Time to put that great business idea into action? Here’s how to make sure you have all your ducks in line before starting a business in Singapore.
Before you do anything, get yourself acquainted with a number of official terms, because you’ll be hearing them a lot. Good old Singapore acronyms are everywhere in the business arena.
How to register a company in Singapore
ACRA – This is the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, and it regulates business matters for the Singaporean government.
BIZFILE – This is ACRA’s online filing system, a portal that offers literally hundreds of services and it’s your one-stop shop for anything business-related.
EntrePass – The pass that allows you to work for your own company.
LOC – The Letter of Consent is a statement that allows Dependant’s Pass holders to work once they have a job offer with a Singaporean employer. The employer must apply on the employee’s behalf.
SingPass – You need the Singapore Personal Access password in order to make transactions with various Government services – you can’t do very much in the way of business without one. Your ID will be your FIN or NRIC number and you can apply at various counter locations or online.
Types of business
You must register your new business with ACRA using the BizFile website and there are several different varieties:
Sole Proprietorship (SP) – This is a business owned by one person or one company with no partners. It is a good way of enabling a person to work while on a Dependant’s Pass (DP) and setting one up is a notoriously intricate, but ultimately necessary, process (see below). More details can be found on the ACRA website.
Partnerships – These can cover anything from two to 20 partners. Any more than that and the business must be registered as a company.
Types of partnerships in Singapore:
1. General- Where partners are personally liable for the business, and can be held responsible for one another’s actions within the business.
2. Limited Partnership (LP)- A partnership with at least one general partner and one limited partner.
3. Limited Liability Partnership- A way of combining the limited liability feature of certain companies with the flexibility of a partnership, these partnerships are often developed when a few people are setting up in business together.
Limited liability companies
Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) can set up local companies, as can foreigners, with various restrictions, providing they have an EntrePass in place (see above). Apply via the BizFile system for the various different types:
- Private – Has 50 or less shareholders and restricted rights in share transfers.
- Public Company – Has more than 50 shareholders and is able to offer both shares and debentures to the public.
- Foreign Company – Simply put, this is a foreign business entity with a branch in Singapore.
For more details on registration options, click here.
Setting up your own business
All businesses must be registered with ACRA (the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) and you can do this at the BizFile portal. Before you do anything, check our work permits page to see what kind of visa you need in order to set things up. Registration fees depend on the type of business and the person who is applying. It’s $50-$600 for a local and $300-$1,200 for a foreigner, plus a flat fee of $15 for the approval of the business name.
Before you register at the BizFile portal.
Local: Apply for a SingPass, prepare various items on the checklist here.
Foreigner: Get your EntrePass and SingPass (see above), then prepare the same checklist items.
If in doubt, follow ACRA’s very thorough online guide.
Getting a sole proprietorship
This process merits a step-by-step breakdown:
Apply for a SingPass here
Apply for your LOC here
Submit various papers, listed here
Post all documents to MOM and wait three to four weeks
Still confused? Key in a search and plenty of forums pop up spelling out the process, like this one.
Many of us start by working from home, and that’s all very well – you can roll out of bed at the last minute, and there’s no danger of anyone nicking your lunch. But it’s lonely, and you can’t stop watching Game of Thrones re-runs… so you move to that funky café down the road, the one with free Wi-Fi and sofas in the window, but you can’t make the coffee last… and that’s when you hire a workspace. Lucky for you we’ve been out to hunt down the cool ones.
Entering Singapore – establishing businesses in Singapore
EnterpriseOne – business information from the Singapore Government
Ministry Of Manpower (MOM) business page.
See our Work Permits page for full details of work passes.
Singapore’s burgeoning business industry means that company rules and regulations can change fast. Just as you think you’ve got the process nailed, another way of doing things pops up. Be prepared for things to change – and fast.