Obtaining and retaining visas to live and work in Singapore can be a tricky business for expats – and it’s become even more of an issue post-COVID. Often a lawyer with connections is needed to help deal with the paperwork and red tape. SULOCHANA UTHIRAPATHI of Transform Borders is a lawyer who specialises in Singapore immigration matters of all types. She knows first-hand how stressful it can be when you have a work permit or immigration issue. And she’s all over the work permit requirements for the new Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) being introduced for Employment Pass (EP) holders in 2023. We asked her all about it. Tell us about Transform Borders and how it began. When I was studying law in Australia, I inadvertently overstayed my visa. Appealing to the authorities to reinstate my visa was a scary and difficult experience. Thankfully, I was successful and ended up living in Australia for ten years as a lawyer. After returning home, I worked for a firm specialising in Singapore immigration. It wasn’t until I helped a good friend to obtain the correct visa for her business that I decided to strike out on my own as a lawyer. In 2017, I started Transform Borders, and it’s been a very satisfying and busy ride. I represent a wide range of individuals and businesses in the area of Singapore immigration. I see a lot of expats looking to apply for Permanent Residency (PR) and Letters of Consent (LOC), which have both become more difficult to obtain in recent years. For PRs wanting to take the next step to become Singapore Citizens, I help them to navigate the process. Another popular service I offer is to obtain a work permit for highly qualified individuals not tied to a specific employer through a Personalised Employment Pass (PEP). Often this is Work in Sunny Singapore! Stay & BY GEORGINA HOCKLEY Who are your typical Singapore immigration clients and what work permits do you help with?

a great way for a foreigner to stay in Singapore after a job loss. They can then look for a new position. My additional areas of expertise include assessing eligibility for an S Pass work permit for mid-level skilled workers, and Long TermVisit Passes (LTVP) for foreign spouses. Many of my clients are expat business owners and entrepreneurs who are applying for an EP or EntrePass to work for their own business. Helping companies sort out their work permit needs, including hiring non-local employees, is a really enjoyable part of my job. It’s rewarding to support entrepreneurs chasing their dreams. What is COMPASS, and what will it mean for expats? From 1 September 2023, EP candidates must pass a two-stage eligibility framework. In addition to meeting the stage one qualifying salary, EP candidates must also pass the points-based stage two: COMPASS. Put simply, COMPASS scoring will be based on criteria including salary, qualifications, diversity (firm related) and support for local employment. There are also two additional criteria of skills bonus (shortage occupation list) and strategic economic bonus (firm-related) for companies who can satisfy innovation or internationalisation benchmarks. As you can see, the assessment under this new framework will be more complex and overwhelming for companies looking to hire personnel on an EP work permit. As a Singapore immigration specialist, I’m happy to help clients navigate these tricky changes. With my team, I can provide strategic consultation on what clients can start doing now to prepare themselves to meet the requirements of COMPASS. As a lawyer, I’m here to help you pave the way to success!

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