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Singapore Business Licenses and Permits: Basics for Foreign Entrepreneurs

Posted by AM Corporate Services Pte. Ltd. 05. 22. 2017

Today, we will be talking about Singapore business registration. Apart from having to register your entity in Singapore, certain companies are subjected to further regulatory obligations by other government agencies. All requisite approvals, permits, and licenses have to be in place before the commencement of business activities.

Brief introductions for industry-specific business licenses in Singapore are listed below.

In certain cases, during the name application stage, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) system will prompt if another approving authority is required to grant the license or permit. 

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Nevertheless, companies have to be registered with ACRA before applying for a business license. Depending on the type of license/permit one is applying for, the processing time is between 2 weeks to 2 months.


Construction Business

The construction industry requires many licences and/or permits before the commencement of work. In addition, if you want foreign construction workers in your team, your company will have to go through the work permit application process. This is done at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Employment Agency

All employment agencies have to get the Employment Agency License. There are 2 types: a Comprehensive License or a Select License. Both of these are issued by MOM. An important thing to note here is that this license can be issued only to legal entities, not to individuals.

Regardless of whether the applicants are to be hired in Singapore or overseas, an Employment Agency must first be licensed before carrying out such activities.

Event Management Company

All event management companies in Singapore are obligated to get one or a number of licenses. This, of course, depends on the characteristics of the event or activity that is to be organized. Some examples include the Arts Entertainment License, the Public Entertainment License, Copyright Permits, etc.

Financial Services

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the regulatory body that issues licenses for all finance related businesses. All financial advisers have to be licensed to carry out their regular activities. Now, you can come across two different types of licenses:

  • Capital Markets Services License
  • Financial Adviser License

Food & Beverage Business

There are tons of requirements and legalities in the restaurant/cafe industry in Singapore. First, you have to apply for a Food Shop License. Second, you have to hire staff. Additionally, all F&B  business owners who plan on puttin liquor in their menus, will have to obtain a Liquor License. There is also a Copyright License to play music/host live performance, a Public Entertainment License, a permit for importing food products, etc.


Before you open a hotel or a boarding house in this city, there are several licenses to obtain. Your focus should be on the principal Hotel-Keeper’s License and, after that, you are to seek approval from the Hotels Licensing Board. There are, of course, additional permits/licenses required for organizing live gigs, streaming or playing other people’s copyrighted music or videos, opening a spa centar, distributing any tobacco products, etc.

Private Education

In this case, you are looking at mandatory registrations, licenses, permits, and procedures. These needs to be taken care of before you set can up any kind of educational establishment in Singapore. The same rules apply when starting childcare establishments, kindergarten schools, academic schools, and non-academic schools.

Publishing Business

A publishing business in Singapore needs two licenses.

The Newspaper Permit is for all those who want to print and/or publish a newspaper. It also applies to companies who are planning to distribute foreign newspapers and put them on their shelves.

The Printing Presses license is required to keep and use a press for printing documents.

Real Estate Agency

Due to the growing importance of the real estate industry in Singapore, a new statutory board has recently been established to improve the regulatory process and to raise standards when it comes to protecting the interests of consumers. This improves the licensing process of real estate agencies, mandate registrations for agents, and it introduces fresh industry regulations.

Retail shop

When it comes to retail shops, licensing requirements may vary depending on what it is that you are selling. As an example, here are certain types of businesses that will require licenses: big and small supermarkets, pharmacies, any kind of telecommunication store, any kind of cosmetic store, any kind of liquor store, etc.


A Massage Establishment License is required for any and all businesses who want to offer spa services and treatments. This includes spa baths, foot-reflexology services, massage services, beauty treatments, etc.

Shipping Business

When it comes to any shipping/maritime business in Singapore, you will have to get a legislation for operating vessels, both within and outside Singapore. Afterwards, you are to look for crew members will work with dangerous goods onboard the ship, who will operate various communications equipment onboard vessels, etc.

Telecommunication Business

Each telecommunication service in Singapore needs more than one legal requisites and licenses. These vary in accordance with the type of telecommunication service provided. Any kind of telecommunication service requires at least one compulsory license and certain types may require more than one.

Trading Activities

Like most other areas of business, opening a trading company requires import/export licenses and permits. On top of that, there are various other considerations, some of which include:

  • The type of goods that may be imported/exported
  • Applicable taxes and levies
  • Trade financing options
  • Cargo clearance procedures

Moreover, any “sensitive” goods need more procedures before they can pass the border. A good thing to note is that any global trading company will probably gave tax incentives, but if they have an established presence in Singapore.

Travel Agency

To open a travel agency in Singapore, you need to obtain a license from the Singapore Tourism Board.

Western Medical Clinic

The requirements for running a Western Medical Clinic in Singapore are more stringent. A Medical Clinic License is required for all health-care institutions and additional licenses are needed depending on the types of services offered. For example, a Certificate of Registration for a Pharmacy from the Health Sciences Authority is mandatory for medicinal drug distribution, and the L3 License from the National Environment Agency is compulsory to operate irradiating equipment.

General Note

All of these things are rather daunting and complex to understand, particularly if you are not an expert. Therefore, engaging a professional firm to handle these services on your behalf is more than advisable.

Feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you with your Singapore business registration needs.


Topics: Company Registration