How to Move to Singapore in 2024: Ultimate Guide for Americans
1) No Visa Required:
USA Passport holders don't need a Visa and can stay for up to 90 days. If you have a job lined up with a Singapore company, they will have applied for your work pass with the Ministry of Manpower (MoM). Your employer will confirm your contract and collect from MoM your work pass, and any dependency passes that are applicable. You may incorporate a business entity, apply for a work visa and dependency passes, or long-term visitor passes for family.
2) No COVID or Vaccination status:
There are no longer COVID-19 or vaccination status measures for travellers arriving in Singapore. Check for any health alerts that might arise from time to time.
3) Immigration and Customs:
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will be your first encounter with the Singapore authorities. Be courteous, smile, say hello, do not chew gum, do not feel a need to be assertive, accept that they have the authority, and you can trust that they will not abuse their position.
Your experience of the Singapore civil service, from that first point of immigration, any future unlikely dealings with the police, right up to politicians, Singapore public servants are amongst the best public servants in the world.
You will need at least six months on your passport before expiration. The recommendation is to have more than the period of your intended visit. You will need a return or onward ticket. It is unlikely that you will be allowed to check in or board from the USA without these. Bring cash but not in the order of SGD 20,000 as you will need to report it. You may open a Singapore Bank account and transfer funds.
Buy your duty-free in Singapore immediately after immigration, just before baggage claim and immediately before customs. It safes carry on, it is convenient and better than the USA airports.
4) Singapore hotels:
Singapore hotels can be as pricy as Manhattan, London and Paris. If you don't want to downgrade, look into long-stay value options of serviced apartments and private rental homes. (See pages "hotels and accommodation").
5) Business culture and etiquette:
Singapore's business culture at large is about people getting along, the country is too small for strife, so while Singaporeans tolerate the entitled westerner "to POSH to push to stubborn to shove, bullies", Singaporeans have seen it all before, and it won't get you anywhere. Play it smart, and play it cool. Get along with people, and you will get along in business.
Bribes are not OK in Singapore. Do not offer a percentage of business for doing business. It is illegal, it will offend, it is unethical and against USA, EU and SGX regulations.
6) The Dress code:
Smart but casual, clean, ironed and box fresh is the fashion. This is the tropics, only real estate agents and bankers wear ties, and only the Japanese and Germans wear full suits. You already stand out, so your goal is to fit in and get on. For men in the central business district (CBD), it is long trousers and for women skirts, in the suburbs, both sexes are seen in shorts. Malay women and other Muslim women but not all dress more conservatively, some in hijab occasionally the burka, and sometimes just long leggings and long sleeves, others in short shorts. Some Myanma women wear traditional talcum powder in an iconic manner on their faces (Thanakha). Notice the multi-cultural side by side, back to back at the same lunch table.
7) Incorporating a business:
Singapore is great for business, Singapore is an easy entry, easy exit market and whilst regulated for your protection it is slim-lined for ease of execution. You are not required to be a local but you will need a local officer. Whilst you are not required to use a law firm and individuals can complete the company registration online. Singapore is built for business and many accounting, audit and law firms specialise in company registration at competitive rates as a way of offering you your future business needs as you grow.
8) USA & SG tax law:
Singapore earnings are generally subject to US federal income tax unless they qualify for certain exclusions or credits. This is because the US taxes its citizens and residents on their worldwide income, regardless of where they live or work. However, there are some ways that you can reduce or eliminate your US tax liability on your Singapore earnings, such as:
-"Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)", is a provision that allows you to exclude up to $108,700 (for 2021) of your foreign earned income from your US taxable income if you meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test.
-"Foreign Housing Exclusion or Deduction": This is a provision that allows you to exclude or deduct a certain amount of your foreign housing expenses from your US taxable income if you qualify for the FEIE. The foreign housing expenses include rent, utilities, repairs, insurance, etc. The amount of exclusion or deduction depends on your location, income, and expenses.
-"Foreign Tax Credit (FTC)": This is a provision that allows you to claim a credit for the income taxes that you paid or accrued to a foreign country/region if you are subject to both US and foreign tax on the same income.
-"US-Singapore Income Tax Treaty": This is an agreement between the US and Singapore that aims to prevent double taxation and promote cooperation on tax matters. The treaty provides rules and benefits for different types of income, such as business profits, dividends, interest, royalties, capital gains, etc. The treaty also provides relief from double taxation through the exchange of information and mutual agreement procedures.
It is also worth noting that Singapore does not tax money entering Singapore. Singapore does not tax foreign income, be aware of the grey area of income generated via local services on foreign income, that should be declared for Singapore taxes. Singapore local income taxes are simple, low, with generous thresholds and easily calculated annually at https://www.iras.gov.sg/.