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How To Relocate To Singapore As An Expat


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Crissie Strang



Relocating to a new country can be an exciting and challenging experience, especially when you are moving to a vibrant and diverse city like Singapore. Known for its booming economy, excellent quality of life, and rich cultural heritage, Singapore has become a popular destination for expatriates looking to start a new chapter in their lives.


Whether you are moving for work opportunities, education, or simply to explore new horizons, this comprehensive guide will provide you with essential information and tips to help you navigate the process of relocating to Singapore as an expat.


From researching and preparing for the move to understanding the local culture and lifestyle, we will cover all the crucial aspects that will contribute to a smooth and successful transition to your new home in Singapore.


So, if you are ready to embark on this exciting adventure, let’s delve into the details and discover how to make Singapore your new home away from home.


Researching and Preparing for the Move

Before embarking on your move to Singapore, it is essential to conduct thorough research and properly prepare for the transition. Here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Singaporean Culture: Take the time to understand the local customs, traditions, and social norms of Singapore. This will help you integrate more seamlessly into the local community and avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
  2. Explore Employment Opportunities: If you haven’t already secured a job in Singapore, research the local job market and identify industries that align with your skills and qualifications. Networking through professional platforms and attending job fairs can also be beneficial.
  3. Consider the Cost of Living in Singapore: Singapore is known for its high standard of living, so it is important to factor in the cost of housing, transportation, healthcare, and other daily expenses. Researching salary ranges and creating a realistic budget will help you plan your finances accordingly.
  4. Connect with Expatriate Communities: Join online forums, social media groups, and expat networks to connect with fellow expatriates who have already made the move to Singapore. They can provide valuable insights, advice, and support throughout your journey.
  5. Language Considerations: While English is widely spoken in Singapore, it is beneficial to learn basic Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil as these are the other official languages. This can help you in daily interactions and show appreciation for the local culture.
  6. Apply for Necessary Documents: Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a visa or work permit to legally reside and work in Singapore. Research the specific requirements and begin the application process well in advance to avoid any delays.
  7. Organize Your Finances: Set up a local bank account in Singapore to handle your financial transactions. Additionally, notify your current bank and credit card companies about your move to avoid any disruptions in accessing your funds.
  8. Pack Strategically: Start decluttering and packing your belongings well ahead of your move. Consider the local climate and lifestyle when packing your clothes and essentials. It might also be useful to research any restrictions on importing certain items into Singapore.
  9. Healthcare Considerations: Familiarize yourself with Singapore’s healthcare system and ensure adequate health insurance coverage for yourself and your family. Research healthcare providers and hospitals in your area to find one that suits your needs.

By thoroughly researching and preparing for your move to Singapore, you will be better equipped to handle the challenges and make a smooth transition to your new home. Remember to stay organized, ask for help when needed, and embrace the exciting adventure that awaits you in Singapore.


Applying for a Singapore Visa

Before you can legally reside and work in Singapore as an expat, you will need to apply for the appropriate visa or work permit. Here is an overview of the different options available:

  1. Employment Pass (EP): This is the most common type of work visa for professionals, managers, executives, and specialists. To be eligible, you must have a job offer from a Singaporean company and meet certain salary and qualification criteria.
  2. S Pass: The S Pass is for mid-level skilled workers who earn a lower salary than required for the EP. The application process takes into account factors such as educational qualifications, work experience, and job skills.
  3. Entrepreneur Pass (EntrePass): If you plan to start a business or be self-employed in Singapore, you can apply for the EntrePass. This visa is for entrepreneurs who have innovative business ideas and can demonstrate the potential to contribute to the local economy.
  4. Dependent’s Pass: If you are relocating to Singapore as the spouse, child, or parent of an EP or S Pass holder, you can apply for a dependent’s pass. This allows you to legally stay in Singapore and also gives you the option to seek employment with the necessary permissions.
  5. Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP): The LTVP is for common-law spouses, stepchildren, or handicapped children of Singaporean citizens or permanent residents. It is designed to allow extended stays in Singapore for family members to be together.
  6. Student Pass: If you are planning to pursue full-time studies in Singapore, you will need to apply for a student pass. This applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The application is usually done through the educational institution.

