Business Licenses and Permits For Singapore Companies

  • Post category:Singapore

Singapore Business licensing requirements are crucial for a Singapore registered company. A Singapore business license is necessary for a certain variety of business activities. 

A business license is a permit granted by a Singaporean government department allowing you to operate a particular business. 

Singapore Business Licensing Requirements

The company must be registered with the Registrar of companies before applying for a business license in Singapore.


Compulsory Licenses

Businesses that want to operate as educational institutions, travel agencies, real estate agents, distributors of alcohol or tobacco, restaurants, or financial institutions, for example, must first submit an application for a license.

Occupational Licenses for Professional Services

Several kinds of professions in Singapore are required to get an occupational license from the relevant authorities. 

This includes medical professionals, attorneys, pilots, accountants, architects, futures traders, and others. The Ministry of Law, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Board of Architects, Singapore Medical Council, Monetary Authority of Singapore, and others are referral agencies to which businesses might need to submit an application for a license.

Hence, if one is looking to establish a business in Singapore that provides professional services, he will need an occupational license for the practitioners.

Keep in mind that international professionals with degrees recognized in Singapore may also be eligible for occupational licenses, provided they register with the appropriate professional body in their specialty.



The kind of licenses, permissions, and approvals you require from various authorities will depend on the nature of your retail operation. Retail establishments like pharmacies, grocery stores, pet stores, and electronics shops must submit an application for a business license.

Retail enterprises may be subject to different licensing requirements depending on the products and services they offer.

Such as:

  • A telecom dealer’s license, provided by the IMDA – Infocomm Media Development Authority, is required of telecommunications businesses in order to sell, offer, import, or possess for sale any authorized telecommunication equipment (IMDA).
  • A specific license from the Animal and Veterinary Service is required for pet stores that export and sell animals. It should be noted that pet stores that merely offer pet accessories or engage in pet grooming services don’t need a specific license.
  • Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) must provide you a license before you may start a pharmacy or drugstore there. A license from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority is necessary for a store selling cosmetics.
  • To operate, food stores must get a Food Shop License or Food Retail License from the Singapore Government Singapore Food Agency.


Due to its many benefits, especially its Free Trade Zones, which allow transhipment and international trade, Singapore is well-known as one of Asia’s biggest trading hubs. After forming a firm, one must activate a Singapore Customs account in order to engage in trading activities there.

Whether the applicant intends to transit via Singapore, import goods from outside, export goods from Singapore, or trade controlled items will determine whether he needs additional permits or licenses. 

If the applicant wants to import or export high-tech things, local goods, strategic goods, or restricted goods, he must apply for a permit. Using TradeNet – Singapore Customs, a government search tool, the applicant can see which category applies to his goods.


Starting up a Singapore company in the construction industry is difficult since doing business in this industry necessitates obtaining numerous permits and approvals from different government agencies.

In Singapore, a license from the Professional Engineers Board is required to offer professional engineering services. A license of this kind is required for businesses engaged in the following activities:

  • Building construction;
  • Building completion;
  • Building installation;
  • Site preparation;
  • Lease of construction equipment;
  • Structural repair works.


The applicant must obtain specific licenses from a specific government agency, such as the Ministry of Education (MOE) or the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth, in order to launch an educational business in Singapore, such as a childcare centre, language or driving school, a private academic institution, a kindergarten, or a preschool. 

He should register the new business with ACRA and take care of other organisational requirements before submitting an application for a license. The applicant will typically receive the license within two weeks.


Before beginning operations in Singapore, shipping companies must apply for the necessary license or licence. A harbour craft license from the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is required for any company operating a vessel in the port of Singapore. A port clearance certificate must be obtained by a corporation if it plans to operate its vessel outside of Singapore.

A shipping firm is required to acquire a Ship Registration Clearance and a Port Limit Manning License, required for crew members to work onboard a vessel, in order to move people or goods.


Every form of telecommunications business activity needs at least one compulsory license. Depending on the type of business, different licenses are required. For example:

The applicant will need to apply for a Facilities-Based Operator License, a Satellite Downlink License, a Services-Based Operator License, etc. in order to offer fixed-line communications solutions.

A license for in-building terrestrial communications systems as well as a Services Based Operator License is necessary for internet access providers.

The applicant must obtain a Mobile Network License in order to offer mobile cellular and radio paging services. It might also be necessary to get additional permits, such as an experimental station license or a satellite uplink license for broadcasting purposes.

The IMDA – Infocomm Media Development Authority  is the agency in charge of issuing any licenses or permissions required to operate a telecommunications enterprise.

