Mr Leong Mun Wai: To ask the Minister for Trade Industry (a) how is the Tech.Pass different from the current visa options such as EntrePass for foreign individuals intending to start their own companies; (b) whether there will be a reduction in the number of work passes available generally in view of the introduction of the Tech.Pass; and (c) whether the eligibility criteria are too lax especially with regard to “at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users”.
Written Answer by Minister for Trade & Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing
1. Mr Speaker Sir, our economic strategies enable Singaporeans to fulfil their aspirations and seize opportunities in Singapore and beyond. The tech sector will be a key pillar of our next phase of economic development. Talent is essential to nurture a vibrant and competitive tech ecosystem, especially in critical areas such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Our Government is also using technology to transform our public services, and serve businesses and citizens better.
2. There is a global shortage of tech talent. Countries such as the UK, France, Australia, China, Thailand and Malaysia have launched various visa programmes to attract tech professionals to their shores. Singapore is building our local tech talent pipeline through programmes such as the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA), but demand remains high. Where there is a shortage, we will complement our local talent pool with skilled workers from all around the world.
3. The Tech.Pass aims to attract high-achieving, top-tier global talent to Singapore and allow them to contribute to our economy in multiple ways – they can be a founder, investor, employee, consultant, and academic at the same time. Holders of the EntrePass or the Employment Pass (EP) are usually only able to perform one of these roles at any one time.
4. The Tech.Pass targets highly accomplished entrepreneurs, business leaders, or technical experts, and there will be 500 places available for applicants. Given this, the eligibility criteria is stringent. Tech.Pass candidates must meet at least two out of three criteria relating to their previous salary, track record of working in sizeable tech companies or track record in developing tech products with mass adoption. This is in line with our broader EP framework, which relies on measures of quality rather than quantitative caps such as quotas to ensure complementarity.
5. Having five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users is not a lax criteria, especially when coupled with the requirement to have a last drawn salary of $20,000 a month or have five cumulative years of experience in a sizeable tech firm. We will review the outcomes of the Tech.Pass in due time, and if needed, adjust its parameters to attract the right talent.