The Real Singapore PR Benefits Nobody Shares

Samantha Fam

Samantha Fam

Singapore Immigration Specialist and Partner at Sam, Nic + Co
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I believe the decisive step to go from expat to permanent resident is a power move

That’s what this article is really about.

Because if we looked deeper into the real Singapore PR benefits, most of us would come to that realisation too. 

But, what’s a power move?

Well, I define it like this:

Power MoveA move that helps you to level up. It pushes you forward and inspires you to grow. The decision to make one might leave you feeling uncomfortable. But that’s typical of power moves. Because they bring about a major change. They shake up your regularly scheduled programming.

And sure, change is uncomfortable, but also a necessary part of progress.

I would imagine the decision to embark on this big change in status weighs heavily on your mind.

So for your consideration, I’ll outline several benefits Singapore PRs get to enjoy versus non-PRs. With more deliberate consideration of the benefits of PR, you will gain a deeper appreciation of its value to you

In other words, when you learn the value of the alternatives you’re giving up (i.e. the opportunity costs of NOT being a PR) you’ll be wiser to the stakes.

Once you’re clear on WHY you’d want to be a Singapore PR – or not at all – then you can make your next move with confidence. 

So let’s dive in.

Explicit and Implicit Benefits

With Singapore permanent residency, there are explicit benefits: the ones we often focus on. They’re tangible and more obvious. Things like lower fees, lower taxes, subsidies, pension funds and financing schemes. 

Then, there are the implicit benefits; more difficult to see but equally powerful. Things that bring about opportunity, enrichment, and recognition.

Let’s look at the explicit benefits first.

Explicit Benefits

Also known as: the boring and practical stuff. But hey, they’re also the things that save you money.

#1 Lower medical expenses

As a PR, you get to enjoy lower medical expenses through 1) healthcare financing schemes and 2) subsidies. These aids are only offered to Singapore Citizens and PRs.

Healthcare financing schemes

Scheme What it’s about
1) MediShield Life Health insurance scheme to help pay for large hospital bills and selected costly outpatient treatments.
2) MediSave

Medical savings scheme which earns guaranteed interest of 4% annually.

Helps pay for approved healthcare expenses throughout a person’s lifetime. Such as maternity expenses, intermediate and long-term care, approved hospital charges, surgical operations and select outpatient treatments.

Designed to help people save for future retirement needs.

3) CareShield Life Long-term care insurance which offers lifetime cash payouts upon severe disability. Premiums can be paid using MediSave.

Subsidies for:

  • Healthcare services that include acute public hospital wards, treatments at specialist outpatient clinics, treatments at polyclinics and visits to the Accident & Emergency unit at public hospitals
  • Drugs/medication at public hospitals, specialist outpatient clinics, and polyclinics. 
  • Government-funded intermediate and long term care (ILTC) services
    • Up to 50% subsidies at community hospitals and ILTC residential Services
    • Up to 55% for home and centre-based services (i.e. ILTC non-residential services). 
  • Medical consultation fees and dental examinations at polyclinics (see link)

(Source: Ministry of Health; see link)

#2 Lower school fees for your children

Many expats send their children to private and international schools, which come with pretty hefty tuition fees. Part of the reason is because there is less access to the more affordable public schools in Singapore. 

Local public schools give priority to Singapore Citizens and PRs over foreign students during enrolment. 

And if you do manage to get a place for your child in a local public school, as a PR, your children will be able to benefit from lower school fees compared to other foreign students.

For the year 2020 PR students International students (ASEAN) International Students
Monthly primary school fees S$205 S$465 S$750
Monthly secondary school fees S$380 S$780 S$1400
Monthly pre-university school fees S$460 S$1040 S$1750

Singapore PRs also benefit from significantly lower tuition fees relative to international students at the local polytechnics and local universities (i.e. Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University). They are also eligible to apply for the Ministry of Education’s tuition grant.

