Everything you need to know about Business Licenses and Permits in Singapore

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Last updated: September 4, 2019
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Depending on the nature of business you run, you may require a business license or permit for business operations. Licensing can be obtained when registering your company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

Below is a comprehensive infographic on the industry-specific related licenses and permits that are required.

Apart from business operation licenses, applications such as Name Reservation/Company Incorporation/Business Registration/Change of Company Particulars may be referred to Regulatory Authorities to seek approval from the respective authorities. The table below acts as a quick guide to assist in identifying the approving authority for a specific business.

Referral AuthorityWhen is referral required
Board of Architects (BOA) Singapore http://www.boa.gov.sg/If a company or service is related to architectural services.
Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) http://www.cea.gov.sg/Proposed activities involving “Real Estate Agent” or “Real Estate Agency”, and applications for change of name by entities already carrying on real estate agency activities.
Enterprise Singapore www.enterprisesg.gov.sgNames and activities involving  “Physical Rubber”, ”Commodity futures” e.g. “Rubber trading”, “Commodity brokers”, “Commodity Futures Exchange”, “Commodity / Commodities Exchange”, “Futures brokers”, “Commodity Futures”, “Clearing Exchange / House / House Exchange”.
Majlis Ugama Islam of Singapore (MUIS) www.muis.gov.sgProposed names and activities containing or involving “Islam”, “Muslim”, “Halal” and their derivatives.
Ministry Of Defence (MINDEF) (Defence Industry & Systems Office- DISO) www.mindef.gov.sgProposed names containing “Military” or “Defence”.
Ministry of Education (MOE) (Private Schools Section) www.moe.gov.sgEstablishments functioning as a “school” / “learning centre” / “education centre” / “training centre”, excluding those offering instruction of a “non-academic” nature, e.g. beauty care, dressmaking, cooking, sports, games, driving, recreation-related, etc. Names containing “Academy”, “College”, “Institute”, “Institution”, “University”; and “National”, “Singapore”, will normally be disallowed.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ASEAN National Secretariat, Singapore) www.mfa.gov.sgProposed names containing “Association of Southeast Asian Nations” or “ASEAN”.
Ministry of Law(Legal Services Regulatory Authority) www.minlaw.gov.sgIf it is intended that the proposed business will be a law practice, the applicant will need to apply to the LSRA for a law practice licence, and obtain in-principle approval before registering the business with ACRA.
Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) www.mas.gov.sgIf the proposed company contains terms related to financial services such as “bank”, “futures exchange”, “clearing house”, “securities exchange” or other similar terms, and is engaged in financial services.
Professional Engineers Board (PEB) https://www.peb.gov.sgProposed names containing “Professional Engineering”, “Professional Engineers” and “PE”.
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) www.stb.gov.sgUsage of the Merlion symbol or name is controlled by STB.  Entities wishing to use the Merlion symbol or name may enquire with STB.

List of regulatory authorities that applicants need to obtain prior approval from before registering with ACRA

Referral AuthorityWhen is prior approval required
Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants www.isca.org.sgNames and activities containing “Accountancy”, “Accounting”, “Audit”, or derivatives thereof are to obtain approval from ISCA.
Ministry of Health (MOH)  www.moh.gov.sgNames and activities containing “hospital”, “medical clinic/centre”, “dental clinic/centre”, “surgery”, “medical/clinical laboratory”, “healthcare establishment” or any other term or name that implies similarity to these terms. Applicant to obtain approval from MOH.
Registry of Co-operative Societies www.mccy.gov.sgNames and activities containing “Co-op” or “Co-operative”. Applicant to obtain approval of Registrar of Co-operative Society.

In Singapore, business licensing procedures have been simplified to a great extent. If you provide all the necessary documentation and satisfy compliance requirements, there is no reason for your license to be rejected.

While some of the issues regarding licenses and permits are straightforward can be handled by yourself, it is usually a good idea to engage a professional services firm to save you time and resources.  

Make sure your company is compliant

Your focus should be on your business. Appoint a registered company secretary to handle everything else.