Business Licences and Permits in Singapore

Business Licences and Permits in Singapore

Business Licences and Permits in Singapore

In Singapore, certain type of business activities requires a separate business licence or permit before business can commence. In most cases, the company has to be registered first before application of such other required business licences.

PLEASE BE INFORMED that the information provided here only serves as a general guide and is not complete or comprehensive. It must not be taken as a legal or professional advice.

Types of Business Licences and Permits in Singapore

Business Activity Licences & Permits

Licences and permits you need if you decide to carry out certain types of business activities.

Example, in the course of running your business, you may want to renovate, erect advertising billboards on your premises, hire foreign workers or export your products or you may also decide to start selling controlled goods such as cigarettes and liquor.

Compulsory Licences

Certain types of businesses require a special licence before they can operate.

Example, private schools, video companies, travel agencies, liquor distributors, moneylenders, banks and childcare centres. You will need to apply for these licences when you register your business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). In such cases, it may take between 14 days – 2 months to get all the necessary licences, permits and approvals to form your business.

Occupational Licences for Professional Services

Professionals such as lawyers, doctors, dentists, financial planners, pilots and commodity futures traders and accountants need to obtain occupational licences to practice.

If your business offers certifiable professional services, your practitioners need to get occupational licences. If you are not sure which licence to obtain, consult a lawyer and/or the organisations that regulate these professions. A list of professional organisations can be found using eGuide Singapore or Internet Yellow Pages (Singapore)

Licence Processing Time Frame

The usual processing time for licence and permit applications is commonly between 1 week to 2 months depending on the type of licence or permit.

Some Common Licences and Permits

Import and Export Permit

Registration for Central Registration Number (CR No.) had ceased from 23 Dec 2008. With effect from 1 January 2009, Singapore Customs implemented Unique Entity Number (UEN) to replace CR number.

You will need to register with Singapore Customs, the company’s account will then be activated and it will also enables your company to apply and submit Import and Export Permit applications through TradeNet® if necessary.

It is a regulatory requirement to complete this process and activate the account (by either one of the owners or directors) if your organisation wishes to import goods into or export goods from Singapore, or submit permit applications on behalf of other traders.

Singapore permits the import and export of non-controlled goods without any licence requirements. Examples of non-controlled goods include: books, stationery, handicrafts, jewellery, toys and games, sporting and recreational goods, CD ROMs, VCDs, DVDs, flowers and plants etc.

For trading of controlled goods, you will require a relevant import/export licence relating to the goods you are dealing in, issued by the specific governing agency. Examples of controlled goods include cigarettes and tobacco products, drugs, petrochemicals, animals and food products.

Restaurant and Food Business Licence

All retail food business must obtain a Food Shop Licence from the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Before you can apply for the Food shop License, you will need to confirm the premises of your food business because the authorities need to inspect the premises prior to granting an in principle approval for the license.

Other related licences that you may need or want to apply:

  • Halal Certification issued by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS)

  • Liquor Licence issued by the Liquor Licencing Board for the retail sale of liquor, including beer. Different types of licences are issued depending on whether consumption is on or off premises.

  • Tobacco Retail Licence, issued by the Health Sciences Authority, for the retail of tobacco products.

  • For operating a central kitchen you may require Factory Registration and a Licence to Operate a Meat or Fish Processing Establishment or Cold Store, issued by the AVA.

  • Licence for Importing Food Ingredients – If you intend to import processed food products and food appliances, you need to apply for a Registration Number with the Food Control Division (FCD) of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Retail Business Licence

The licence required will depends on the type of goods and services provided and sold.

  • Tobacco Retail Licence, issued by the Health Sciences Authority, for the retail of tobacco products.

  • Liquor License issued by the Liquor Licencing Board for retail of liquor.

  • Telecommunication Dealers Licence issued by Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore for the manufacture, import, hire, sale, offer or possession for sale of any approved telecommunication equipment or equipment set out in the First Schedule of the Telecommunication (Dealers) Regulations.

  • Pet Shop Licence issued by the AVA, if you intend to use a premises for the display, sale or export of pets. You do not need a pet shop licence if you are only selling pet accessories or engaging only in pet grooming activities.

  • Wholesale Dealer’s Licence for Chinese Proprietary Medicine (CPM) issued by the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore (HSA) under the Medicines Act to allow the companies to import Chinese Proprietary Medicines (CPM). The CPM must be listed and approved for sale in Singapore prior to importation.

  • Certificate of Registration of Pharmacy issued by HSA for pharmacies or drugstores.

  • Cosmetic Products Notification under the guidance of HSA for retail of cosmetic products.

Employment Agency Licence

Any business activities that involve recruitment and job placement services for other employers, an Employment Agency Licence is required from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore before business can commence.

Employment agencies include: head-hunting firm, executive search companies, foreign domestic worker agencies, local and foreign staffing companies, construction worker agencies, online jobs portals, nanny-placing agencies and so on.

Travel Agency Licence

Businesses that involve arranging and selling travel or tour packages (including transport services only as part of the package and not otherwise), will need to apply for a Travel Agent’s Licence with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The license is required if your business falls within Section 4 of the Travel Agents Act (Cap. 334) as below:

  • selling tickets entitling an individual to travel, or otherwise arranging for a person a right of passage on any conveyance. A Travel Agency Licence is not required if the conveyance is owned by the company.

  • facilitating a person’s ability to travel by selling or arranging transport tickets, hotel accommodation and foreign visas to destinations outside and within Singapore. A travel Agency Licence is not required if the mode of transport and the place of accommodation is owned by the company.

  • purchasing for resale the right of passage on any conveyance

  • arranging or conducting tours within or outside Singapore

  • hold yourself out as or advertising that you are willing to carry on any activity referred to in the previous points.

Education Business Licence

Depending on the type of educational establishment you wish to set up (childcare centres, preschools, tuition centres, enrichment schools, etc.); one or more business licenses may be required from different authority.

Running an Event Management Company

Events can be classified as:

  • Exhibitions, concerts and indoor events

  • Community, sporting and outdoor events

  • Meetings, conventions and conferences

Depending on which category of events you specialise in you will have to obtain the following permits:

  • Copyright Permit issued by The Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS), for events such as concerts, road shows, fairs and exhibitions, etc. involving the public performance of Copyright musical works.

  • No Objection Letter for Selling Food & Beverage at Event issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore.

  • Arts Entertainment Licence issued by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore, for carrying out any form of public entertainment concerning the arts, viz. plays, musical performances, dance performances, exhibitions, variety shows and pop/rock concerts.

  • Permit for Road Occupation Management issued by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore, for permission to carry out works affecting public streets and public areas.

Fund Management or Financial Advisory Company Licence

For fund management or financial advisory activities the following licences will be required. There are 3 types of such licences.

  • Capital Markets Services Licence issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) under the Securities and Futures Act, for conducting any business dealing with securities.

  • Commodity Licence issued by the MAS under the Securities & Futures Act and Financial Advisers Act, for commodity trading activities that involve soliciting funds from the public.

  • Financial Adviser’s Licence issued by MAS under the Financial Advisers Act, for conducting financial advisory activities.

Generally, you are allowed to submit the application for the respective licenses personally.

To get detailed information about licenses and permits that may be applicable for your business, please click here.