Last Wed (29 Apr), a foreign expat lady with the moniker MariaT posted a message on the popular Singapore Expats Forum asking if expats on Employment Pass (EP) are allowed to open online store to do some business on the side in Singapore.
MariaT said she is on EP here in Singapore and has an “amazing” corporate job. “But during the weekend I like to bake and, thus, want to open my online store selling a few cupcakes and sweets,” she added. She asked if she is allowed to do so under current rules from the Manpower Ministry (MOM).
“Do I have to set up a sole proprietorship?” she asked. “To be honest, I could go ahead and just open a store within a day, but just want to be clear whether it’s legally ok to do so.”
A moderator of the forum, sundaymorningstaple, replied ‘NO’. “Work pass holders (EP, S & WP) are not allowed to engage in any other business as long as they are on a work pass sponsored by another employer in Singapore. This includes part time business as well,” he shared.
Then MariaT turned around and asked what if she registers the business in another country but supporting it with “some activities” while being in Singapore?
One expat chipped in and recounted that a work pass is not required for those on Dependant Pass if they are working for a business that has no presence and no sales in Singapore. He said, “There have been lots of posts over the years by people on dependent passes that have done exactly this. A trailing spouse comes over from the USA and continues to work as a remote accountant for the company that she worked for in the USA. No problem.”
MariaT added that in fact, her current employer is quite alright with her baking and selling cupcakes and sweets on the side. She said, “My company is okay for me to have a side project, I have indicated it long time before.”
She also asked what happens if the online store business was created by a person outside of Singapore way before he or she landed in Singapore to work here?
In addition, she claimed that she heard another expat has obtained confirmation from MOM that it’s ok for an EP holder to do CPA Marketing (online marketing) on the side if the sales are made outside of Singapore. She said, “MoM has confirmed that it is ok to do CPA Marketing especially if the Sales are made out of Singapore.”
Finally, someone asked MariaT to email MOM to get an answer. He advised MariaT, “If you email MoM and tell them what you want to do and that you are on EP, and, you get an email back saying that it is OK, then you are home free. Go for it. But, until you get that express permission from MoM, you are at risk.”
It’s not known what MOM would say for MariaT’s case.
Govt to allow home-based food business
Meanwhile, after slamming people for “inciting” Singaporean home-based food-business operators to pressure the government into unbanning such businesses, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli made a U-turn (‘Petition to pressurize Masagos to re-open home-based food businesses works, thanks to upcoming GE‘).
In fact, many of the home-based food-business operators come from low-income — particularly Malay-Muslim — families trying to make a living.
Last Saturday (2 May), Masagos’ ministry announced that home-based food businesses will now be allowed to resume operations next Tue (12 May) subject to safe management measures. The measures include:
- Ensure contactless delivery/collection – A safe distance of at least 1m must be maintained between the seller and the delivery person or buyer at all times. Sellers are required to wear a mask (even if at home entrance) during the collection/pick-up. Place or hang the food on the door or gate outside the unit and avoid face-to-face interaction as far as possible.
- Collection of food must be by appointment only – Only one person (buyer or delivery person) should be collecting at a time. There should be no bunching up. No waiting or queuing at common areas allowed.
- Use cashless payment methods – No physical exchange of cash.
- Use digital tools to enable speedier contact tracing.
In any case, if MOM allows EP-holder MariaT to also start her own home-based food business, she will be able to join the rest of Singaporean home-based operators selling goodies in the upcoming Hari Raya at the end of this month.
Perhaps MOM would argue that having foreigners to also start home-based food business would provide more food varieties to Singaporeans?