Foreign nationals can come to Singapore to work under the Singapore Work Permit for foreign domestic workers (FDW). Foreign domestic workers work in the home of a Singapore employer doing household and domestic chores.

The FDW Work Permit is only one of the different types of work passes and permits that Singapore offers to foreign workers. However, not everyone can apply to become an FDW in Singapore. Only nationals from certain countries qualify. In addition, there are requirements that prospective employers have to meet as well.

Eligibility Criteria for FDW in Singapore

Both the foreign domestic worker and the employer have to meet certain criteria to be eligible to get a Work Permit.

Eligibility criteria for the employer

  • The employer has to be at least 21 years old.
  • The employer cannot be an un-discharged bankrupt.
  • The employer cannot have any mental disorder/disability which can impair their ability to supervise the FDW, and be in charge of their well-being.

Eligibility criteria for the Foreign Domestic Worker

  • The FDW must be female.
  • She has to be over 23 years of age and below 50 when applying.
    • Applicants over 50 cannot apply for the first time. They can only renew their Work Permit.
  • She must be from one of the following countries:
    • Bangladesh
    • Cambodia
    • Hong Kong
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Macau
    • Malaysia
    • Myanmar
    • Philippines
    • South Korea
    • Sri Lanka
    • Taiwan
    • Thailand
  • She must have at least 8 years of formal education.

Conditions for employing a Foreign Domestic Worker in Singapore

When an employer hires a foreign domestic worker, they must be aware that the FDW:

  • Needs to have a valid Work Permit.
  • Can only work for one employer.
  • Only does domestic/household chores.
  • Only works in the address where the employer lives.
    • The exemption is if she is taking care of the employer’s children or elderly parents at another place during the day.
  • Has to live in the same household as their employer.
  • Is not allowed to take up any other work, not even part-time.
  • Is entitled to have one paid rest day a week.

In addition, there are certain conditions and requirements that both the FDW and the employer have to comply with. These include:

Health insurance

The employer has to get foreign domestic worker medical insurance covering:

  • At least $15,000 per year during her stay in Singapore.
  • Hospitalization, medical emergencies, and surgeries.

In addition, the employer must also get the employer Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) which:

  • Is a minimum of S$60,000.
  • Covers sudden and unexpected accidents which could result in the helper becoming permanently injured or dying.

Medical examination

Within two weeks of the foreign domestic worker arriving in Singapore, the employer has to send her to get a medical examination at a Singapore-registered doctor. The employer and the FDW must have the Medical Examination Form, which can be downloaded from MOM’s website when they go for the examination.

The doctor will check if the FDW is fit for working and if she tests positive for tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis or malaria.

The FDW will not get a Work Permit if she does not pass the medical examination.

She will also have to undergo a medical examination every six months for the duration of her work permit.

Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP)

Employers who are applying to get a Work Permit for an FDW for the first time(as well as employers who have changed FDWs repeatedly) will need to attend the Employers’ Orientation Programme (EOP).

They must attend the program, which lasts three hours, at least two days before they apply for the Work Permit for the FDW.

It can be taken in a classroom or online.

Settling-In Programme (SIP) for the FDW

A foreign domestic worker coming to work in Singapore for the first time has to attend a Settling-In Programme. She must attend the program within the first three days of entering Singapore. The program only lasts one day, and it covers the following topics:

  • Introduces the FDW to Singapore.
  • Home safety.
  • The conditions of employment.
  • Managing stress and management.

The FDW cannot start to work until she has attended the program.

Security bond

Employers have to buy security bonds for every FDW they have unless she is Malaysian. The security bond works like insurance that the employer will pay a fee of up to S$5,000 to the government if they break the rules regarding employing a foreign helper.

The employer has to pay the security bond if:

  • The employer or the worker violates any of the Work Permit or security bond rules.
  • The employer does not pay the FDW her salary on time.
  • If the employer does not make sure the FDW has returned home after the end of the Work Permit.
  • If the FDW goes missing.
    • If the employer makes effort to find her, such as going to the police, they will only have to pay half of the bond.

