Setting Up a Representative Office in Singapore
A Representative Office in Singapore is an interim entity from which foreign companies can conduct market research, feasibility studies and liaison work on behalf of its parent company. The Singapore Representative Office does not have an independent legal status from that of its parent company and does not enjoy the legal and tax benefits of a subsidiary or a company. Hence, the Representative Office is not required to file financial accounts and tax returns in Singapore. For a foreign company who is not ready to set up a subsidiary or a branch office in Singapore, the Representative Office is a temporary option to test the market potential in Singapore (and regional Asian markets) before committing to incorporating a Singapore company and incurring higher company maintenance costs.
Some of the reasons for a Foreign Company setting up a Singapore Representative Office in Singapore are:
Please note that the Representative Office is not permitted to engage in commercial activities or to provide any services for a fee, including:
Foreign Companies in the manufacturing, trading and services sectors can submit an application for the registration of Representative Office to I E Singapore (International Enterprise Singapore) for approval.
Financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies can also set up representative offices in Singapore but the applications are under the purview of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and they have to be in accordance with the guidelines set out by MAS.
The Representative Office is obligated to notify the authorities of any changes relating to the appointed representative officer, registered address, registered activities etc. during the course of its existence. In case of changes to the Parent Company, i.e. name change, applicable official documents, such a copy of the Parent Company’s Certificate of Change in name should accompany the notification.
If the foreign parent company becomes dormant, the Singapore representative office must be deregistered.
Foreign companies who wish to commence business activities in Singapore will be required to incorporate a Singapore Company.
For registration of a Singapore Representative Office, all new applications of the foreign commercial entity must fulfill the following criteria:
Approval can take 1 to 2 weeks and is usually valid for one year, on a renewable basis for a maximum of three (3) years.
After the registration of the Representative Office, the foreign company can apply for an employment pass for its overseas personnel who will be stationed in Singapore. The Representative office may also hire local research/admin staff.
Most Companies prefer to bring their own representative to helm the Representative Office in Singapore. If this is the same for your Company, we can assist you in applying for an Employment Pass for your foreign “Chief Representative Officer” so that they can legally work in Singapore.
With effect from the 1st of September 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has raised the minimum qualifying salary for new Employment Pass (EP) applications from S$3,900 to S$5,000. For financial services sector, the minimum qualifying salary is S$5,000 with effect from 1 December 2020. The same will be raised in tandem for older and more experienced candidates. For Renewal applications this criterion will apply from 1 May 2021.
A foreign company that is interested in setting up a Singapore Representative Office will typically engage a professional services firm to assist it with the Representative Office registration and to act as a contact point for any clarifications required by the approving authorities. Please contact us if you are interested in registering a Representative Office in Singapore.