Quick Facts For Australians Moving to Singapore

Australians moving to Singapore

Australians moving to Singapore has helped make Singapore the number one ranked destination for expats two years in a row, according to HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey and as we reviewed in our article Living in Singapore – Is it the best place for expats?. This tiny city-state is one of Asia’s “dragons”; an economic powerhouse that draws professionals from all over the world and offers fantastic lifestyle opportunities in a cultural melting pot.

Expats have rated the city well on almost every factor, from job satisfaction and finance to quality of life and safety. This is truly a professional’s dream city, although the business-oriented atmosphere means you may struggle to achieve the ideal work-life balance. Singapore is also rated as the world’s most expensive city according to Forbes, so financial security is essential when considering a move to this vibrant destination. Foreigners actually make up over 60% of Singapore’s population, so you can expect a warm welcome and plenty of facilities to make your life there comfortable.

The Basics at a Glance:

  • Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD), which can also be used in Brunei and Thailand, alongside their local currencies. Also called the Sing-dollar or S-dollar.  Tip – Check out WorldFirst to get the best exchange rates when moving money between Australia and Singapore.
  • Main languages: There are 4 official languages, including English, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay and Tamil.
  • Weather: Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate, with high rainfall and no distinct seasons in terms of temperature, though Novermber – January typically has monsoonal downpours. The weather is typically hot and humid.
  • Time zone: Singapore Standard Time (SST), which is UTC+8/GMT+8 (Note – generally the same time zone as Perth, Australia). Daylight savings is not observed.
  • Emergency number: 995 for ambulance and fire, 999 for police.
  • Electricity: Singapore uses a 230 volt standard, and plug type G.
  • Religions: Singapore is ethnically and religiously diverse. The major religions are Buddhism (31.2%), Christianity (20.1%), Islam (14%), Taoism and folk religions (10%), Hinduism (5%). A significant number of people are non religious, also.

Australians Moving to Singapore: The Things You Need to Know

Immigration

Australians moving to Singapore don’t need a visa to enter as a tourist or visitor, although some documentation may be required upon entry, such as confirmed tickets out of the country, a visa for your next destination or proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Singapore. You can get more information about entry requirements, and download the visa application form, from the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

If you intend to work during your stay, you’ll most likely need a visa sponsored by your employer. A range of work visa and permits are available, and you will need to apply for the right one, depending on your income level and work type. More information on work visas, student visas and common exemptions can be found at the Singapore Ministry of Manpower website, which provides an easy to follow table describing each option.

Money and Banking

As one of Asia’s prime financial hubs, Singapore’s banking system is streamlined and well regulated to prevent crime and other issues. The value of S-dollar is similar to the Aussie dollar, with one AUD buying 1.04 SGD (although as currencies are constantly fluctuating it’s always a good idea to check the most up to date information available – find out the current exchange rate here). Bank staff are generally efficient and will expect that you already have some background knowledge about account types and services. Banking practices are highly modern, with ATMs readily available (locations depending on the bank) and a Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) scheme in place that allows you to use a bank card in shops without incurring a fee.

Opening a bank account is a relatively simple matter, and can even be done online, before arriving on the ground in Singapore. You will have to submit certain documents, such as your passport, visa, proof of address and other standard information.

Banks are generally open on Monday to Friday during business hours of 9am-5pm, although closing times can vary between 3-6pm. Some banks also operate during shortened hours on Saturday, generally between 9am-12pm or so. A few banks offer extended weekend hours, although you will need to look around specifically for this feature.

There are a range of banks to choose from, some of which offer specialized expat accounts. The major ones are:

  • Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) / Development Bank of Singapore (DBS): Two merged banks that still operate under two names; they are also Singapore’s local banking companies and have the most ATMs in the region.
  • United Overseas Bank (UOB)
  • Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC)

Other international banks operating in Singapore are: Citibank, ANZ, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

Australians moving to Singapore

Singapore residents can now save money on their international money transfers

Renting a House

As a small island, Singapore has a tiny geographical area, making property a highly valuable commodity. Rent is thought to comprise around 40% of a person’s cost of living here, so it’ not surprising that Singapore has achieved the world’s most expensive city distinction. 2017 did see a fall in rental prices, partly due to a greater number of vacancies as a result of reduced immigration into the country. So, if you’re headed to Singapore in the near future, you might just be able to capitalize on a tenant’s market.

