Guide to the Foreign Domestic Worker's Work Permit

As an employer of a foreign domestic worker (FDW), you will have a myriad of responsibilities, ranging from arranging your FDW's paperwork to ensuring she has a proper place to sleep. However, all the work that you're required to put into hiring a FDW can become overwhelming and it can be easy to miss a few important details about particular aspects of the hiring process. This guide will provide an easily digestible breakdown about one of the more complex parts of hiring an FDW—applying for and maintaining your domestic worker's work permit.

What Does the Work Permit Allow Your FDW to Do?

The Work Permit lets your foreign domestic worker work for you for 2 years. It also lets your FDW travel to and from her home country if needed during her employment period. She can only work for you and in her occupation, so you can not have her do duties outside of her work scope. She also can't do work for other people, even other members of your family who do not live with you. Below, we've highlighted some of the main conditions you and your FDW must comply with to retain your FDW's work permit. For a full list, please click here.

Work Permit Conditions for Employers

Must supply medical and accident insurance for FDW Should send FDW for medical examination when required Must inform MOM within 7 days if worker goes missing Must maintain FDW's monthly salary as stated in work pass application unless foreign employee provides written consent to increase/decrease salary Cannot prevent access to salary or bank account Must apply for cancellation of work permit if FDW breaks rules of work permit Cannot manage any business in Singapore or be a partner in a business

Work Permit Conditions for Domestic Workers

  • Cannot engage in part-time work
  • Can only do domestic chores
  • Can only work at the residential address of her work permit (unless otherwise approved)
  • Cannot get pregnant or deliver children during or after the validity period of work permit
  • Cannot be engaged in illegal or immoral activities while in Singapore
  • Cannot get married to a Singapore citizen or permanent resident without approval of MOM

How to Apply For Your Domestic Worker's Work Permit

Either you or an employment agency can apply for your domestic worker's work permit. If you are applying through the agency, then your work is done. On the other hand, if you are applying for a work permit on your own, there are a number of steps you have to take and fees you'll have to pay.

First, you'll have to submit an application along with the S$35 fee. You should get your results within 1 week if you submit the application online or within 3 weeks if you apply manually. Before you submit your application, you have to get your FDW's written consent to protect the your and her interests in the event of a dispute.

Once you get the application approved, you will receive an in-principle approval (IPA) letter and declaration forms. All of the forms need to be signed, and you must send your FDW her copy of the IPA if she isn't already in Singapore. Otherwise, she won't be able to enter the country. Within two weeks of your domestic worker arriving in Singapore, you should make the request to get your work permit issued. When you submit the request, you will receive a temporary work permit that you should give to your FDW. This temporary work permit will let her start working and is valid for 1 month while you wait for the actual work permit card. The actual permit card will arrive 4 working days after the documents are verified.

Special Schemes for Low-Income Employers

When you're submitting your work permit application, the Ministry of Manpower takes into consideration your income. This means that certain families who need a domestic worker but don't meet the income threshold (which is an undisclosed sum determined by the MOM) may not be able to successfully apply for a work permit. To help those families, the MOM introduced two schemes: the Joint Income Scheme and the Sponsorship Scheme.

Joint Income Scheme

The Joint Income Scheme lets you combine your income with one immediate family member in your household who is not your spouse. You have to be the one making the higher salary and you can not be an undischarged bankrupt.

Sponsorship Scheme

Senior Citizens may include the incomes of 2 sponsors when applying for their domestic worker's work permit. The sponsors can be your children and their spouses, your grandchildren and their spouses or your siblings.

To be eligible for the scheme you have to be over 60 years of age and not be working. You also can't have any working adults living with you. Furthermore, you can not be diagnosed with medical conditions that could impair your ability to be an employer. This includes Alzheimer's disease, dementia or schizophrenia.

How to Cancel Domestic Worker's Work Permit

You have to cancel your foreign domestic worker's work permit regardless of whether you are ending her contract early or her employment period is up. If you are ending her contract early, then you have to cancel her work permit within one week of her last day of work. After cancelling the work permit, you will receive a special pass for your worker that will let her stay in Singapore legally until her departure. Her original work permit card should be mailed back to the MOM within 1 week of cancellation.

The cancellation is immediate, so before you decide to cancel her work permit, you must settle all your employer obligations. This includes paying outstanding salaries, purchasing air tickets home (you should also make sure you pay for check-in luggage as well) and ensuring your domestic worker's passport is up to date. You must make sure that your FDW's departure date is within 2 weeks of her last day of work. You should also remember (and remind your worker) that because cancellation is immediate, your worker is no longer allowed to work in Singapore—even while she is waiting to leave.

How the Work Permit Application Connects to Other Hiring Obligations

The work permit is only one piece of the puzzle that is required to be completed before your worker settles in. For instance, you'll have to complete the Employer's Orientation Programme before you even apply for a work permit if will be a first-time employer. You also have to send your FDW a pre-employment medical examination once she arrives in Singapore. If she fails to get that examination, she won't get her work permit. For particular situations or for downloadable forms, you can visit the Ministry of Manpower's website.

Read More:

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.