Employment Agency

Employers can use a variety of communication channels to contact employment agencies which offer job placement services. Headhunting companies, staffing organisations, nanny placement agencies, construction worker agencies, internet job portals, etc., are all examples of employment agencies.

An Employment Agency License from the Ministry of Manpower is necessary to start any company activity, including recruiting services. However, a license is not necessary if a corporation handles these tasks on its own.

Travel Agency

Companies with headquarters in Singapore that offer travel arrangement services both inside and outside of Singapore must apply for a Travel Agent Licence. There is a number of exceptions, though, and some travel arrangement services are not subject to regulation in Singapore. A travel agent license is not necessary, for example, for an international travel agency who plans and sells a vacation package outside of Singapore.

In Singapore, there are just 2 different categories of travel agent licenses:

  • Travel agents should apply for a Niche License if they only sell, plan, or advertise trips that take place in Singapore and transport travelers who have no claim to accommodations (such as sit-in coach tours).
  • Travel agents that engage in any other activity that is not covered by a Niche Licence must submit an application for a General License.

Through the TRUST (Travel Agents and Tourist Guides Licensing System), one should apply to the Singapore Tourism Board for the necessary license.

Real Estate Agency

A license from the CEA (Council of Estate Agencies) is required for any business or person performing real estate agency work. A Key Executive Officer (who will be in charge of the appropriate operation and general management of the company) must submit the license application using CEA’s online services.

A business must fulfil the following licensing standards established by CEA in order to get an estate agent license:

  • Must be ACRA-registered.
  • Must select a Key Executive Officer (KEO) who meets all requirements and is qualified.
  • A corporation cannot have a moneylender’s license, nor can any of its directors, partners, or KEO have a job with, be a director of, or be a partner with, a licensed moneylender.
  • A business, its KEO, and all of its directors, partners, or managers should have a solid track record, a solid reputation, and not be involved in any actions that would violate the Estate Agents Act.
  • Must have a current professional indemnity insurance policy that includes coverage for all of its partners and salespeople (where applicable).
  • For all of its operations, Standard Operating Procedures and service standards guidelines must be established.

Financial Services

With more than 400 licenses available in the sector of payment service providers, Singapore is one of the top financial centers in the world. The Monetary Authority of Singapore requires that anybody considering creating a business that offers financial or money management services, such as payment services, financial advising, banking, capital markets, or insurance, apply for the necessary licenses. 


The Newspaper Permit and Printing Press License provided by the Infocomm Media Development Authority are necessary to operate a publishing company in Singapore that produces books, periodicals, or newspapers.

The business must obtain a newspaper permit if it engages in any of the following activities:

  • Publishing a newspaper in Singapore or printing one.
  • Publishing, offering for sale, or distributing a newspaper from Malaysia in Singapore
  • Singapore-based selling or distribution of an international newspaper. A newspaper with a circulation of 300 or more copies in Singapore and that is published outside of Singapore is considered an offshore newspaper.

For the one-time production of novels or commemorative booklets, no authorization is necessary. A Newspaper Permit is not necessary for publishing online publications, however you may need to register with IMDA or apply for a license under the Internet News Licensing Scheme if online newspaper material is offered in exchange for a membership fee.

Hotel and Spa

The Singaporean government must grant specific licences to everyone who wants to operate a hotel there. The most crucial among these are:

  • Certificate of Registration to Use the Premises as a Hotel; 
  • Hotel-license, Keeper’s which permits a person to manage the hotel and is issued by the Hotels Licensing Board; 
  • Temporary Occupation Permit or Certificate of Statutory Completion, which is issued by the Building and Construction Authority. 

A Massage Establishment License from the Singapore Police Force and, if necessary, an Aquatic Facilities License from the National Environment Agency are required to establish a spa treatment center or to provide spa services within hotels.

Food and Beverage

Running a food and beverage business will require applying for a variety of licenses and permissions that vary depending on your business operations as Singapore’s regulations governing the food and beverage industry are fairly complex. Some of the most common are given below:

  • The owner needs to obtain a Food Shop License from the SFA in order to run a restaurant. Also, if he wants to offer alcohol at the restaurant, he needs a liquor license from the Singapore Police Force. 
  • You can obtain a Halal Certification from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore if you want to run a halal restaurant.
  • A Temporary Fair Licence from the Singapore Government Singapore Food Agency is needed to conduct public trade shows.
  • A Food Stall License application must be submitted in order to operate a food stall business or hawker.
  • The Food Vending Machine License is required for the operation of food vending machines that need temperature regulation and food processing.
  • If the owner wants to import, export, or transship food items or ingredients for the restaurant, he must either register with SFA or receive the necessary trader’s license.
  • The owner must register it with SFA in order to set up a food storage facility.


