Business Licences in Singapore

 

Incorporating a business in Singapore is straightforward and easy most of the time, especially so if you engage the professional services of an agency. What you need to do next is to make sure that you have the business licenses in Singapore that are relevant to the industry and nature of business that you’re operating. Thankfully, the process of getting these licenses is also clear and simple. All you have to do is to be well-informed, and you can get well on your way to finally starting your business.

These are some of the most common licenses that you may need to apply for.

Retail Outlet

First of all, you need to ensure that your chosen business location is approved for retail business. This may sound obvious, but in reality this could pose an issue if you’re unfamiliar with the scene in Singapore and regulations in other countries may not be as strict. Approval must be sought from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) if you’re setting up business in private or conservation properties.

Also, you need to obtain a Fire Safety Certificate from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, which ensures that your property meets fire safety requirements.

In addition to that, certain retail business will require specific licenses and permits. These are the most common ones:

Supermarkets

You have to apply for the Supermarket License if you intend to run a supermarket that retails cooked or raw food.

In addition to basic requirements like having been registered with ACRA, you also need to adhere to the operational requirements of the Code of Practice of Environmental Health (COPEH). Amongst the key documents you need, these are some of the crucial ones to take note of:

  1. A certificate showing that food handlers have an understanding of food hygiene
  2. Cleaning program
  3. A layout of the premises (must be expressed in metric)
  4. Document showing pest control services have been contracted for the period of the licence validity period. The inspection frequency of by the pest control operator shall be at least once a month.

Application Processing Time: A reply letter will be sent to you within 5 working days upon receipt of application.

Application Cost: S$250 for a supermarket with an area less than 200 square metres, S$500 otherwise square metres, the licence costs S$500.00. The licence is valid for one year.

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Liquor License

For the retail of liquor, you will need to apply for the liquor license with the Singapore Police Force. Liquor is defined as a beverage or substance that contains more than 0.5% ethanol by volume or mass.

There various classes of liquor license, and which one to apply for depends on the timing of sale as well as whether or not you’re intending to sell only beer or other types of alcohol.

Application Processing Time: 12 working days upon receipt of application

Application Cost: $285-$880, depending on whether the license is for beer only and the operating hours of the business. The license is valid for a year.

Tobacco Retail License

The tobacco retail license is valid for the specific physical outlet, and that means that if you’re expanding, you need to apply for a new license.

The Health Sciences Authority is the agency that oversees this license. Bear in mind that if your business primarily sells youth or health-related products (e.g. health supplements, toys, candies), then you are not allowed to sell tobacco products.

Application cost: $400. The license is valid for one year.

F&B Outlet

Singapore is a paradise for F&B businesses. This food-obsessed city is ready to take on new cuisines, whether traditional or innovative. Its hyper-competitive, but then that’s how you know if you’re up to mark.

Food Shop License

You need to apply for a Food Shop License with the National Environmental Agency of Singapore. The license ensures the regulation of cleanliness and food safety of your outlet. Whether you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, café, catering business, or even a mobile food wagon, this license is imperative.

In order to obtain the license, you are required to submit a Food Safety Management System Plan within the first three months of the license issuance date.

In addition, you need to comply with a list of hygiene requirements by the NEA. The Food Shop License also requires more supporting documents, with the key ones being

  1. A cleaning program
  2. Layout plan of premises
  3. Pest control contract that covers the control of rodents, cockroaches and flies for the period of license (1 year). The inspection frequency also needs to be at least once a month.

Application Processing Time: A reply letter will be sent to you within 5 working days upon receipt of application.

Application Cost: The Food Shop Licence including entertainment outlets (pubs, bars, night clubs etc) costs S$195.00 and is valid for one year.

In addition to the food shop license, the liquor license must also be applied for if you’re serving alcoholic beverages.

 

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Halal Certification

To cater to the 15% Muslim population in Singapore as well as the Muslim visitors to the city, you should consider applying for Halal Certification for your F&B outlet.

The Muis Halal Certification for Eating Establishments Scheme is what you’d be looking at. The certification comes with strict guidelines and audits to ensure that the entire cooking process adheres to Halal principles.

Application Processing Time: Within 14 working days from submission of application fee.

Application Cost: $754.35 for restaurants smaller than 186 square metres and $1059 for restaurants larger than that. The certification is valid for one year.

Trading Company

With one of the busiest ports in the world and a strategic location, it’s no wonder that Singapore is an ideal base for a trading company. In order to run a trading business here as an importer and/or exporter, you need to set up an account with Singapore Customs, which takes only 1-2 working days.

For imports, you need an IN Permit, which you can apply through TradeNet. For exports, you need an OUT Permit. Depending on the nature of the goods that you’re exporting, such as whether they’re controlled goods (e.g. petrochemical, cigarettes), high-technology goods, strategic goods, you will need other permits that can be obtained through the same TradeNet system.

Financial or Funds Management Service Business

As a regional financial hub, Singapore is a key location when it comes to finance and funds management services. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the agency that oversees the licenses for the industry.

The application requirements and criteria are a lot more complex than that of trading and retail businesses.

