Wednesday, March 5

A Guide To Employment In Singapore As A Foreigner: Getting Your Job

In my last post I outlined some of the basics of finding work in Singapore. Arriving at Singapore without a job offer, in the hopes of finding employment is bold move. I would not dissuade any one from trying their luck and finding employment this way, but keep your expectations realistic. To put it simply most employers don't want to bother with you, since they have to go through so much effort to hire a foreigner. It is entirely possible to be success in your endeavour though. If you are an experienced professional it will be significantly easier for you to find a job. For fresh graduates it will be much harder, but still doable. You will need to have the right skills, and ace an interview if you want a job as a foreigner. Let's get to the strategies you'll use to maximise your chances of finding your job.

Test the waters before you arrive

Use sites like JobStreet to scope the job market and assess the demand for your set of skills. Even better; apply for those jobs and see what the response is. You may even get an interview before you arrive in Singapore.

Abuse the visa system to extend your stay

If you are still looking for a job and are worried about your tourist visa expiring, don't fret...much. Leaving the country for a few days then returning will give you an extension on your visa, from 30 - 90 days. Malaysia and Indonesia make for great weekend getaways. I know friends who have done this a couple of times successfully, extending their stay in Singapore by several months. Obviously don't do this too often, or immigration may get smart to your scheme.

If you are qualified, get a work holiday pass...when you need it

The work holiday pass is the easiest path to guarantee a work visa and enables you to work for 6 months. Once you have a work visa, employers will look upon you as equal to local job seekers, as opposed to "Next!". If you're an undergraduate or graduate from the top 200 universities and aged between 18 to 25, you can apply for this visa online. Application is extremely simple and you will get the results within 2 weeks. Once your online application approved, you will have to physically pick up the visa from the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore. As soon as you pick it up you are entitled to 6 months work and stay.

If you are trying to maximise your time in Singapore then its advisable to let your tourist visa run its course before you  pick up your work holiday visa. If you use 70 days of your tourist visa, then you get 6 months + 70 days stay in Singapore. If you use 2 days of your tourist visa, then pick up your work holiday visa, you only get 6 months + 2 days stay in Singapore.

Find an internship

Because of the lengths employers have to go to hiring a foreigner, its extremely important to get your foot in the door somehow. If you are a fresh graduate, or don't have much work experience consider a internship. This has 2 major benefits:
1. Internships are not technically considered employment so you can 'work' and possibly earn a small salary without a work visa.
2. If you do well in your internship, there is a chance your boss will offer you a contract or full time position.


"It's not what you know, it's who you know". When it comes to finding employment knowing the right person can land you with a job in a flash. Make friends, visit family and attend the various employment events in Singapore.

My experience

I arrived in Singapore having been approved for the Work Holiday Programme. After 1 month of job searching I found an internship which paid $1400 (SGD). At this point I picked up my Work Holiday Pass. After working there for several months I was extremely confident I would be hired, but unfortunately the company had no further budget, after hiring 2 other interns. Upon learning this I continued with the company and spend my last 2 months looking for work. This search ended unsuccessfully and with me leaving the country. In the end I stayed in Singapore for 8 months, spend 1 month job searching before finding the internship, and 2 months job searching when I realised I wasn't getting hired. While I didn't quite get what I wanted from Singapore, I had a fantastic experience and learnt a hell of a lot. I don't regret anything that happened, so for me, until I build up more work experience I won't be back in Singapore for a while.

Hopefully these tips give a realistic and accurate picture of the Singapore job market. It's hard, but it is possible.