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Business Registration in Singapore

March 27, 2014 | Valerie Wong

ingapore may well be the “melting pot” of Southeast Asia. The people are an interesting mix of races and cultures; the old and the new. Its strategic geographic location gives Singapore an edge regarding its role in international free trade. Business registration in Singapore is deemed as one of the easiest and hassle-free when compared with other countries.  According to the latest World Bank report, Singapore ranks 9th out of 189 economies in terms of ease in business registration.

The national government is pro-business as attested by the country's business registration policies, flexible immigration laws and almost non-existent bureaucratic red tape.  Another plus point in business registration in Singapore is that the applicant need not be physically present to do so. If the owner will not be physically present to run the business in Singapore, he does not need an entrepass or employment pass. All he needs is a visitor visa.

Business Structures in Singapore

There are five primary business structures applicable in Singapore: sole proprietorship; partnership; limited liability partnership (LLP); limited partnership (LP); and company.

Sole proprietorship is owned by one person and is not a legal entity, which means that the business cannot own any property and cannot sue or be sued under its business name.

Partnership is a business firm owned by two to twenty individuals and is not a legal entity as each partner is accountable for all risks, debts and losses. 

Limited liability partnership is owned by at least two individuals and has no limit as to the number of partners. It is a legal entity, which means the firm can sue and be sued under its own business name.

Limited partnership must have one general partner and one limited partner, and unlimited number of other partners. It is not a legal entity, but the general partner has unlimited personal liability pertaining to the business and where the limited partner has no obligation in debts et al pertaining to the business.

A company is a business entity under the Singapore Companies Act, Chapter 50.  A greater number of companies in Singapore are Private Limited (Pte Ltd) entities with up to 50 owners.  A company becomes public with unlimited number of owners when it offers bonds and shared to the public.

Steps in Registering a Business in Singapore

A foreign entity aiming to establish an international headquarters in Singapore can register at Bizfile's website under the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Alien applicants who wish to register a business in Singapore could approach particular government agencies such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Attorney-General's Chambers and other institutions such as the International Enterprise Singapore, Economic Development Board and more, for assistance.

Both local and foreign applicants need to apply on either Online Business Licensing Service (OBLS) website or at ACRA's Bizfile website. Online registration normally takes 15 minutes. However, if the business needs the approval of other government agencies, the process could take at least 14 working days. If a foreign company wishes to open a branch in Singapore, the applicant has to appoint a professional firm to represent the company.

Singpass and Entrepass

However, before an applicant can register a business, he should first secure a Singpass and an Entrepass (if needed). A Singpass is an applicant's password to be able to access and login to various government e-services. This password is renewable every two years.

Eligibility Requirements

An applicant has to make sure he has all the necessary requirements before he registers his business online. His business must meet the eligibility requirements of his business structure. If the business applicant is an alien who does not have a local address or cannot legally stay in Singapore indefinitely, he must appoint a local manager. For companies, one director must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. The applicant must check the availability of his business name. He could check ACRA's online directory of business names on BizFile. The applicant would have to provide the SSIC code when registering his business. The Singapore Standard Industry Classification (SSIC) is the classification of your business under ACRA. The applicant can search for his business's SSIC (e.g., driving, cooking, toys, clothes, education, and more) on ACRA's search engine.

Business Address

Before business registration in Singapore, the applicant must already have a business address or location. The location must meet the requirements set by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Residential properties are alright for home office scheme only and P.O boxes are not legitimate business addresses.  An applicant must also ensure that his Medisave liabilities are paid through CPF Board website. An applicant must check what other licenses and permits he needs to register his business as certain types of businesses such as day care, educational institutions, liquor store need special licenses and permits.

It is true that the actual business registration in Singapore is quick but preparing the requirements before the actual registration takes time and effort. For companies, added requirements, such as article of incorporation, are needed.

It is best to secure the services of a professional firm for a painless and successful business registration in Singapore. Servcorp is your best option for this endeavor. The company has the resources and experience to facilitate your business registration in Singapore.