Pre-Approved Letter of Consent is directly tied to the immigration status of your potential foreign employee.

Hence if you require any assistance to ensure a smooth hiring process, engaging a corporate services firm may be beneficial not just for the application of the Letter of Consent, but also to provide assistance to your potential employee’s application for a (or renewal of their existing) LTVP or LTVP+.

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