The specific requirements, application process, and timelines for each type of visa or permit may vary. It is crucial to consult the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website or consult with a legal professional to ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information.


An important note to keep in mind is that Singapore operates a strict immigration policy. It is crucial to submit all necessary documents and ensure compliance with the guidelines provided by the ICA. Any discrepancies or omissions in your application may result in delays or even rejection.


By understanding the visa options available and diligently following the application process, you will increase your chances of obtaining the necessary permit to legally reside and work in Singapore as an expat.


Finding a Place to Live in Singapore

As an expat relocating to Singapore, finding a suitable place to live is a top priority. Here are some tips to help you navigate the housing market:

  1. Determine Your Budget: Consider your monthly budget and decide how much you can afford to spend on rent. Keep in mind that rental prices in Singapore can be high, especially in popular expat areas.
  2. Choose a Neighborhood: Research different neighborhoods in Singapore and consider proximity to work, schools, amenities, and transportation. Areas like Orchard Road, Marina Bay, and Bukit Timah are popular among expats.
  3. Engage a Real Estate Agent: Consider engaging a reputable real estate agent who specializes in expat housing. They can help you navigate the market, provide guidance, and show you suitable properties based on your preferences and budget.
  4. Decide on Housing Type: Determine whether you prefer a condominium, landed property, HDB (Housing and Development Board) flat, or serviced apartment. Each option has its own advantages and considerations. Condominiums offer amenities and security, while HDB flats are more budget-friendly.
  5. Research Property Listings: Use online platforms, such as PropertyGuru or 99.co, to browse property listings and get an idea of the rental prices in your desired area. These platforms allow you to filter results based on your preferences.
  6. Visit the Properties: Once you have shortlisted a few properties, schedule visits to assess their condition, amenities, and surroundings. This will give you a better idea of whether a property meets your requirements.
  7. Negotiate the Lease: When you find a property you like, negotiate the lease terms with the landlord or agent. Discuss the rental amount, security deposit, lease duration, and any additional terms or conditions.
  8. Consider Additional Costs: In addition to the rental price, factor in other costs such as utilities (water, electricity, gas), internet, cable TV, and maintenance fees (if applicable). Some properties may include these costs in the monthly rent.
  9. Understand Leases and Tenancy Agreements: Once you decide on a property, carefully review the lease or tenancy agreement before signing. Ensure that you understand the terms and conditions, including any early termination or renewal clauses.
  10. Consider Transportation: Take into account the proximity of your chosen neighborhood to public transportation options, such as MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) stations or bus stops. This can greatly enhance your commute to work or other destinations.

It is important to start looking for a place to live well in advance of your move to Singapore. This will give you ample time to conduct thorough research, compare options, and secure the right accommodation that suits your needs and preferences.


Remember, finding the perfect place to call home in Singapore may take some time and effort, but with careful planning and the right resources, you can find a comfortable and suitable living arrangement that enhances your expat experience in this vibrant city-state.


Navigating Singapore’s Education System

For expat families moving to Singapore, understanding the education system is crucial. Here are key points to consider when navigating Singapore’s education system:

