Singapore may tighten lower level skilled immigration rules

At a recent National Day Rally speech by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about tightening immigration rules for skilled foreign workers. This has raised concerns that in future it will be more difficult for skilled overseas workers to emigrate to Singapore.

"The middle, the lower middle level - foreigners are here, many on employment pass. Singaporeans are working - they are probably graduates or diploma holders, not hard up, not unskilled but not so confident of themselves that they are ready for unrestrained competition... I think at this middle level, we need to tighten a little bit further," the Prime Minister said.

Under new rules due to take effect in January of 2012, skilled foreign workers in certain categories will find it harder to obtain work permits. The salary threshold for Q1 pass holders, the lowest category of employment, will be raised from SGD $2,800 to SGD $3,000. The threshold for P2 employment passes will be raised from SGD $4,000 to SGD $4,500.

The changes are expected to affect small and medium size businesses who will have to pay higher salaries to .foreign workers; Many of these are Indian companies who hire Indian workers.

However, many Indian workers have higher level qualifications and should not be affected by the new rules. Nina Alag Suri, president and CEO of Nastrac Group told the Economic Times that highly skilled Indians should not worry.

"The Singapore government is being more selective than before in granting employment permits to foreigners and their requirements have been made more stringent with regards to education qualifications, type of college/university, experience etc," she said.

"If a company feels the person has the required skills, the additional salary requirement is not going to be a deal breaker," Suri added.