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Singapore border closure

On 7 May 2021, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore advised that the majority of existing and new work pass holders are not allowed to enter Singapore, even if they have already obtained approval. In practice, this means that Singapore is now closing its borders for the vast majority of all foreign nationals.

What does the new policy mean?

Most pass holders coming into Singapore from 11 May and onwards are no longer allowed to enter Singapore, this is even if they have obtained approval to enter before the new policy. We also understand that no further entry applications can be made with immediate effect.

Who does it apply to?

This applies to all work pass holders (both new and returning ones) for all countries except Australia, Brunei Darussalam, mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macao which are considered low-risk. From 11 May 2021, the rest of the world is considered high-risk and no entry approvals can be obtained for these work pass holders. In other terms, the following passes are affected:

  • Employment passes.
  • Dependant passes.
  • S passes.
  • Work permits.
  • Long-term social visit passes obtained for family members of work pass holders.

Are there any exceptions?

The MOM press release mentions that exceptions will be made for higher risk countries only if the employee or worker is needed for key strategic projects or infrastructural works. We are not yet aware what this means in practice. Certain exemptions also apply to work pass holders who obtained entry approval to enter within the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors and some migrant domestic workers. It is also worth mentioning that Singapore citizens and permanent residents are still allowed to enter. We also understand that no mentions are made for student pass holders and their dependants. K2 is further investigating on other potential exceptions.

How long will it be in place?

In the MOM press release, they mention that this affects all entry approvals up until 5 July 2021. In the press release, they also mention that this will be in place for the ‘coming weeks’. As such, the policy will be in place until further notice, but hopefully only up until 5 July 2021 which is the date we should keep in mind for now.

Refunds and new entry approvals?

When K2 spoke to MOM, they said that companies that have obtained entry approval for pass holders between 11 May 2021 and 5 July 2021 will be contacted via the email that was used for the entry approval. Having reviewed this email for our clients we understand that affected employers and pass holders will be contacted in June for prioritised entry approvals, if the situation allows. Furthermore, we understand that refunds will be made to the credit card used for payment within one month.

K2 commentary 

At this point, there are few options to travel into Singapore as Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macao also have strict entry restrictions in place. However, some of these countries are processing work visas and permits and may allow for entry under certain some conditions.

Travel restrictions in APAC are also impacting other jurisdictions as countries such as Malaysia and Australia have also banned arrivals from India, while other countries are also expanding travel bans for Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. There is also an increase of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, Thailand and Japan which can further impact the ability for employees to relocate to and within the region in the coming weeks.

K2 will continue to monitor the situation and update our clients of any progress. If you have any questions on current border restrictions within APAC, please let us know and we can make a closer assessment on the travel and entry requirements.

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