  1. Schooling Options: Singapore offers a range of schooling options, including local public schools, international schools, and private institutions. Local public schools are known for their rigorous academic standards and offer education in English, Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil. International schools follow various curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or British, American, or Australian curricula.
  2. Admission Process: The admission process for local public schools typically involves registering directly with the school based on your residential address. Admission to international schools usually requires submitting an application form, academic records or transcripts, and sometimes an entrance assessment or interview.
  3. Consider Curriculum and Language: Consider your child’s educational needs and goals when choosing a school. International schools offer a more diverse curriculum and may have a greater emphasis on English language instruction. Local public schools follow the national curriculum and offer the opportunity for children to immerse themselves in the local culture and language.
  4. Cost and Affordability: International schools in Singapore can have high tuition fees, so it is essential to consider your budget when selecting a school. Some companies offer education allowances as part of their expatriate packages, so explore this option if it applies to you.
  5. Waitlist and Availability: Popular international schools often have waitlists, so it is advisable to apply early to secure a spot. For local public schools, availability might be dependent on your residential area, so consider this when choosing a neighborhood to live in.
  6. Extracurricular Activities: Schools in Singapore place great importance on extracurricular activities for holistic development. Consider the range of extracurricular opportunities, such as sports, arts, clubs, and community service, when choosing a school.
  7. Support for International Students: International schools often provide additional support for students adapting to a new country and culture. They may offer orientation programs, language support, and counseling services to help expat students settle in.
  8. School Calendar and Holidays: Familiarize yourself with Singapore’s school calendar, including term dates, holidays, and school breaks. This will help you plan vacations or other activities that align with your child’s school schedule.
  9. Integration and Cultural Exchange: Embrace the opportunity for your child to learn and interact with students from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. It can be a rich and rewarding experience that fosters a global mindset and understanding.

It is important to conduct thorough research, visit schools, and engage with other expat families to gather insights and make an informed decision about your child’s education in Singapore. Consider the long-term goals and aspirations for your child’s education, as well as their individual needs and preferences.


By understanding and navigating Singapore’s education system, you can ensure that your child receives a quality education and has a positive learning experience during your time in Singapore as an expat.


Understanding Healthcare and Insurance in Singapore

When relocating to Singapore as an expat, it is crucial to have a good understanding of the healthcare system and the importance of having appropriate health insurance coverage. Here are key points to consider:

  1. Quality Healthcare System: Singapore has a well-regarded healthcare system that is known for its high standards and advanced medical facilities. Both public and private healthcare options are available, offering a wide range of medical services and specialties.
  2. Medisave: Medisave is a national medical savings scheme that allows Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) to set aside a portion of their income into a personal Medisave account. This account can be used to pay for medical treatments, hospitalizations, and certain approved healthcare expenses.
  3. Health Insurance: As an expat, it is advisable to have health insurance coverage to ensure access to quality healthcare without financial strain. Many employers provide health insurance as part of the employment package, but it is essential to review the coverage and consider additional insurance if needed.
  4. Integrated Shield Plans (IPs): IPs are private health insurance plans that provide coverage on top of the government-run MediShield Life program. They offer enhanced coverage, including private hospital options and additional benefits, such as a choice of doctors and shorter waiting times.
  5. Choosing an Insurance Provider: Research and compare insurance providers to find a plan that suits your needs. Consider factors such as coverage levels, premiums, policy limitations, and the reputation and financial stability of the insurance provider.
  6. Pre-existing Conditions: Check whether your health insurance plan covers pre-existing conditions, as coverage for these conditions may be subject to waiting periods or exclusions.
  7. Primary Care and Specialists: Singapore has a network of general practitioners (GPs) who serve as the first point of contact. They can provide basic medical care and referrals to specialists when needed. Specialists can be accessed directly, but it is often recommended to seek a referral from a GP for insurance purposes.
  8. Healthcare Costs and Affordability: While healthcare costs in Singapore can be high, they are often offset by the quality and accessibility of medical services. It is important to be aware of the costs associated with medical treatments, consultations, and hospitalizations, and to factor these into your overall budget.
  9. Government Schemes and Subsidies: The Singaporean government provides various schemes and subsidies to help make healthcare more affordable for citizens and PRs. As an expat, you may not be eligible for these subsidies, so ensure you have adequate insurance coverage.
  10. Health Screening and Preventive Care: Singapore places a strong emphasis on preventive healthcare. Regular health screenings and check-ups are encouraged to detect potential health issues early and promote overall well-being.

