Singapore looks to woo global tech execs with special visa

FILE PHOTO: A view of the central business district in Singapore May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

(Reuters) – Singapore on Thursday announced a new work visa for foreign executives of technology firms, a sector the low-tax global business hub hopes will power future economic growth.

Under the Tech.Pass programme launching in January, up to 500 experienced executives can apply for the two-year visas, which allow participants to operate a business, invest in or become a director in Singapore-based companies, and mentor start-ups.

“Tech.Pass will add to the critical mass of established tech talent in Singapore and create a flywheel effect to further strengthen our position as a leading tech hub for the region,” trade minister Chan Chun Sing said, announcing the programme.

Armed with lucrative grants and incentives, Singapore has in recent years been ramping up its efforts to lure tech firms and investors, including global players like Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Chinese tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba.

Applicants for the new visa – aimed at attracting “founders, leaders and technical experts” – must meet criteria that can include a previous monthly salary of at least $20,000, five years’ experience in a leading role in the tech industry or experience in developing a successful tech product.

The move comes as unemployment in the city-state has hit a 16-year high because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising local fears about competition with foreign workers.

Authorities have imposed tighter immigration curbs more broadly, and encouraged firms to lay off foreign workers first, but also said it must remain open to overseas talent.