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A comprehensive guide to Singapore's new COMPASS scoring system for EP applications & renewals

A comprehensive guide to Singapore's new COMPASS scoring system for EP applications & renewals

This points-based framework, which assesses candidates and firms based criteria including salary and diversity, will apply to new applications from 1 September 2023, and one year after for pass renewals (1 September 2024).

In addition to meeting the qualifying salary, individuals applying for/renewing their Employment Pass (EP) in Singapore must pass a points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) from 1 September 2023.

Introducing this new system in his Committee of Supply (COS) speech on Friday (4 March 2022), Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng noted: "While the qualifying salary is simple to understand and easy to administer, it is also a blunt tool. There are limits to relying solely on it to select complementary foreigners."

With COMPASS, employers will thus be able to select "high-quality foreign professionals while improving workforce diversity and building a strong Singaporean Core."

This new system will apply to new applications from 1 September 2023, and one year after for pass renewals (1 September 2024).

Here is everything employers, HR, and EP candidates need to know about COMPASS:

How does COMPASS work?

As shared by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), COMPASS evaluates EP applications based on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes.

 Foundational criteria Individual attributesFirm-related attributes

 C1. Salary

- Relative to local PMET salary norms for the sector.

C2. Qualifications

- Based on the candidate's qualifications.

C3. Diversity

- Whether candidate improves nationality diversity in the firm.

C4. Support for local employment

- Based on local PMET share relative to industry peers.

 Bonus criteria

C. Skills bonus (Shortage Occupation List)

- For candidates in jobs where skills shortages exist.

C6. Strategic economic priorities bonus

- For partnership with Government on ambitious innovation or internationalisation activities.

Applications are scored on four foundational criteria, and applicants will earn points if they meet/exceed expectations. Additionally, applicants can earn additional points on bonus criteria, if they meet the relevant qualifying conditions. These criteria recognise applications that bring in skills in shortage and support strategic economic priorities, thus creating good jobs for Singaporeans, MOM stated.

#1 Salary

 Fixed monthly salary compared to local PMET salaries in the sector by age Points
 ≥ 90th percentile 20
65th to 90th percentile 10
< 65th percentile0


All applicants must meet the EP qualifying salary, which increases with age.

COMPASS further accounts for sectoral differences in salary norms. Your application earns points by meeting sector-specific benchmarks for local PMET salaries. These benchmarks are also age-adjusted.

#2 Qualifications

Candidate's qualifications Points
Top-tier institution 20
Degree-equivalent qualification 10
No degree-equivalent qualification0


Employers are responsible for ensuring that the candidate’s qualifications are genuine and were awarded by accredited institutions.Top-tier institutions include:

  • Top 100 universities based on international rankings, and other highly-reputed universities across different regions
  • Singapore’s Autonomous Universities
  • Vocational institutions that are highly recognised in a particular field.
  • Degree-equivalent qualifications generally refer to:
    • Foreign qualifications that are assessed to be comparable to a bachelor’s degree in the UK system (MOM determines this with reference to international recognition bodies, e.g. the UK National Information Centre for recognition and evaluation of international qualifications and skills (UK ENIC)).
    • Professional qualifications that are well-recognised by the industry and endorsed by a relevant sector agency.

Qualifications are not a mandatory requirement under COMPASS. Candidates who do not hold degree-equivalent qualifications can still pass COMPASS by earning sufficient points on other criteria.

#3 Diversity

 Share of candidate’s nationality among firm’s PMETs Points
 < 5% 20
 5 to 25% 10
 ≥ 25% 0


COMPASS awards more points to applications where the candidate’s nationality forms a small share of the firm’s PMET employees. No points are earned if your firm is applying to bring in a candidate whose nationality currently forms a significant share of its PMET employees

MOM considers all employees earning at least S$3,000 per month in the firm as PMETs when computing this criterion. An application scores 10 points by default if your firm employs fewer than 25 PMET employees.

An employee’s nationality is determined based on the nationality indicated on their passport in MOM’s records. 

#4 Support for local employment

Share of local PMETs within your subsector  Points
 ≥ 50th percentile 20
20th to 50th percentile 10
 < 20th percentile 0


COMPASS recognises firms that make efforts to create opportunities for the local workforce and build complementary teams comprising both local and foreign professionals.