It is vital to review your health insurance coverage and understand the healthcare options available in Singapore before relocating. This will ensure that you and your family have access to quality healthcare and are financially protected in the event of medical emergencies or unexpected health issues.


Remember to read the terms and conditions of your health insurance policy carefully, seek clarification from the insurance provider if needed, and keep all relevant documents and information easily accessible. With proper healthcare and insurance planning, you can have peace of mind and focus on enjoying your expat experience in Singapore.


Setting up Utilities and Services

When moving to Singapore as an expat, setting up utilities and essential services in your new home is a crucial step. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Electricity and Water: Start by contacting the respective utility providers to set up electricity and water supply in your new residence. The main electricity provider in Singapore is SP Group, while PUB is responsible for managing water services.
  2. Internet and Telecommunications: Research and compare different internet service providers (ISPs) to find a plan that suits your needs. Popular ISPs in Singapore include Singtel, StarHub, and M1. Consider bundled packages that include internet, home phone, and cable TV services.
  3. Mobile Phone: When moving to Singapore, you have the option to choose from various mobile phone providers, such as Singtel, StarHub, and M1. Compare their plans and offerings to find the best fit for your communication needs.
  4. Television and Cable: If you enjoy watching television, consider subscribing to cable or satellite TV services. Providers like Singtel TV and StarHub TV offer a wide range of local and international channels.
  5. Home Security: Consider installing a home security system to ensure the safety of your new residence. There are various providers in Singapore that offer security solutions, including surveillance cameras, alarms, and access control systems.
  6. Postal Services: Update your mailing address with relevant authorities and service providers. The Singapore Post (SingPost) handles postal services in the country, and you can arrange for mail redirection or PO Box services if needed.
  7. Garbage Disposal: Familiarize yourself with the garbage disposal system in your residential area. Most neighborhoods in Singapore have designated days for garbage collection, and recycling is strongly encouraged.
  8. Home Cleaning Services: If you require assistance with home cleaning and maintenance, consider hiring professional cleaning services. Many companies in Singapore provide regular cleaning and deep-cleaning services tailored to your needs.
  9. Home Maintenance: Find reliable contractors or service providers for essential home maintenance tasks such as air conditioning servicing, plumbing, electrical work, and general repairs. Ask for recommendations from your network or consult online directories and forums.
  10. Furniture and Appliances: Depending on your housing situation, you may need to furnish your new home or purchase additional appliances. Explore options such as furniture stores, appliance retailers, and online marketplaces to find the products you need.

When setting up utilities and services, it is advisable to start the process well in advance of your move to ensure a smooth transition. Research and compare providers, read reviews, and consider your budget and specific requirements.


Additionally, keep important contact numbers and account details in a readily accessible place for easy reference. By efficiently setting up utilities and services in Singapore, you can create a comfortable and convenient living environment in your new home.