Many companies offer expat professionals a competitive salary package that includes accommodation or a rental allowance, and there may be room to negotiate on benefits such as this to maximize savings.

Real Estate agents generally charge a pro rata commission, and it’s highly recommended to go with a licensed agent who has met the Singaporean regulations and received an official qualification. Such agents will also be more familiar with expats and their housing needs.

Most Singapore properties are high-rise apartments, due to the high population density. A small number of houses are available in certain areas, however these are older properties that could require more maintenance and the locations may be too remote for some. Real estate websites like Property Guru or SRX Property can give you an idea of what to expect before you hit the ground.

Taxes

When moving to Singapore, you will need to understand whether you are a resident for Australian taxation purposes. Australia and Singapore have a double-tax treaty, so your income shouldn’t be taxed by both countries.  Tax treatment of income in Singapore is very competitive, with the tax rate increasing as you earn more income.  The maximum income tax rate that you are likely to pay is 22%.

You should consult your tax advisor to understand how taxation will apply to your personal situation.

Schools

Singapore provides some of the best education standards in the world today. While expats have plenty of choice when it comes to schooling options, you may need to prepare yourself for some fierce competition. Most expat families opt for international schools for a variety of reasons: a supposedly more relaxed “Western” teaching style, English or bilingual classes, priority placement for foreign students and so on. International school can cost a small fortune however. Local schools are far more affordable, but places can be extremely limited. The curriculum is generally more exam oriented, as is generally the style in Asia, and may be less friendly to children with unconventional needs or learning disabilities. Since Singapore is multi-lingual society, local schools offer a good chance for expat kids to immerse themselves in the local culture, without the need to worry about a language barrier.

According to the Ministry of Education, the primary and secondary school term dates for 2018 are:

School Terms for 2018

Semester 1

Term 1: Tuesday 2 January to Friday 9 March

Term 2: Monday 19 March to Friday 25 May

Semester 2

Term 3: Monday 25 June to Friday 31 August

Term 4: Monday 10 September to Friday 16 November

Healthcare

Singapore doesn’t provide any “free” healthcare, although its universal healthcare system does keep expenses affordable for citizens and permanent residents. Temporary expats will need to consider international health insurance, like that provided by Cigna Global. The service, accessibility and quality of care are excellent and in 2014, Bloomberg ranked Singapore’s healthcare system as the most efficient in the world. Some expat salary packages include medical insurance as a benefit, while others may need to purchase their own personal insurance policy. You may choose to use general or private hospitals, as well as GP clinics.

Day to Day Life for Australians Moving to Singapore

Public transport is available and, as with many Asian metropolises, a better choice than driving (although some expat packages include a driver). It’s easy to get around on foot, although footpaths are often invaded by scooter-riders, so always be vigilant about safety.

Singapore is a thoroughly modern city and a true international centre. Be prepared for an urban lifestyle, surrounded by skyscrapers, busy shopping centres and a business-heavy atmosphere.  Known for its shopping and food cultures, Singapore is a haven for socializing and shopaholics. There are always opportunities to remove yourself from the commercial trappings, however. The wide range of cultures and religions living there mean that there is always something unique and interesting to find, even if you have to make the effort to look past the city’s sleek façade. Check out TimeOut Singapore for up to date information on what’s going on in the city.

Singapore is famous for its highly regulated and controlled “nanny state” atmosphere. There are a lot of rules about what constitutes the “correct” behavior, which can be quite restrictive, but this also ensures that the streets are clean and safe for everyone.

Australians moving to Singapore

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About the author

Craig

Craig is an Australian Expat and the founder of The Australian Expat Investor. Craig is passionate about investing, and while Craig cannot give personal financial or tax advice, Craig enjoys sharing investing, tax, and other tips for Australian expats to help them to build their wealth while living abroad and get the most out of their time living overseas. Get his free ebook on 9 Financial Surprises That Could Cost Australian Expats Thousands of Dollars

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