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Epica Learn Series

Do I need any license to start a business in Singapore?

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When can a Singapore Registered Company Start its Operations? Do you need a Trading License?

Singapore has been ranked second in the World Bank’s list of ‘easiest countries to do business.’ The city-state lacks corruption and has a free trade policy. The corporate tax rates are also relatively low as compared to other nations. All these attract thousands of foreigners every year to Singapore.

If you are a foreigner willing to register a Singapore business, you might also want to know about the business license requirements.

The requirement of license in a Singapore business

Many foreigners ask this question if they need a license to commence business activities in Singapore. Mostly, this question comes from the people who have incorporated their businesses in UAE before. This is due to the fact that in UAE, every company must obtain a license to commence operations, and this is required for every company. So even if you incorporate a company in UAE, you can not start the operations until you have obtained the license. So technically incorporation process is incomplete until the license is obtained.

However, in Singapore, the scenario is different. Most of the businesses can start the operation right after incorporation. They don’t need to obtain any license.


License for singapor business - In UAE

Procedure in countries like UAE

The standard procedure in countries like the UAE is:

  • Incorporation
  • Renting a commercial space
  • Applying for the respective license
  • Commencement of operations

License for singapor business - Procefure in singapor

Procedure in countries like Singapore

In Singapore, the procedure is as follow:

  • Incorporation
  • Commencement of operations

Most Singapore businesses (around 95%) can start commencing operations right after the business registration. The concept of a general license does not exist in Singapore. Incorporating a company is sufficient and considered a kind of approval to start commercial activities.


License for singapor business - Companies that reqired license

Companies that require a license

However businesses that are in regulated sectors need to obtain a specific license to operate.

Examples of such businesses are:

  • Recruitment
  • Telecom
  • Financial Advisory
  • Construction
  • Food related

However, the businesses that require any license are quite a few. They make 5% of the total companies incorporated in Singapore.

Most professional businesses, such as IT consultancy, web design, app design, etc., do not require any business licenses.

Many factories and even warehouses do not require any license.

Main types of licenses

There are three main licenses required by a Singapore business:

License for singapor business - Types of license

Sectoral

Such a license is required before the commencement of business operations in a specific business sector. For instance, a travel agency needs a travel agency license.


License for singapor business - Occupation

Occupation

Working professionals like accountants, doctors, architects, and lawyers need an occupation license to operate. The professional organizations in their respective fields issue the necessary permit. For instance, SMC (Singapore Medical Council) grants a license to medical practitioners. A medical practitioner cannot practice in one’s field without registering with SMC first.


license for singapor business - Business activity

Business Activity-Based License

For specific businesses, a particular business activity-based license is required. For instance, a liquor store needs a liquor license from SPF (Singapore Police Force) to operate and sell liquor.

Conclusion

Singapore does have the requirement of specific licenses in regulated sectors. However, one does not need a general trading license, and company incorporation is enough to commence commercial activities.

You can also consult with Epica to find out if your business needs a specific license or not.

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