FDW levy

The employer has to pay a monthly levy for any foreign domestic workers that they have. The employer has to pay a levy as follows:

  • For a first-time FDW: S$300 per month
  • For a subsequent FDW: S$450 per month
  • In case of levy concession (if the employer has a child, a person with a disability, or elderly person in the household): S$60 per month.

Documents Needed for a Work Permit for a Foreign Domestic Worker in Singapore

When the Singapore employer submits the Foreign Domestic Worker Permit application, they must attach several supporting documents. These include:

  • If the employer is a Singapore citizen: Copy of their ID card.
  • If the employer is not a Singapore citizen: Copy of their Employment/Dependent’s Pass.
  • If the employer is an LTVP holder:
    • Copy of their LTVP Pass
    • Copy of their child’s birth certificate or Student Pass (if applicable)
  • Documents proving the employer’s income, as well as the income of their spouse.
  • Copy of the FDW’s passport.
  • If the FDW is from Malaysia:
    • A copy of her ID Card.
    • A copy of her SPM certificate (The Malaysian Certificate of Education)
  • Copies of the birth certificates of the employer’s children (if applicable)
  • Copy of the ID Cards of the employer’s parents or parents in law.

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of the documents. The Ministry of Manpower reserves the right to as for any additional documents they see fit.

All the submitted documents have to be in English. If they are not, they must be translated by an official translator.

How to Apply for a Work Permit for Foreign Domestic Workers?

It is the employer who is in charge of submitting the application to hire a foreign domestic worker in Singapore. They could also appoint an employment agency to submit the application on their behalf.

There are two ways of submitting the application: online and manually.

Applying online

The online application process for a work permit for a FDW is as follows:

  • FDW gives a letter of consent to the employer, stating she agrees to be employed.
  • The employer logs in to the Ministry of Manpower’s Online Application Tool, and completes the application.
  • They attach the required documents (see below).
  • The employer pays the application processing fee (S$35).
  • If the application is approved: They will receive an in-principle approval (IPA) letter/letter of notification, which they must give to the FDW. The letter allows her to enter Singapore.
    • The FDW Work Permit online application processing time is about 1 week.

Applying manually

The manual application process for a work permit for a FDW is as follows:

  • FDW gives a letter of consent to the employer, stating she agrees to be employed.
  • Employer downloads the Work Permit application form MOM’s website.
  • They attach all the required documents (see below).
  • They pay the S$35 processing fee and keep the receipt.
  • They submit the application at a SingPost branch so they can mail it to the Ministry of Manpower.
  • If the application is approved: The MOM mails the employer the in-principle approval (IPA) letter/letter of notification, which they must give to the FDW. The letter allows her to enter Singapore.
    • The FDW Work Permit manual application processing time is about 3 weeks.

After the application (either online or manually) has been approved and the foreign worker has traveled to Singapore, the employer has to request to get the Work Permit issued.

Requesting to issue the Work Permit

The foreign domestic worker has to attend the Settling-In Programme (SIP) and medical examination before the employer requests to get the Permit issued.

The process of requesting to issue the work permit is as follows:

  • The employer logs in and makes the requests at MOM’s Online Application Tool.
  • They give the address where MOM can deliver the card.
  • They pay the S$35 fee.
  • They print the Temporary Work Permit, which:
    • Allows the FDW to enter and leave Singapore until they get their Card.
    • Allows the FDW to start working.
    • Notifies the FDW if she needs to register her fingerprints and photo.

Registering the fingerprints and photo

If the Temporary Work Permit states that the FDW needs to register her photo and fingerprints, she must do it within one week at the MOM Services Center.

She needs to have her passport, appointment letter, and Temporary Work Permit with her.

The MOM will send the Work Permit Card at the address of the employer within four working days of registering.

Work Permit for Foreign Domestic Worker Renewal

A Work Permit for a foreign domestic worker is valid for a maximum of up to 2 years, and it can be renewed. Once renewed, it is valid for another two years.

The Ministry of Manpower sends the employer a renewal letter eight weeks before the foreign domestic worker’s Permit expires.

After receiving the FDW renewal letter, the employer can submit the application to renew it online.