(Source: Ministry of Education)

#3 Access to more affordable housing

As a PR, you can purchase public housing flats by the state’s Housing Development Board (HDB). Public housing is typically a lot more affordable than private properties in Singapore.

  • If you are a PR and your spouse is a Singapore Citizen, you can buy a Built To Order flat (BTO). These are new flats, often developed in newly established estates. These are usually the most affordable form of housing available here. Only PRs with a Singapore citizen spouse can buy BTOs.
  • If you and your spouse are both PRs, you can buy a resale HDB flat, after both of you have been on PR status for three years. Resale HDB flats are apartments sold on the open market. They can be found in more developed, mature estates across Singapore.

If you are considering purchasing a private house, know that PRs are free to purchase any type of non-restricted property that include: condominiums, executive condominiums that have been fully privatised, and strata-titled landed properties with building plans approved before April 2012. 

PRs also face less restrictions than foreigners when purchasing the following properties: vacant residential land, terrace houses, semi-detached houses, bungalows, townhouses, shophouses, etc.

#4 Lower property taxes when purchasing property

PRs and foreign buyers are required to pay Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) when buying property. This tax is applied to the purchase price or the market value of the property (whichever is the higher amount).

PRs pay a lower ABSD compared to foreign buyers.

PR Foreigner
Buying first residential property → 5% ABSD  Buying any residential property → 20%
Buying second and subsequent residential property → 15% ABSD

(Source: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore; see link)

#5 Financial and tax benefits of Central Provident Fund (CPF)

When you become a PR, you will be able to participate in Singapore’s pension system, CPF. This is a comprehensive social security savings plan (compulsory for Citizens and PRs) to help ensure you save up for the big expenses in life such as retirement, healthcare and housing.

You and your employer contribute a monthly minimum amount to your CPF, which comprises four accounts.

CPF account What you can use it for

1) Ordinary account

Earns guaranteed interest at 2.5% annually; up to 3.5% annually

Housing, higher education, and investing. Any surplus after that is used for retirement.

2) Special account

Earns guaranteed interest at 4% annually; up to 5% annually

Mainly for retirement, but can also be invested into retirement-related financial plans.

3) MediSave account

Earns guaranteed interest at 4% annually; up to 5% annually

Healthcare expenses, health insurance, MediShield Life premiums and CareShield Life premiums.

4) Retirement account

Earns guaranteed interest at 4% annually; up to 5% annually

Upon reaching age 55, your Ordinary and Special accounts merge to form your retirement account, which will contain your retirement savings.

Note: if you renounce your PR status, you will be able to withdraw your CPF savings in full.

(Source: Central Provident Fund Board)

Tax reliefs

You’ll also get to enjoy tax reliefs, as compulsory employee CPF contributions qualify for a tax relief. These refer to CPF contributions made on Ordinary and Additional wages under the CPF Act; and the relief is capped at the Ordinary and Additional wage ceiling. 

Any voluntary contribution to the Medisave account (part of your CPF)  is eligible for tax relief too, subject to the annual contribution limit.

(Source: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore)

#6 Subsidies for continuing education

If you’re planning on upgrading your skills and knowledge with new courses, it’s good to know you’ll get to enjoy subsidies on course fees as a PR.

SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) is a government agency which drives and coordinates the national lifelong learning movement. It supports individuals who invest in their continuing education with subsidised course fees. 

Singapore citizens and PRs above 21 years old qualify for these subsidies.

Type of Course Course Level Subsidies for Singapore Citizens and PRs
Courses offered by SSG-appointed Continuing Education and Training (CET) centres Non-PMET Up to 90% of course fees
PMET Up to 70% of course fees
Certifiable courses approved by SSG Non-PMET 80% of course fees, capped at $17 per hour
PMET 50% of course fees, capped at $15 per hour

(Source: SkillsFuture Singapore; see link)

Implicit Benefits

Also known as: the things that provide a sense of stability, security, freedom, and hope.

