If you are considering applying for or maintaining Permanent Residence in Singapore, you should be aware of PR's evolving advantages and disadvantages. Every person will weigh the advantages and disadvantages at least somewhat differently, and nobody else can decide which characteristics of PR are more or less important to you.
This list is divided into three sections: Clear Advantages, Clear Disadvantages, and Mixed Advantages/Disadvantages (characteristics that may or may not be a net advantage or disadvantage). Whether any particular advantage or disadvantage is relevant depends on your personal situation.
The government can change (and has changed) PR-related rules and policies. This list only reflects the current situation, when last updated.
- Immigration stability. Second only to citizens, Permanent Residents have the most stable immigration status in Singapore. They may live and/or work in Singapore as long as they wish. This status is not absolute, but it is quite robust in practice. As examples, a PR who lied in his/her PR application, who commits a serious criminal offense, or who becomes destitute could be ejected from Singapore (after facing any criminal penalties). Also, note that a dependent or spouse of a citizen or PR can still enjoy good immigration stability with an approved Long-Term Visit Pass (either LTVP or LTVP+).
- Ability to sponsor certain family members for immigration. Adult PRs can sponsor certain immediate family members for LTVPs and/or PR, to allow them to immigrate to Singapore. However, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) reportedly denies about 15-20% of such LTVP applications and greater than half such PR applications. In other words, approval is not guaranteed, even for citizen sponsors, and will depend on financial and other factors.
- The only realistic path to citizenship for foreigners. After a waiting period, PRs can apply for Singaporean citizenship. Foreigners cannot jump directly to citizenship, with extremely rare, hypothetical exceptions, such as a world famous Nobel prize winning physicist that the Singaporean government views as a national treasure worthy of citizenship.
- Business and employment privileges. PRs can be self-employed, start their own businesses, be directors and officers of most Singapore companies, own businesses, and otherwise lead full economic lives in Singapore. They are also fully employable without requiring work permits or letters of consent, in practically any full-time or part-time employment including government employment (with the exception of certain sensitive government roles), and can even hold more than one part-time job. Although financially unpleasant, bouts of unemployment are allowed.
- Ability to retire in Singapore. Singapore doesn't offer a "retirement visa." However, like citizens, PRs can stay in Singapore through their retirement years, living off their savings and pensions.
- Lower cost public medical services. PRs pay a lower cash rate than foreigners for medical services obtained from public hospitals and public clinics in Singapore.
- Childcare and Education
- Lower cost infant care and childcare. PR children pay lower fees than foreigners to attend government-supported infant care and childcare centers.
- Better, lower cost access to government-run primary and secondary schools. Citizen children come first, but PR children receive placement priority over foreigners when enrolling in government-run primary and secondary schools. PR children also pay substantially lower school fees than foreign children. For example, PR children pay S$110/month to attend public primary school, compared to the either $370/month or $550/month that foreign children pay (2016 fees, subject to change).
- Lower university tuition rates. PRs often pay at least somewhat lower tuition and fees than foreigners to attend public universities in Singapore.
- Housing and Real Estate
- Ability to buy resale HDB leaseholds. After a waiting period, PRs are eligible to buy resale public housing leaseholds for their own occupancy, with limited subletting privileges. Build-to-Order (new) HDB units are reserved for citizens.
- Lower stamp duty (tax) on real estate purchases. PRs pay a substantially lower Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty rate than foreigner purchasers pay.
- Greater chance of approval to buy landed property. Non-citizens need government approval to buy so-called landed property in Singapore. PRs have a better chance of approval than foreigners.
- Ability to buy resale executive condominiums earlier. Singapore has a few executive condominium developments, a form of real estate that starts out as HDB (public) but that, after 10 years, reverts to private housing. Like HDB units they start out with 99 year leaseholds, but unlike traditional HDB developments they usually have more extensive amenities such as swimming pools. PRs are eligible to buy resale executive condos only 5 years after construction (with 94 years or less remaining on the leaseholds) and, unlike foreigners, do not have to wait 10 years. (Only citizens can buy new build executive condos.)
- Privileges at government-run sports facilities. PRs pay the same, lower rates as citizens for admission to government-run sports facilities such as public swimming pools, and they can also participate in the ActiveSG $100 rebate program.
- Better, lower cost privileges at public libraries. PRs pay a one-time fee of only $10.50 for a basic National Library Board (NLB) membership, much less than the annual fee foreigners pay for more limited privileges. Alternatively, PRs (and citizens) holding PAssion cards, including DBS/POSB's PAssion debit cards, enjoy complementary NLB Partner Membership.
