Guidance

Living in Singapore

Advice for British people living in Singapore, including information on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more.

Introduction

This guide sets out essential information for British nationals moving to or living in Singapore, including where to find advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements, finance and more.

We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information and links listed below. See Helping British people overseas: travelling and living abroad for more details of what our embassies, high commissions and consulates can and cannot do to help.

This information supplements our Singapore Travel Advice.

Our publication Support for British Nationals Abroad: A Guide sets out the steps that British nationals can take to stay safe abroad, and gives details on what help the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) can provide if you do get into difficulty.

Before you go

See Singapore Travel Advice for up-to-date information on local laws and customs, safety and emergencies.

See moving or retiring abroad.

Singapore and the UK are signatories to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, an international treaty that protects children from being removed from the country they usually live in. Issues may arise when parents decide to divorce after moving to Singapore. A ‘trailing spouse’ might be unable to return to the UK with the children unless their ex-spouse consents. Any attempt to remove the child from Singapore without the other parent’s consent is considered parental child abduction.

There have been cases where trailing spouses are forced to stay in Singapore to be with the children. They are unable to legally work in Singapore and have ended up being financially dependent on their ex-spouses. This can cause stress and hardship. Before relocating to Singapore, discuss your options with a legal adviser or solicitor.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

You should follow the advice of the Singapore government. For complete and up-to-date information, see:

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine as a UK national in Singapore, see the coronavirus section of Singapore Travel Advice.

British nationals who have resident or student status in Singapore should consider their own personal circumstances and take into account all information available. You may consider the following factors:

  • financial support: do you have sufficient funds to support yourself without going back to the UK for an undetermined number of months?
  • health insurance: Do you have medical coverage? Taking your own personal health condition into account, are you confident in receiving the necessary support you need in Singapore?
  • legal and employment support: do you understand the kind of support available to you in the case of unemployment or economic hardships due to COVID-19? Will these support mechanisms be sufficient for you to support yourself for an undetermined number of months?
  • for students: do you understand the arrangements your host university has in place? Particularly access to medical facilities, accommodation and online learning options. Keep in contact with your UK university too (if applicable) about their advice

If you need some emotional support during this period, you can call one of these numbers:

  • National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868
  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444
  • Mental Health Helpline (Institute of Mental Health): 6389 2222

Stay up to date

You should:

Entry and residency requirements

See Singapore Travel Advice for entry requirements for British passport holders.

If you’re in Singapore on a short-term visit pass and have to extend your stay due to extenuating circumstances, visit the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority website to apply for a visa extension.

Healthcare and medication

See the health section of Singapore Travel Advice for information on medical services, vaccinations and health risks in Singapore.

Medical care in Singapore is excellent; however, it can be expensive. There’s no reciprocal National Health Service agreement in Singapore. Unless you have health insurance, you’ll be expected to pay all medical bills.

Health insurance can be part of the employment package for foreigners working in Singapore. Ask your employer if it’s included in your contract. Make sure to check the details of your insurance package – it might say, for example, that expenses are covered only if you seek treatment at a public hospital.

Hotline numbers for local ambulance services:

  • 995 for emergencies (available 24/7)
  • 1777 for non-emergencies (fees apply)

Medicine

Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines available in the UK are prohibited in Singapore. See the health section of Singapore Travel Advice for more information.

Health insurance

If you are resident in Singapore, make sure that you have taken out an appropriate health insurance policy. If you’re here on an employment pass, check with your employer if health insurance is part of your employment package.

If you’re a visitor, arrange comprehensive travel insurance before you travel. Make sure your policy covers:

  • Covid-19-related treatment and hospitalisation costs
  • medical evacuation, including air ambulance services, in case you need to be flown home by these means
  • full medical cover (medical bills can be expensive)
  • repatriation of your remains in the event of death
  • repatriation of your family in the event it is necessary for you to return home due to illness or injury

Working in Singapore

You should have the appropriate employment pass issued by the Ministry of Manpower. Your employer should take care of this for you.

Dependant’s passes for your immediate family are also issued by the Ministry of Manpower. Applications are made by your employer on your behalf.

From 1 May 2021, all dependant’s pass holders who wish to work in Singapore must have an appropriate work pass (e.g. an employment pass, S pass, or work permit). Letters of Consent (LOCs) will be discontinued after existing LOCs have expired. See the Ministry of Manpower website for complete information.

The local authorities may ask for proof of relationship (such as a letter) issued by your embassy. For legal reasons, we’re unable to carry out notarial services – this includes issuing letters and certificates – in Commonwealth countries like Singapore. See our notarial and documentary services guide.

If the Ministry of Manpower requires a letter from your embassy stating whether common-law relationships are recognised in the UK, see notarial and documentary services guide for Singapore

Money and banking

If you’re in Singapore on any type of work pass, you can open a local bank account.

Singapore has local and international banks that offer commercial banking services. While ATMs can be found almost everywhere, local bank cards might only work at ATMs under the same network. Find out which ATM network your bank belongs to before making any cash withdrawals.

Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted.

Tax

See tax if you leave the UK to live abroad and tax on your UK income if you live abroad.

There is a double taxation agreement between the UK and Singapore. Once you’ve paid taxes in Singapore, you won’t get taxed twice on the same income.

You’re required to pay taxes if you work in Singapore. The extent of your tax liability will depend on your tax residency status. See the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore website for information.

