How to start a business in Singapore

Markéta Fiala

If you’re looking to trade internationally between the UK and Asia you may be considering starting a small business in Singapore. Singapore is an attractive spot for UK businesses thanks to its transparent and business friendly policies, and its perfect location as a gateway to the rest of Asia.

In this guide we’ll walk through what to know when starting a business in Singapore as a foreigner. We’ll also touch on Wise Business as the ideal solution for international businesses to hold and exchange SGD and GBP with low fees and the mid-market exchange rate1. You’ll also get Singapore account details for receiving payments from clients, PSPs and marketplaces with no extra charge. More on that later.

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What type of corporate entities are there in Singapore?

Business registration in Singapore is overseen by ACRA(Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority)2. ACRA lists 4 business types as the most common entity options for Singapore businesses:

  • Sole proprietor or Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited liability partnership
  • Company

In addition to this there are a few other business entity types such as a registered office which may be suited to some specific company needs. In this guide we’ll walk through the most common options, with a look at how they work and who they may suit3.

How Singapore-based business Pangolia uses Wise Business account

Sole trader or sole proprietor

A sole proprietorship is quick and easy to set up, and suited to an individual who is unlikely to employ others. Your personal and business finances are not viewed as separate, which means your personal debt and taxes, and those of your business, are treated as one entity. If your business owes money or falls into debt, you can be personally liable for this.


A partnership arrangement is made between at least two people (with a maximum of 20 people). The business is not a separate entity to the partners, so if the company has financial problems the partners can be liable for repaying any debt.

Limited Partnership

In a limited partnership, there's one general partner who’s responsible for the liability of the company, but there may also be limited partners who aren't personally liable beyond their agreed contribution to the business.

Limited Liability Partnership

A limited liability partnership means that the business is a separate entity to the individual partners, and is taxed separately. This limits the liability of the partners, so they would not be responsible for repaying company debt if the business ran into financial problems - but this entity type is more costly to set up and run compared to other partnerships.


A company also has limited liability, making it a common choice. There must be at least one registered director and one shareholder - usually a private company would have 50 or fewer members, and a public company can be larger. This entity type gives more flexibility to the owners, but is also more complex in terms of record keeping, accounting and tax.

Registered Office and Representative

If you already have a UK registered business and aren’t sure when, or how, to expand to Singapore, you also have the option of setting up a representative office in the country. This isn’t a permanent arrangement, but rather a way to allow you to assess the opportunities in Singapore with a temporary approval from ACRA4.
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Starting a Business in Singapore - Step-by-step

How you can start a business in Singapore from the UK or as a British citizen will depend a bit on your personal situation and whether or not you’re already in Singapore5.

If you’re in Singapore you may want to apply for an EntrePass6 from MOM before or after you register your business, or if you’re on a Dependent’s Pass you may be able to start registering a business with a letter of consent (LOC) from MOM instead.

To apply for an EntrePass you’ll need to provide7:

  • Your passport
  • Employment testimonials or resume
  • Your ACRA registration if your business is already registered
  • Your business plan
  • Proof of your status as an entrepreneur, innovator or investor

You’ll also need to register your business with ACRA. This is easiest if you have your EntrePass already as you’ll be able to use Singpass to make the process easier. If you don’t have Singpass you need to have a local agent support you with your ACRA filing. With Singpass you need to:

  1. Go to Bizfile8
  2. Register with Singpass
  3. Navigate to Stare a new local company
  4. Choose to register your company name only, or complete the entire process of registration all at once
  5. Apply for your proposed company name
  6. Once approved, follow the prompts to upload the required documents to incorporate your business
  7. Enter the contact information of the appointed officers such as company directors
  8. Appointed officers will be asked to approve the application in Bizfile**

The cost of starting a business in Singapore is pretty low. There’s a 15 SGD fee to register your company name and a 300 SGD fee to register the business.
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Things to Know Before Getting Started

If you’re from the UK and want to register a Singapore business, you’ll need to apply for an EntrePass from the Ministry of Manpower either before you register, or within 6 months of registering with ACRA. Usually you'll need to have at least one director (or owner) resident in Singapore, or have a local representative fulfil this requirement for you.

The full requirements to register your business depend on the type of business structure you choose. If you're registering a company then there are fairly strict requirements, such as appointing a company secretary and auditor. The process is more straightforward if you want to create a sole proprietorship or a simple partnership arrangement.

There's no minimum capital requirement, but there are other fees associated with registering your business in Singapore.

Registering your Business in Singapore

The company registration process in Singapore is fairly simple and shouldn't take too much time. The entire legal process is done online, and once you have submitted the forms and made payment, your company details should be confirmed within only about 15 minutes.

Legal Obligations and Responsibilities

Starting a business is a serious thing and you’ll need to be very clear on the obligations and responsibilities that come with your new Singapore entity. It’s a good idea to take legal advice to make sure you fully understand what’s required of you, to stay on the right side of the law and make sure your business is a success.

One thing to look at is whether or not you need to register for GST (Goods and Services Tax - like VAT in the UK)9. You are obliged to register if your taxable turnover exceeds 1 million SGD a year, but you can apply voluntarily before that milestone.

It’s also worth applying for Corppass10 which is the gateway to manage company interactions with government agencies - and needed to register for GST. Beyond this, there may be other things you need to consider such as licences or permissions to trade, which can vary depending on your sector and company type. It’s worth getting personalised professional advice to make sure you’ve done everything needed before you start to trade.

Manage your international company's finances with Wise Business

If you trade internationally, Wise Business can help you cut the costs of currency exchange with mid-market rates and low fees from 0.43%1.

The mid-market rate is the one banks use when trading on global markets - but it’s not usually passed on to customers. While banks typically add a percentage markup to the exchange rate you get to convert currencies, Wise uses the mid-market rate and splits out any cost transparently so you can see what you’re paying. No surprises and no hidden costs to worry about.

Get a Wise Business account to hold and exchange 40+ currencies including GBP and SGD, order debit and expense cards - and get local account details for the UK, Singapore and a selection of other major economies, to get paid conveniently by customers or through PSPs like Stripe and marketplaces like Amazon. You’ll get multi-user access, batch payment tools and cloud accounting integrations, plus you’ll also be able to make fast low cost payments to 160+ countries, to settle supplier and contractor invoices seamlessly.

Here’s how to register a Wise Business account in just a few simple steps:

  1. Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
  2. Tap Register and follow the prompts to apply for a business account
  3. Add your personal and contact information
  4. Upload the documents needed which are detailed online and in this Wise Business account requirements guide
  5. Pay the one time fee to register your account and get a linked payment card if you need one
  6. Once your account is verified you can start transacting - your account will be live in the Wise app, your physical card will be posted to you, and you can get a digital card right away for mobile spending

International Business account

Singapore is a booming economy in its own right as well as being a gateway to the broader region. It’s a perfect place for UK businesses to get a foothold before expanding further. If you’re thinking of taking your company global, check out Wise Business for easy ways to manage your money across currencies with low fees, great rates and no hassle.

Sources used in the article:

  1. Pricing/fees: Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information
  2. ACRA - business structures
  3. ACRA business type comparison
  4. ACRA - representative office
  5. Foreigners operating a business in Singapore
  6. EntrePass
  7. Documents required for EntrePass
  8. Bizfile
  9. IRAS - apply for GST
  10. Corppass
    Sources checked on 26-01-2024

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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