Can Foreigners Incorporate a Company in Singapore? What Are the Requirements?

Incorporating a company in Singapore as a foreigner is not only possible but also encouraged, thanks to the city-state’s robust, business-friendly environment. Renowned for its strategic location, political stability, efficient legal system, and attractive tax benefits, Singapore stands as a beacon for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to establish a foothold in Asia. However, the process involves adhering to certain requirements and regulations set forth by the Singaporean authorities. Here’s a detailed exploration of what foreigners need to know and do to successfully incorporate a company in Singapore.

Understanding the Basic Requirements

To incorporate a company in Singapore, foreigners must satisfy several criteria, which ensure the process is smooth and the business is set up for success from the start.

  • Appointment of a Local Director: The Singapore Companies Act mandates that every company must have at least one director who is a local resident. This can be a Singapore Citizen, a Singapore Permanent Resident, or a holder of an EntrePass, Employment Pass, or Dependent Pass. This requirement is in place to ensure that the company has a representative who is familiar with Singapore’s laws and regulations.
  • Company Secretary: Within six months of incorporation, the company must appoint a qualified company secretary who is a resident of Singapore. The secretary’s role is crucial in ensuring regulatory compliance and good corporate governance.
  • Minimum Share Capital: The company must have at least S$1 in minimum paid-up capital (share capital) at the time of incorporation. This low threshold makes it accessible for entrepreneurs to start a business in Singapore.
  • Registered Office Address: A physical address in Singapore is required as the company’s registered address. This cannot be a P.O. Box and must be a place where the company can receive official correspondence.
  • Company Name Approval: Before incorporation, the proposed company name must be approved by ACRA. The name should be unique, meaningful, and free from any undesirable connotations.
  • Business Activities: The company must clearly define its primary business activities by choosing the appropriate SSIC codes. This classification helps in regulatory reporting and compliance.

Navigating the Incorporation Process

The company incorporation process for foreigners entails several additional steps, primarily due to the need to comply with local laws while often managing these requirements from abroad.

  • Engaging an Incorporation Agent: Foreign individuals or entities cannot self-register a new company with ACRA. They must engage a registered filing agent (typically a corporate secretarial firm or a law firm) to handle the incorporation process. These agents are well-versed in Singapore’s corporate laws and can provide valuable guidance throughout the process.
  • Securing Employment Passes: If the foreign entrepreneur intends to relocate to Singapore to run the business, they must apply for and secure an Employment Pass (EP) or EntrePass. The application process involves meeting certain criteria, such as minimum salary thresholds and, in the case of the EntrePass, demonstrating the business’s viability.
  • Opening a Corporate Bank Account: After incorporation, the next step is opening a corporate bank account in Singapore. Most banks require the physical presence of the company’s principals for verification purposes, although some banks may offer alternatives like video conferencing under certain conditions.
  • Understanding Tax Obligations: Singapore’s favorable tax regime includes tax exemptions for startups and competitive tax rates for established businesses. However, understanding and navigating the tax landscape is crucial for optimizing tax obligations and benefits. Companies must register for Goods and Services Tax (GST) if their annual turnover exceeds or is expected to exceed S$1 million.

Compliance and Ongoing Requirements

Once the company is incorporated, maintaining compliance with Singapore’s corporate regulatory framework is essential for smooth operations.

  • Annual General Meetings (AGM) and Annual Returns: Companies are required to hold an AGM once every calendar year and file annual returns with ACRA. These requirements ensure that the company’s financial statements are transparent and up to date.
  • Tax Filing: Beyond the annual corporate tax filing, companies might need to attend to other tax responsibilities, such as GST filing if applicable. Leveraging tax advisory services can be beneficial in navigating Singapore’s tax environment efficiently.
  • Renewal of Work Passes: For foreigners managing their business in Singapore, ensuring that their work passes (EntrePass or Employment Pass) are renewed timely is critical for continuous legal operation in the country.


For foreigners looking to incorporate a company in Singapore, the process is characterized by clarity and support from the government to ensure ease of doing business. However, it necessitates a thorough understanding of local requirements, diligent preparation, and often, the assistance of professional services to navigate the legal and regulatory landscape. With the right preparation and guidance, foreigners can leverage Singapore’s dynamic and open economy to scale their businesses and explore new opportunities in Asia and beyond. Adhering to the outlined steps and requirements ensures that the incorporation process is not only successful but also lays a strong foundation for the business’s future growth and compliance.

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