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A foreigner’s guide to start a business in Singapore – basic steps

To give your business a swift start, Singapore has done a lot to get the red tape out of your way. However, there are still steps to follow and procedures to comply with.

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Published by 3E Accounting
on 19 Feb 2020

A foreigner’s guide to start a business in Singapore – basic steps

Pick a Company Name

These processes are regulated by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). The first order of business would be to pick a company name. There are a few points to note when picking your company name. Since Singapore doesn’t allow for two companies to have the same name, so you’ll have to create a unique word or word combination. Take note, when picking a name, do not use generic words or words that refer to types of businesses. This is because generic words or the adding of a definite article to your business name won’t distinguish it from an existing one and using words that describe types of businesses would result in the ACRA sending your application to the government authorities that regulate them for review. This isn’t the end of the world as the company’s legal name may differ from its trading name. Though one should make sure that the chosen trading name doesn’t have any copyright or trademark issue.

Choose Your Business Activity Code

Following this, the next one should choose your business activity code(s). This is known as the SSIC code. Since you’ve decided to start a company, you should already know what kind of business you’ll be doing. Therefore, during company incorporation, you would be required to pick and submit an SSIC code. This is the identity of a business entity. These simple numbers are an indicator as to the nature of the business of your company as well as what field it is in. There isn’t a need to worry yourself over which code to pick. You can pick a secondary one and you can also change the SSIC code at any point in time after the incorporation.

Assemble a Team for Your Company

Now it is time to assemble the team! A company requires shareholder(s), director(s) and the company secretary to operate. Shareholders may be comprised of individuals and companies. For the incorporation of a private Singaporean company, one needs not more than 50 shareholders. Foreign citizens and entities can hold shares too. By law, if a foreigner wishes to be a director of a company in Singapore, there must be at least one local director. The local director must either be a citizen or a permanent resident. EntrePass holders are also eligible. A Nominee Director may be appointed in the event you are unable to find a suitable candidate. He will not be engaged in the decision-making as he merely there to fulfil the requirements. This is commonly practised in Singapore. Next would be the company secretary. This is an officer who tracks changes in your company’s structure and top management. Besides that, the company secretary is also in charge of compiling papers and reports to the government about your business. By law, a secretary must be appointed within 6 months after incorporation but, you could hire one right away to have the officer manage your incorporation papers.

Registered Address of Your Company

The registered address comes next. Every company in Singapore must have a registered address. It must be an office mailbox that is checked regularly. On top of that, a registered office needs to be open for at least 5 hours every business day. There are mailboxes for rent. These are run by certain companies that collect your correspondence, scan it and then delivers it to you.

Delegate Filing to Authorised Filing Agent

Next would be to delegate the filing to an authorised filing agent as is demanded by the State. A filing agent is a firm that collects your papers, fills out the necessary forms and then proceeds to send them to the ACRA.

Paid-up Capital

The final step would be the capital. In order to incorporate a company in Singapore, paid-up capital is required. In most cases, 1 Singapore Dollar is sufficient. It doesn’t have to be in Singapore Dollars, foreign currency is also accepted. The sum of the capital may be increased and the currency used initially may also be changed at any time after incorporation of the company.

Those are the basic steps and timeline a foreigner could refer to if they intend to incorporate a company in Singapore.


This article was first published on 3E Accounting. Information is correct at the time of publication.

Last Modified Date: 04 Feb 2020