- No need to renew driving licenses. Although new PRs must convert their Singapore driving licenses to reflect their new NRIC numbers, unlike foreigners they do not need to renew their licenses periodically, saving time and money. (Older drivers' periodic checks still apply.)
- Some limited merchant and financial privileges. Like citizens, PRs enjoy some limited privileges from merchants and financial institutions. As examples, it's somewhat easier to sign longer term contracts for telecommunications services and utilities (with lower deposit requirements), and some credit cards are only available to citizens and PRs.
- Some privileges when obtaining visas to visit foreign countries. A few foreign countries may offer Singapore PRs greater odds of visa approval, longer term visas, and/or lower cost visas compared to otherwise similarly situated foreigners.
- National Service obligations. Young male citizens and PRs (and their sons) are required to perform National Service if physically and mentally able, i.e. to serve in Singapore's armed forces, police, civil defense, or another government-decided role, and to be available for periodic medical checks and training exercises for several years thereafter. In the event Singapore goes to war or has some other serious national emergency, most young male PRs and citizens would be required to serve. Young men with National Service (NS) obligations face certain international travel restrictions. NS obligations are waived for first generation PRs under the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers (PTS) and Investor Schemes and, generally, for men who acquire PR status under the Immediate Family Scheme who are in their late 20s or above.
- Lower Supplementary Retirement Scheme contribution limits. PRs are more limited than foreigners in how much they can contribute annually to Singapore tax-advantaged SRS accounts.
- Not Ordinarily Resident (NOR) tax break curtailed. In certain situations Singapore offers a special income tax break to fairly highly compensated (or higher) individuals based in Singapore who spend a lot of time working outside Singapore. This tax break is called the Not Ordinarily Resident (NOR) Scheme. It's at least much more difficult if not impossible for citizens and PRs to qualify for this particular tax break.
- Fee to access Singapore's casinos. Like citizens and unlike foreigners, PRs must pay either a S$100 daily or S$2000 annual entry fee if they want to enter the gambling areas of the Marina Bay Sands or Sentosa casinos.
- Limitations on other countries' residence and benefits (exclusivity restrictions). Certain countries may bar Singapore (and other foreign) PRs from obtaining permanent residence and/or from enjoying certain tax breaks (and other benefits) available to residents.
- Mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions. Working PRs and their employers are required to contribute to Singapore's mandatory national savings program, the Central Provident Fund. CPF is a comparatively safe and high yielding savings vehicle, and both contributions and earnings are Singapore tax free. CPF savings can be used for retirement and also for medical care, medical insurance, and certain real estate purchases in Singapore. Many individuals would voluntarily contribute to CPF if they could. However, there are some possible disadvantages. Take home pay is reduced compared to a similarly situated foreign worker. Also, those PRs with limited non-CPF savings who plan to retire outside Singapore could end up somewhat "over-invested" in CPF assets and thus incur some currency risk. In rare cases CPF assets and payments might cause reductions in a PR's entitled benefits from other countries.
- MediShield Life. Singapore requires both citizens and PRs, no matter where they live, to pay MediShield Life premiums (taxes). MediShield Life provides a basic set of medical insurance benefits at public hospitals and public clinics in Singapore. The premiums are set annually and increase with age, and they are paid from CPF Medisave funds (if there are Medisave funds available; otherwise the premiums must be paid out of pocket). The premiums are not adjusted for income except for the very poorest, when they are subsidized or waived, so middle class PRs and citizens pay exactly the same MediShield Life taxes as the wealthiest PRs and citizens. Integrated Shield insurance policies are available to supplement MediShield Life, and since PRs already have mandatory MediShield Life they pay a lower premium for an Integrated Shield plan than foreigners do. Whether a particular PR gets value-for-money from MediShield Life is highly situational.
- Possible loss of "expat" employment compensation elements. If you arrived in Singapore with "expat" compensation provisions then your employer may terminate some or all of those elements after transitioning to PR status. Such provisions might include housing, children's education, tax preparation, tax equalization, continuation of home country social insurance and/or retirement savings contributions, pension, seniority privileges, employee stock purchase discounts and stock options, per diems, relocation/repatriation/moving, household goods storage, transportation/car, professional society memberships, disability insurance, life insurance, unemployment insurance and severance, global medical insurance, medical evacuation, and home country travel, as examples. You might also lose an implied or even actual right to return to a home country position. On the other hand, you might be entitled to new employment benefits as a fully localized employee in Singapore. Highly compensated executives from developed economies on "expat packages" tend to suffer a net loss of compensation and benefits when transitioning to PR, while less highly compensated workers, including those from countries with few employment-related benefits, may find that fully localized employment in Singapore is a net positive.