SINGAPORE: The Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not automatically grant Indian nationals access to Singapore citizenship, permanent residence or employment here, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on Thursday (Aug 27).
"It is not true that under CECA, Indian nationals can come to Singapore and become permanent residents and citizens. There is no such provision in CECA," said an MTI spokesperson.
"It is also not true that CECA requires Singapore to automatically grant Employment Passes to PMEs from India wanting to work here," said the spokesperson, referring to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).
The spokesperson's remarks were issued in a statement responding to media queries on whether CECA gives Indian nationals "automatic access" to citizenship, permanent residence and employment in Singapore.
CECA entered into force in 2005. According to information on the Government of Singapore website, the agreement provides for expanded tariff concessions and improved rules of origin which give Singapore businesses greater access to India’s market, and allows for the movement of four types of business people between Singapore and India.
READ: CECA does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access, immigration privileges: Chan Chun Sing
None of Singapore's free trade agreements, including CECA, obliges the country to automatically grant Employment Passes to any foreign nationals, said the MTI spokesperson on Thursday.
All foreign nationals applying for Employment Passes must meet the prevailing criteria, and all companies must comply with rules on fair hiring, said the spokesperson.
"Singaporeans are understandably concerned with competition from foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) amidst the challenging economic and employment situation.
"However, it is misleading to attribute the number of Indian PMEs, especially intra-corporate transferees, solely or mainly to CECA," said the spokesperson.
Anyone seeking to enter Singapore as intra-corporate transferees under CECA or any free trade agreement must meet Singapore's prevailing work pass rules, said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that intra-corporate transferees in Singapore have consistently accounted for less than 5 per cent of all Employment Pass holders.
Intra-corporate transferees also come from a wide range of countries, with Indian nationals constituting "only a small segment".
READ: Minimum qualifying salary to rise by S$600 for Employment Passes and S$100 for S Passes, higher requirement for financial services
Earlier on Thursday, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) announced that it was raising the minimum qualifying salary for Employment Passes and S passes for the second time this year.
From September, the minimum qualifying salary for new employment pass candidates will be raised by S$600 to S$4,500.
This is the second such increase in 2020 – the salary criteria for new Employment Pass holders was raised by S$300 to S$3,900 in May, and before that, also by S$300 to S$3,600 in Jan 2017.
READ: MAS supports increase of minimum qualifying salary for entry-level EP holders in financial services sector
For the first time, MOM also announced that it was setting higher qualifying salary requirements for a specific sector – namely, the financial services industry.
As with other sectors, the new S$4,500 salary criteria for Employment Passes will take effect for the financial services industry in September.
However in December, the minimum qualifying salary for new Employment Pass applicants for the financial services industry will be raised by another S$500 to S$5,000.
The qualifying salaries for older and more experienced Employment Pass candidates, including in the financial services sector, will also be raised. Those in their 40s will need to meet about double the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest applicants.
For renewal Employment Pass applicants in all sectors – including financial services – these new salary criteria will be effective from May 1, 2021.