An application earns more points if the firm has a relatively higher share of locals among PMET employees, compared to peers in the same subsector.

Like with the above criterion (diversity), MOM considers all employees earning at least S$3,000 per month in the firm as PMETs when computing this criterion; applications will score 10 points by default if the firm employs fewer than 25 PMET employees. 

If a firm’s local PMET share is at least 70% (pegged to the 20th percentile of firms economy-wide), an application will earn at least 10 points. This is regardless of where the firm stands within their subsector. "In this way, we do not penalise firms in subsectors that have a relatively high share of local PMET employees," MOM said.

#5 Skills bonus (Shortage Occupation List)

Skills bonus Points
Job on the Shortage Occupation List +20
(Reduced to +10 if the share of candidate’s nationality among firm’s PMETs is one-third or higher)


"As Singapore moves to capture new economic opportunities, companies will require access to skilled talent to fill these jobs. The Government works closely with education and training institutes and tripartite partners to train our local graduates and reskill mid-career workers for these good jobs.

"However, given our limited local workforce and worldwide competition for talent, the demand for skilled roles will also need to be met by complementary foreign manpower," MOM shared.

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) recognises EP holders in occupations requiring highly specialised skills that are currently in shortage in the local workforce. As an indication, this could include niche infocomm-related roles supporting Singapore’s digitalisation drive.

The SOL is determined by a robust tripartite evaluation process that takes into account industry needs and local workforce development efforts.

A candidate’s bonus points will be reduced from +20 to +10 if their nationality forms one-third or higher of the firm’s PMETs. This encourages resilience and diversity in firms, especially in areas requiring critical skills.

#6 Strategic economic priorities bonus

Strategic economic priorities bonus  Points
 Firm meets specific assessment criteria on innovation, or internationalisation activities. +10


MOM highlighted: "Singapore seeks to anchor and grow firms that can contribute to the innovative capacity of our economy, enhance our global linkages, and strengthen our economic competitiveness. This creates better jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans.

"COMPASS recognises companies that are undertaking ambitious innovation, or internationalisation activities in partnership with the Government, in line with our economic priorities. Such companies should also have the scale or potential to provide good jobs for locals."

To qualify, firms must participate in selected programmes run by various economic agencies or meet specific assessment criteria, and show commitment to developing the local workforce or ecosystem.

Overall, the assessment is as follows:

 Points for each foundational criterionAssessment
 20Exceeds expectations
10Meets expectations
0Does not meet expectations


In order to pass COMPASS, candidates must receive a score of 40 points on their applications:

  • Applications that meet expectations (earn 10 points) on all 4 foundational criteria will pass (Example A-1 and Example A-2).
  • Otherwise, applications can make up the required points by exceeding expectations on another criterion (Example B) or by scoring bonus points (Example C).

Who is exempted from COMPASS? 

Candidates are exempted from COMPASS if they fulfill any of these conditions:

  • Earning at least S$20,000 fixed monthly salary (similar to the prevailing Fair Consideration Framework 
    (FCF) job advertising exemption);
  • Applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to, OR
  • Filling a role on a short-term basis, i.e. one month or less.

In his COS speech, Dr Tan stressed: "Let me be clear – COMPASS is not designed to make it harder for businesses to obtain an EP. A good majority of the applications today would not have issues. This is because this demonstrates that our businesses in general are progressive, and our policies thus far have brought in complementary EP holders.

"However, some firms would need to make adjustments under COMPASS. And they would know clearly which areas to improve on and how to respond accordingly, given the transparency, clarity, and predictability of COMPASS."

He further elaborated:

  • Once COMPASS is fully rolled out, the FCF Watchlist will be re-purposed to focus on engaging businesses that score poorly on the firm-related attributes. "We will walk with these firms, we will help them strengthen their workforce profile, and adjust to the new framework."
  • "When COMPASS is in place, employers can use the Pre-Assessment Tool to obtain a 'balanced scorecard' of how each application fares prior to submission, so that they know what areas they must improve in."

Read the minister's full COS speech highlights here

Image / 123RF

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