#7 Opportunity for family reunification

If you have family overseas who you wish to bring to Singapore to settle down with, then becoming a PR opens up the opportunity for your family to stay here with you on a long term basis. As a PR, you can obtain a long term visit pass (LTVP) for your spouse, children, and parents – their LTVP is linked to your permanent residency.

You can also sponsor your spouse or children in their application for Singapore permanent residency.

#8 Business opportunities and flexibility

As a PR, you can set up a company on your own, without having to find and involve a Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR director. And even if you’re holding on to a job already, you have the flexibility to start a business on the side and work in that business to earn income.

As an employment pass (EP) holder, you can only start a business with another director who  is a Singapore Citizen, PR, or Entrepass holder. And your activities are restricted to that of a registered director and shareholder because as an EP holder, you can only work for your designated employer (who applied for your EP). You cannot take on additional jobs or engage in similar activities to earn additional income.

As a S pass holder, you’re not allowed to carry on or manage any business here. Hence, you can’t register yourself as a director of any Singapore-registered company.

(Source: Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority  and Ministry of Manpower)

#9 Job opportunities and mobility

When you’re a PR you can make additional income with freelance work, part-time work, contract work, etc. That means your side hustle – is actually legal. Now, you can take on a second or third job, if you wish to.

And those jobs and positions that were once open to “only Singapore Citizens and PRs” – you can apply for them now.

You can also change jobs freely without having to re-apply for a work pass. With that flexibility, you’re not subjected to waiting on MOM’s approval to work in your new company, and worrying about whether the employer you’re leaving has cancelled your existing work pass in a timely manner.

And suppose you were looking for a new job, you don’t have to be concerned about rushing to find another job in 30 days, to avoid having to leave the country.

These could give you greater freedom to pursue new work opportunities, and perhaps, leave bad jobs, bad companies, or bad bosses behind.

#10 Pathway to citizenship

Becoming a PR paves the path to citizenship. After being on PR status for two years, you have the option to apply to become a Singapore citizen. 

Undeniably, citizens enjoy the greatest privileges in Singapore.

Some of the privileges citizens enjoy include: housing grants, access to subsidised HDB flats, lower school fees, greater healthcare subsidies, exclusive tax rebates and reliefs, and the right to vote in parliamentary elections. 

#11 Recognition in the community

Through grassroots organisations, the People’s Association (government agency) helps new PRs to settle in the community, and provides more platforms to engage and bond with local residents.

As a PR you could expand on your cultural capital, by participating in committees such as Residents’ Committees, which is a grassroot organisation to promote community cohesiveness in your residential estate. It’s also a platform to amplify your voice and needs to government authorities (see link).

Lastly, and this is mostly anecdotal: many PRs find their new status earns them recognition from their peers, the local community, and in business and social settings. 

I believe becoming a Singapore permanent resident solidifies your commitment to the country which inspires more confidence from others. And this confidence in you, could translate to more business opportunities, career mobility, professional mentorship,  guidance, and social invitations.

So, is this your power move?

With consideration of the explicit and implicit benefits above, I believe the decisive step to go from expat to permanent resident is a power move.

Now, I’m not saying that becoming a PR is a silver bullet to fix all your frustrations and challenges in Singapore. It’s certainly not this unicorn that will get rid of headaches, reduce your anxiety to zero, or prevent your spouse from nagging at you. And of course, there will be tradeoffs depending on your personal situation.

But as you’ve seen throughout this article, it does come with quite a few privileges.

And often we discount the true value of these benefits when we look at them singularly, in isolation. 

But as these benefits stack on top of each other they compound, and the impact can be more profound than expected.

Imagine – stronger finances + greater sense of security + upward mobility + more employment freedom + social and cultural capital + increased opportunities – and then multiply that by the rest of your years in Singapore. 

What would the impact be on your mindset, confidence, and belief in your future here? And subsequently, how would that inform the decisions you make and the actions you take moving forward?

Would you go after your ambitions with more inspiration tomorrow? 

Would you face your challenges with more resilience today?

Ultimately, you have to be the judge of this.

And from there, with confidence, make your next move.

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