Managing Finances and Taxes in Singapore

Managing your finances and understanding the tax system is crucial when relocating to Singapore as an expat. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Bank Accounts: Open a local bank account in Singapore to manage your day-to-day finances. Research different banks and consider factors such as convenience, fees, accessibility, and services offered.
  2. Tax Residency: Understand your tax residency status in Singapore. Generally, if you stay in Singapore for 183 days or more in a calendar year, you will be considered a tax resident and subject to Singapore taxation.
  3. Personal Income Tax: Familiarize yourself with Singapore’s progressive personal income tax rates, which range from 0% to 22% depending on your income bracket. File your tax returns accurately and on time to comply with tax regulations.
  4. Central Provident Fund (CPF): The CPF is a social security savings scheme that all Singaporean and Permanent Resident (PR) employees contribute to. As an expat, your employer may also be required to contribute to your CPF account if certain criteria are met.
  5. Tax Deductions and Reliefs: Explore the various tax deductions and reliefs available in Singapore. These include deductions for qualifying donations, certain medical expenses, and reliefs for supporting dependents, among others.
  6. Goods and Services Tax (GST): Singapore imposes a Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the supply of goods and services. The current GST rate is 7%. It is important to understand how GST applies to your purchases and any exemptions or refunds you may be eligible for.
  7. Retirement Planning: Consider your retirement planning options, such as contributing to your CPF account or exploring private retirement plans. Seek advice from financial advisors to determine the best strategy for your long-term financial goals.
  8. Insurance and Investments: Review your insurance coverage and investment plans to ensure they are aligned with your needs and goals in Singapore. Consult with financial advisors to make informed decisions and optimize your financial portfolio.
  9. Financial Planning: Develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes budgeting, savings, investments, and insurance coverage. Consider engaging a financial advisor who understands the unique financial landscape in Singapore to help you make informed decisions.
  10. Tax Planning and Compliance: Stay updated on changes in tax laws and regulations in Singapore. Engage tax professionals or seek advice from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to ensure compliance and optimize your tax situation.

It is important to prioritize financial management and tax compliance when living and working in Singapore. Keep track of your income, expenses, and savings, and consult with professionals to maximize your financial well-being and ensure that you meet all your financial obligations.


By staying informed and proactive in managing your finances and taxes, you can make the most of your expat experience in Singapore and achieve your financial goals.


Transportation Options in Singapore

Singapore has a well-developed and efficient transportation system that makes getting around the city-state convenient and hassle-free. Here are the key transportation options to consider:

  1. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT): The MRT is a reliable and extensive network of train lines that connects major areas of Singapore. It is a popular mode of transportation due to its efficiency, affordability, and coverage. The MRT operates from early morning until late at night.
  2. Public Buses: Singapore has an extensive bus network that covers almost every part of the island. Buses operate from early morning until midnight, with some routes offering night services. Using a stored-value card like the EZ-Link or NETS FlashPay is recommended for cashless payments.
  3. Taxis and Ride-Hailing Services: Taxis are readily available in Singapore and can be hailed on the street or booked through mobile apps. Local ride-hailing services such as Grab and Gojek are also popular and provide convenient door-to-door transportation.
  4. Private Cars and Car Rentals: If you prefer driving, you can own a car in Singapore. However, be aware that owning a car in Singapore can be expensive due to high taxes and fees. Alternatively, you can rent a car for short-term use from numerous car rental companies in Singapore.
  5. Bicycles and Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs): Singapore promotes active and sustainable modes of transportation. Cycling and using personal mobility devices, such as e-scooters or e-bikes, are permitted in designated areas. Rental bicycles and e-scooters are available through sharing services like SG Bike or GrabWheels.
  6. Walking: With its compact size and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, walking is a convenient and enjoyable way to get around certain areas and explore Singapore’s vibrant streetscape.
  7. ERP and Road Pricing: Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is a system in Singapore that charges vehicles for using congested roads during peak hours. It is important to familiarize yourself with ERP gantries and ensure your vehicle has the necessary IU (in-vehicle unit) to pay the fees.
  8. Parking: Parking facilities are available throughout Singapore, but parking regulations and fees can vary. Make sure to adhere to parking restrictions and regulations when using private or public parking spaces.

When choosing transportation options in Singapore, consider factors such as distance, time, cost, convenience, and environmental impact. For daily commute, the MRT and buses offer the most efficient and cost-effective options, while taxis and ride-hailing services are convenient for shorter trips or when traveling with heavy luggage.


It is also important to stay updated with any changes to transportation regulations or policies that might affect your preferred mode of transport. Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) website and mobile apps provide real-time information and updates on transportation services and routes.


By harnessing the various transportation options available, you can navigate Singapore’s bustling cityscape with ease and make the most of your time in this cosmopolitan hub.


