SINGAPORE  —  Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said starting 1 September this year, companies seeking to hire foreigners on an Employment Pass (EP) in Singapore will be required to verify their educational qualifications for authenticity.

In Parliament during the Committee of Supply for the budget of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (1 Mar), Dr Tan announced that third-party verification proof will be needed to be submitted for applicants with diploma-level qualifications and above.

“Today, employers are already responsible for ensuring the authenticity of their candidate’s qualifications before hiring,” he said.

The new mandatory verification requirement will be enforced through the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), which takes effect in September for new EP applications, and in September 2024 for EP renewal applications.

“To safeguard against gaming by submitting fraudulent educational qualifications, employers who wish to score points under Criterion 2 on “Qualifications” will be required to submit verification proof for qualifications declared on the EP application.”

COMPASS assesses EP applications based on four attributes and two bonus criteria, with a minimum of 40 points required for an application to pass.

Educational qualifications are one of the attributes, and candidates with qualifications from “top-tier institutions” can earn a maximum of 20 points per category.

A degree-equivalent qualification earns 10 points, while a candidate without a degree-equivalent qualification will not be awarded points. Employers do not need to submit verification if points are not required under qualifications.

Other COMPASS attributes include salary, nationality diversity of the firm, and the company’s support for local employment.

Dr Tan said that full details will be released by the end of March.

Members of Parliament from the Workers’ Party (WP) and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) have consistently called on the government to increase the scrutiny of the qualifications of foreign talent.

In 2021, MOM conducted an investigation into 23 foreign individuals who had claimed educational qualifications from Manav Bharti University (MBU) in India.

MBU has sold 36,000 fake degrees across 17 Indian states in over 11 years, and a number of its graduates are actually working in Singapore.

Two Indian nationals were jailed, and 19 others were permanently barred from future employment in Singapore for using fake degrees to apply for work passes.

Netizens say it is “long overdue”

Commenting on Minister Tan’s announcement of the new measures on CNA’s Facebook post, netizens expressed that this has been “long overdue.”

They raised concerns about lost opportunities for local talent due to the heavy influx of foreigners over the years. They questioned what previous MOM Ministers had done to address the issue.

Some expressed sadness for those who had worked hard and had years of experience but still lost out on opportunities due to unfair foreign competition.

Some also expressed their scepticism about the effectiveness of the new measures, suggesting that it merely ” passes the buck to employers” and benefits third-party verification companies.

One netizen expressed frustration at the use of low standards to recruit IT talent, noting the high number of unemployed graduates and older graduates forced to work as taxi drivers and in hawker centres.

Another individual criticized the government’s decision to implement a system of “ownself check ownself” for companies, which they believe will not be effective in preventing fraud.

“May have been influenced by pressure from opposition”

Several netizens have commented that the government’s decision to implement stricter measures may have been influenced by pressure from opposition parties in Parliament.

One netizen expressed the hope that this would lead to a greater appreciation for the importance of having more opposition parties in Parliament.

Another netizen wrote:” I would think that Singaporeans are generally fully aware of the need for checks and balances and therefore the necessity of having more opposition MPs in parliament. Sadly, there is still fear among many to voting for opposition. ”

“Now start verifying?”

A netizen questioned: “Does this mean all the while we never verify?”

 

“Heavy fines if EP approved on the basis of fake documents found”

One netizen suggested that provisions should be put in place to impose heavy fines on employers in cases where an EP holder who was approved on the basis of fake documents is later discovered.

Other commenters agreed with this sentiment, particularly in cases where the company’s HR personnel are non-native and tend to hire employees from their own country.

“Cert can be fabricated”

Other individuals expressed concern that certificates can be fabricated, making it difficult to verify their authenticity. He added that salary information can be manipulated and that payback schemes can be used to deceive authorities.

 

“Previous FT management asked me where can he buy a degree certificate in SG”

A netizen recounted a personal experience where a previous foreign management colleague asked her where he could buy a degree certificate in Singapore:

An individual expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of the new measures, suggesting that it is “passing the buck to employers” and third-party verification companies who stand to profit.

He shared his own experience of having to engage such a company in 2021 to verify his staff’s credentials for their EP application and questioned the reliability of these verification companies.

Evaluation of FT’s skillset

A suggestion made by a netizen is that the MOM should not just rely on verifying the degrees or certifications of foreign talent (FT), as there have been instances where FTs have falsified their educational qualifications.

The netizen proposed that MOM should also evaluate the skills of the FTs.

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