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Which Business Sectors Are Subject to Licensing in Singapore? A Broad List of Licenses in Singapore

Which Business Sectors Are Subject to Licensing in Singapore? A Broad List of Licenses in Singapore

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Which business sectors are subject to licensing in Singapore. A broad list of licenses in Singapore.

Besides imposing simple and direct company incorporation processes, Singapore also delivers the same treatment to business licensing procedures. However, not all businesses in Singapore are subjected to licensing. Majority of the businesses in the country can start their operations once their companies have been incorporated.

Some businesses that are subjected to business licensing conditions need to obtain licenses from relevant authorities before operating. We have classified and listed a few of them in this article.

Three primary types of licenses or permits are applicable to Singapore companies. This guide aims to shed a light on the right license or permit for your business.

Compulsory Licenses

Some businesses need to obtain licenses before operating. The license granted to these businesses is referred to as a compulsory license. For example:

  • A childcare center needs a Child Care license to function.
  • A travel agency needs a Travel Agency license to function.
  • A recruitment firm needs an Employment Agency (EA) license to function.

Occupation Licenses

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Occupation

Occupational licenses are required in the practice of an occupation. These licenses are applicable to professionals, like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and architects. These licenses are granted by the professional organizations of the respective fields. For example:

  • An accountant needs a license from the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ICSA).
  • A medical practitioner needs to register with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

Licenses Based on Business Activities

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Business activities

Some businesses need certain business licenses or permits to perform specific business operations, such as improving an office space, exporting goods, and setting up more fixtures to the façade of a building. For example:

  • A license must be obtained from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to let a business sell liquor.
  • A Temporary Fair Permit must be obtained from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to set up a fair where merchandise, food, and beverages will be sold.

What Is a Business License?

Singapore Licensed Businesses - About business license

A business license is a permit provided by Singapore authorities to enable businesses to perform their operations.

Common Categories and list of licenses in as follows

Food and Beverages

Businesses that fall under the category of food and beverages are:

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Food and beverages
  • Restaurants
  • Hawker centers
  • Food courts
  • Food processing units of any kind
  • Commercial kitchens or cloud kitchens
  • Storage transportation of foods
  • Bars
  • Alcohol import and storage

Retail Shops

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Retail shop

Depending on the nature of goods and services being offered, retail shops also need business licenses or permits to operate. These retail shops include:

  • Supermarkets
  • Pharmacies
  • Telecommunication
  • Pet shops


Businesses that belong to the services sector are as follows:

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Services

Depending on the nature of goods and services being offered, retail shops also need business licenses or permits to operate. These retail shops include:

  • Spa and massage
    • A massage establishment license is required in Singapore to offer massage services, foot reflexology, manicure-pedicure treatments, spa baths, and so on.
  • Event management
  • Law firms
  • Public accountants
  • Corporate secretarial
  • Employment agencies
  • Travel agencies
  • Telecommunication
  • Hotel establishments and boarding houses
    • Licenses or permits are also needed for the following activities:
      • Housing TVs
      • Managing ad-hoc entertainment
      • Using copyrighted music or videos
      • Operating a spa
      • Selling tobacco products
      • Swimming facilities
      • And More
  • Real estate agency
  • Shipping/maritime business
    • Legislation for the following are also needed:
      • Vessel operation within and outside Singapore
      • For crew members to work on board vessels
      • For engagement with dangerous goods
      • For operating specific communication equipment or facilities on board vessels
      • And So On
  • Publishing and media
  • Printing
  • Educational services
  • Private education business that includes childcare centers, kindergartens, academic schools, and non-academic schools

Monetary and Finance

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Monetary and finance

The following sectors are covered by the monetary and finance sector:

  • Financial advisory
  • Capital market trading
  • Banking and insurance
  • Payment operation
  • Remittance processing
  • Fund management
  • Securities
  • Futures trading
  • A typical fintech start-up

Health Care

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Health care

In the case of health care, the following sectors are covered:

  • Medical devices control
  • Medicine import and storage
  • Medical waste processing
  • Clinics


A trading company has various procedures. In this case, many licenses such as import/export licenses are required. The trading sector covers the businesses listed below:

Singapore Licensed Businesses - Trading
  • Dangerous goods
  • Controlled goods, such as endangered species, plants, fruits, vegetables, cigarettes and tobacco products, meat, petrochemicals, weapons, films, pharmaceuticals, or video games
  • Construction
    • Several permits, approvals, and licenses apply in this business. Additionally, one must obtain work permits from the Ministry of Manpower to employ foreign workers.
  • Architectural
  • Handling animals in any setting
  • Aviation
  • Drones
  • Satellites
  • Supply of energy

In a Nutshell

Generally, obtaining a business license or permit may take between two weeks to two months. Plan ahead when deciding to do so as some licenses take some time to be processed due to the need of approval from several authorities. Some may even require a physical site visit.

Although some licenses and permits can be managed on your own, it is always best to take a business decision with the help of a corporate secretarial provider (CSP). Engaging with a CSP can also help you confirm if your business falls in a specific license category.

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