Embracing the Singaporean Culture and Lifestyle

As an expat living in Singapore, embracing the local culture and lifestyle can greatly enhance your experience and integration into the vibrant Singaporean community. Here are some tips to help you immerse yourself in the Singaporean culture:

  1. Try Local Cuisine: Singapore is a food paradise with a diverse culinary scene. Explore hawker centers, food courts, and local eateries to savor authentic Singaporean dishes like Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, and chili crab. Be adventurous and try new flavors and dishes.
  2. Learn Basic Local Phrases: While English is widely spoken in Singapore, learning a few basic local phrases in languages such as Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil can go a long way in connecting with the locals and showing respect for their culture.
  3. Celebrate Festivals: Join in the festivities and celebrations of major Singaporean festivals like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, and Christmas. Participate in traditional rituals, enjoy cultural performances, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.
  4. Explore Neighborhoods: Venture beyond the tourist hotspots and explore different neighborhoods in Singapore. Each area has its own unique charm and character. Visit places like Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, and Katong to experience the rich cultural heritage of Singapore.
  5. Appreciate Diversity: Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures, with people from various ethnicities and backgrounds living harmoniously. Embrace this diversity and engage with people from different walks of life to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures.
  6. Participate in Local Activities: Engage in local activities and hobbies to immerse yourself in the Singaporean way of life. Join a sports club, learn a traditional art form like batik painting or lion dance, or participate in community and volunteer initiatives.
  7. Visit Museums and Galleries: Dive into Singapore’s rich history and art scene by visiting museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. Places like the National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilizations Museum, and Peranakan Museum offer fascinating insights into the country’s heritage.
  8. Respect Local Customs and Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with local customs and etiquette to show respect for Singaporean culture. For example, removing your shoes before entering someone’s home or using both hands when receiving or giving items.
  9. Stay Informed: Keep up with local news, events, and cultural happenings by reading local publications and websites. Engaging with current affairs and cultural trends will enable you to be part of conversations and understand the pulse of Singapore society.
  10. Make Local Friends: Connect with locals through social clubs, interest groups, or community activities. Building friendships with Singaporeans will provide valuable insights into their culture and help you forge meaningful connections.

Embracing the Singaporean culture and lifestyle is a wonderful way to fully enjoy your time in the city-state. Keep an open mind, be respectful, and actively seek opportunities to immerse yourself in the local traditions and customs.


Remember, Singapore is a harmonious and multicultural society that celebrates diversity. By embracing the local culture, you can form deeper connections, gain a broader perspective, and create unforgettable memories during your time as an expat in Singapore.



Relocating to Singapore as an expat offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the process with confidence and make a seamless transition to your new life in Singapore.


From researching and preparing for the move to understanding the education system, healthcare options, and transportation choices, each aspect plays a crucial role in your overall expat experience. Embracing the Singaporean culture and lifestyle, connecting with the local community, and exploring the diverse neighborhoods and cuisines will enhance your time in this cosmopolitan city-state.


Managing your finances, understanding the tax system, and setting up utilities and services are important practical considerations to ensure a smooth transition and comfortable living environment. Additionally, staying informed about visa requirements, employment opportunities, and housing options will enable you to make informed decisions and plan for the future.


While the relocation process may present challenges and adjustments, Singapore offers a rich and vibrant environment, boasting a thriving economy, excellent infrastructure, and a high standard of living. By embracing the opportunities and immersing yourself in the local culture, you can create a fulfilling and rewarding experience in one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.


Remember, flexibility, curiosity, and a positive attitude are key when adapting to a new country. Embrace the diversity, appreciate the rich heritage, and forge meaningful connections with the people you meet along the way.


As you embark on this new chapter in your life, may your journey as an expat in Singapore be filled with exciting adventures, personal growth, and memorable experiences. Enjoy the vibrant tapestry that Singapore has to offer and make the most of your time in this remarkable city-state.