The three main types of licenses that are commonly applied for are:

  1. Capital Markets Services License for companies that deal with securities.
  2. Finance Company License for companies that provide fixed and saving deposits as well as credit facilities to individuals and corporations.
  1. Financial Adviser License for companies that provide advisory services to the public.

Real Estate

Singapore’s property market is a safe haven for both local and foreign investors. Save for macroeconomic factors that slow down the market, the real estate industry remains well regulated and robust.

A real estate agency needs to appoint a Key Executive Officer (KEO) who is a sole-proprietor, director, or partner of the company. He or she also needs to have at least 3 years of working experience under another Singapore-licensed real estate agency and have completed a minimum of 30 property transactions in Singapore in the past 3 years.

In order to run a real estate agency, you need to apply for a license with the Council of Estate Agencies (CEA). Aside from documents of your personal particulars and the business profile from ACRA, you also need

  • Proof of the agency’s Professional Indemnity Insurance that is valid for at least 1 year from the date of application.
  • Details of 30 sales or lease transactions concluded in the last three years.

Application Processing Time: Approximately 1 to 1.5 months

Application Cost: The total cost consists of both the annual license fee and annual registration fee,

The license fee ranges from S$300-S$3000 depending on the number of property agents employed by the company, with an additional application/renewal fee of S$107.

In addition, an annual registration fee per property agent is S$230, with an additional application/renewal fee of S$53.50

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Tourism Industry

Singapore has definitely blossomed as a travel destination, both for corporate and leisure travellers. And while people are increasingly flocking to the city as a gateway to Southeast Asia and beyond, Singaporeans have also started to travel further and more frequently to destinations far and wide.

If you’re intending to enter the tourism industry either as a hotelier or a travel agent, here are the licenses you need.

Travel Agent License

To set up a travel agency, you need apply for the Travel Agent License with the Singapore Tourism Board. This will allow you conduct tours within and out of Singapore, make journey and accommodation arrangements, and also publicly advertise your services.

In order to qualify for the license, the paid-up capital of your company must not be less than S$100,000. The company also needs to appoint a Key Executive, who will be the focal point between STB and the agency. The KE’s CV, testimonials, and recommendation letters also have to be submitted to STB for approval.

Application Processing Time: 1-2 weeks upon submission of complete documents

Application Cost: S$300 licensing fee, valid for 2 years.

Hotel-Keeper’s License

Under the Hotels Act (Chapter 127), any premises renting out 4 rooms or more to guests staying less than 7 days would need to have a valid hotel license issued by the Hotels Licensing Board. There are two components, the Certificate of Registration to use the premises as a hotel, and a Hotel-Keeper’s License that allows the person to manage the hotel.

In addition to your ACRA business profile, you will need the following to apply:

  • Grant of Written Permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that approves your premise to be used as a hotel.
  • Cover letter with date of proposed commencement of operation.
  • Temporary Occupation Permit or Certificate of Statutory Completion from the Building and Construction Authority.
  • Fire Safety Certificate from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
  • Copy of advertisements in the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao. Ads that have to placed in these papers within 14 days from the date of application. The ads are essentially notices to the public about the intention to operate the hotel, and there must be no objections from the public within the 14 days of advertisement date.
  • The CV of the proposed hotel-keeper and the employment pass where applicable.

Application Processing Time: Minimum of 3 weeks upon submission of complete documents. A pre-opening inspection of the premise will be carried out.

Application Cost: The Certificate of Registration costs between S$200-S$400 depending on the number of rooms. The hotel-keeper’s license fees cost $100. Licenses are valid for a year.

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Private Education Institute

If there’s one thing that Singaporeans will gladly invest in, it’s education. Over the decades, the country has taken pride in its great achievements in the field of education, and has also attracted many foreign students to live and learn in Singapore.

As the government actively spearheads the continuous improvement of skills and knowledge, setting up a private education institute that provides high quality courses makes for a very sound business idea that is well encouraged by the climate of learning here.

There are a few categories of education institutes, and which one your company falls in will determine the licenses that are required. In general, if your school teaches courses that are non-academic in nature (e.g. recreational courses like photography or painting), you do not have to register with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and/or the Council for Private Education (CPE). On the other hand, childcare centres, pre-schools, and academic schools need to be registered with the MOE.

Certificate of Registration for Schools

The MOE is the ministry that oversees the registration of schools of the following nature:

  • Privately-run schools offering academic classes that lead to GCE examinations
  • Courses in commercial/business studies, computer education, languages, fine arts
  • Tuition and enrichment centres, international schools

Application Processing Time: 14 working days upon submission of complete documents.

Application Cost: S$420 one-time fee

Registration of Private Education Institutions

The Council for Private Education (CPE) is the body that manages the registration of school of the following types

  • PEIs offering education that lead to a Diploma, Degree, or full-time post-secondary education that lead to the award of a certificate.
  •  PEIs offering full-time preparatory courses for entrance / placement tests for joining Ministry of Education (MOE) mainstream schools, or for external examinations 
  • Foreign System Schools (FSS) that adhere completely or substantially to a foreign education curriculum at the primary and secondary level.
  • Privately-funded full-time special education schools

Application Cost: S$535 to register and renew. The CPE determines the renewal period on a case-by-case basis.