A compulsory license from the Ministry of Health is necessary to run a healthcare institution in Singapore (such as a hospital, nursing home, clinic, clinical laboratory, or X-ray laboratory). Via this website, you can apply for the appropriate license for your medical facility.

All medical professionals are required to be registered with the appropriate governing bodies. Nurses must get a Practicing Certificate from the Singapore Nursing Board, and doctors and medical specialists must obtain one from the Singapore Medical Council.

There are a number of additional licenses to obtain depending on the requirements of your company:

  • The applicant must submit an application for a license with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) if he wants to distribute medications.
  • He needs an L3 License from the National Environment Agency to use irradiating equipment such as x-ray machines, vapour detectors, irradiators, gamma projectors, etc. (NEA). He will need to obtain L4, and L6 permits from NEA in order to store, handle, and transport hazardous and radioactive items.
  • The applicant needs a permit from NEA in order to buy, store, and use some hazardous materials that are regulated by environmental protection and management regulations.
  • The Ministry of Health must issue particular certificates, permits, or approvals before performing medical procedures including liposuction, abortions, or sterilizations.

Event Management

One or more licenses may be necessary, depending on the kind of activity or event the event management firm is planning. For example:

  • A Licence for the Provision of Arts Entertainment issued by IMDA is required to organize indoor or outdoor arts entertainment events (such as plays, musical performances, dance performances, art exhibitions, shows, and pop or rock concerts) held at a location open to the public unless an exemption applies.
  • The applicant must submit an application for a Public Entertainment License issued by the Singapore Police Force in order to host any entertainment events (with the exception of arts entertainment events) to which the public has access.
  • An Animal Exhibition License from the Animal and Veterinary Service is required to plan temporary events where animals will be on show, including animal acts using animals like dogs and horses.
  • In accordance with Singaporean intellectual property legislation, you must obtain permission from the author of any copyrighted work before playing or reproducing it at an arts or entertainment event. The applicant can either get in touch with the copyright holder directly or use a Collective Management Organization to get a license. The usage of content from the Creative Commons network will constitute an exception.


Obtaining a business license in Singapore typically involves the following steps:

Step 1: Licence Application

The first step is to submit an application for the desired business license to the relevant government agency. The type of license required depends on the nature of the business activity. 

Step 2: Fee Payment

Once the application is submitted, the applicant will be required to pay the necessary fees for processing the license application. The fee amount will depend on the type of license he is applying for.

Step 3: In Principle Approval Letter

After the payment of fees, the relevant government agency will review the application and issue an In-Principle Approval letter if the application is approved in principle. This letter will indicate the conditions that he will need to fulfil to obtain the final approval for the license.

Step 4: Additional Documents Submission

The applicant may be required to submit additional documents to support the license application, such as a tenancy agreement, floor plan of the premises, or details of the company’s directors and shareholders. He will need to submit these documents to the relevant government agency within the specified deadline.

Step 5: Notification of Final Approval

Once all the conditions in the In-Principle Approval letter are met, and all necessary documents are submitted, the relevant government agency will issue the final approval for the license.  The applicant will be notified of the final approval through an approval letter.

Step 6: Licence Issued

The final step is to collect the license from the relevant government agency. The applicant may need to display the license at the business premises as proof of compliance with the relevant regulations.

Reach out to us at Relin Consultants – Leading Global Business Set Up Partners for more information regarding your Singapore Business License.


What types of business licenses are required in Singapore?

Various business licenses are required in Singapore, depending on the nature of the business activity. Some common types of licenses include Food Shop, Liquor, Massage Establishments, etc.

How long does it take to obtain a business license in Singapore?

The processing time for a business license application in Singapore can vary depending on the type of license and the completeness of the application. Some licenses may be processed within a few days, while others may take several weeks or even months. It’s advisable to plan ahead and submit your application well in advance of when you need the license.

Can foreigners apply for a business license in Singapore?

Yes, foreigners can apply for a business license in Singapore. However, they will need to comply with the relevant requirements for setting up a business in Singapore, such as obtaining an Employment Pass or registering a company.

What are the fees for obtaining a business license in Singapore?

The fees for obtaining a business license in Singapore can vary depending on the type of license and the government agency that is issuing the license.

What happens if I operate my business without a license in Singapore?

Operating a business without a license in Singapore is illegal and can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. It’s essential to obtain the necessary licenses before commencing business operations to avoid any legal penalties.

Do I need to renew my business license in Singapore?

Yes, most business licenses in Singapore require renewal on a regular basis, typically annually or biennially. You should refer to the renewal requirements and deadlines specified in your license approval letter to ensure that you renew your license in a timely manner.