We recommend that you get professional advice on paying tax in Singapore.

You may be able to pay National Insurance while abroad to protect your State Pension and entitlement to other benefits and allowances.

Pensions

See State Pension if you retire abroad and new State Pension.

Life certificates for UK State Pensions

If you get a ‘life certificate’ from the UK Pension Service, you need to respond as soon as possible – your payments may be suspended if you don’t. Contact the International Pension Centre for any questions.

Benefits

See claiming benefits if you live, move, or travel abroad.

Find out which UK benefits you might be able to get while you’re abroad and how to claim them.

Many income-related benefits such as Pension Credit and Housing Benefit can’t be paid if you’re abroad for more than 4 weeks.

Driving in Singapore

See driving abroad and Singapore Travel Advice.

If you’re asked for a letter certifying or validating your UK driver’s licence, contact the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

See taking a vehicle out of the UK.

Language, social ethics and traditions

Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. English is the language of government, education and business and is near universally spoken. Official documents are issued in English.

Singapore is home to people of various faiths: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Taoist, to name a few. This diversity is reflected in various places of worship all over the country and religious holidays celebrated throughout year.

For insights into local culture and news, visit some popular websites like Mothership, Honeycombers, and The Smart Local.

If you’d like to join an expat group for British nationals, there’s the British Association, the British Chamber of Commerce, and the British Club.

Whether you’re in Singapore as a tourist or resident, be a good citizen. Follow the law. There are strict laws on drug trafficking and consumption, drunk and disorderly conduct, sexual assault and molestation, and disrespecting public servants. See the local laws and customs section of Singapore Travel Advice.

Drinking and smoking

Drunk and disorderly behaviour is an arrestable offence.

The minimum age for buying or smoking cigarettes is 21 years old. Vaporisers like e-cigarettes are prohibited.

See the local laws and customs section of Singapore Travel Advice for more information.

Voting

British citizens living abroad can vote in some UK elections – you’ll need to register as an overseas voter.

Births, deaths and getting married

Births

Your child’s birth must be registered within 14 calendar days.

Your employer can submit an application for a dependant’s pass within a timeframe set by the Ministry of Manpower. A passport for your baby is one of the required documents, so submit a passport application online with His Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) as soon as possible.

If the Ministry of Manpower requires a letter regarding the status of your baby’s passport application, you should contact HMPO’s Passport Adviceline. The British High Commission is unable to provide this letter because we are not involved in the passport application process.

A UK-style birth registration certificate is not mandatory. If you’d like one for your baby anyway, see register a birth abroad.

If you’re from a neighbouring country planning to give birth in Singapore, you should have a valid visit pass for this. We’re unable to provide any letters regarding your child’s nationality or passport status. You should contact UK Visas & Immigration (nationality) or His Majesty’s Passport Office (passports).

Male Singapore citizens (including dual citizens below the age of 21) and male children granted Permanent Resident (PR) status as part of their parents’ PR application are liable for National Service.

Deaths

See what to do after someone dies and bereavement information for Singapore

Getting married

See getting married abroad. Same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are not recognised in Singapore.

Adoption

See Adoption in Singapore.

List of lawyers and interpreters

Here’s a list of lawyers. Inclusion on this list does not mean that the British High Commission or the UK government is endorsing these lawyers.

A more comprehensive list of lawyers is available on the Law Society of Singapore website.

Notarial and documentary services

For legal reasons, we’re unable to carry out notarial acts in Commonwealth countries like Singapore. See notarial and documentary services guide for Singapore.

British passport services

See overseas passport applications. If you have questions on the application process, contact the Passport Adviceline. The British High Commission is not part of the passport application process, so we’re unable to give any advice on this.

If you need to travel urgently, you can apply for an emergency travel document.

Pets

See travelling with pets and bringing your pet to the UK.

Not all dog or cat breeds are allowed into Singapore.

All dogs must be licensed; they must be on a leash in public areas. See the Animal & Veterinary Service website for complete guidelines.

Accommodation and buying property

See buying property abroad.

There are restrictions on what residential property foreigners can own. Visit the Singapore Land Authority website for information.

Leaving Singapore

To move your pension to the UK, contact the International Pension Centre. See tax if you return to the UK.

Returning to the UK

If you’re considering returning to the UK permanently (on retirement, for example), you should consider how you will support yourself and how non-British members of your family may be able to accompany you. There’s information available to help you make these decisions.

National Insurance

If you have not made full National Insurance (NI) contributions, you may not be eligible for state benefits or support. His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs provides some useful information on returning to live in the UK for non-residents, including how to make NI contributions from abroad.

Healthcare

Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You must be able to show UK residency to be eligible for free treatment, even if you are a British citizen. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau or NHS can provide further information.

Visas

If you wish to return to live in the UK with family members who are not British, they will need to meet immigration requirements for settlement in the UK. Contact UK Visas and Immigration for any questions. The British High Commission is not involved in the visa process.

Disclaimer

This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the British High Commission will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.

Published 16 December 2013
Last updated 19 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. A link to guidance on vaccines added to the Coronavirus section.

  2. Guidance updated with new categories on coronavirus (COVID-19); entry and residency requirements, language, social ethics and traditions and returning to the UK

  3. updated link for converting UK driving licence to Singapore driving licence

  4. First published.