Work pass scam leads to jail sentence, bar on hiring foreign workers

21 Jan 16

SINGAPORE

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A court in Singapore has sentenced an individual acting as an employment agent to 16 months in prison for obtaining work passes by submitting false information on the applications. The workers who received the passes were deported and permanently barred from returning, and the employers who provided false information will be barred from hiring foreign workers.

What does the change mean? The case is a compliance reminder to employers that the Ministry of Manpower is aggressively investigating and prosecuting companies and individuals making false statements or committing other forms of fraud in the filing of work pass applications.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: All work passes.
  • Who is affected: All companies sponsoring foreign employees for work passes.
  • Business impact: Violations of work pass regulations carry serious consequences and can include fines up to 20,000 Singapore dollars (about US$14,000) and up to two years’ imprisonment, as well as barring employees from the country and suspending a company’s work pass privileges.
  • Next steps: Employers should do due diligence in working with employment agencies and should make sure all declarations on work pass applications are true and accurate.

Background: In this case, an individual acted as an employment agent and submitted work pass applications, purportedly for foreign domestic workers, using false information from employers. The employers did not intend to hire the workers and the workers did not intend to work as domestic workers. The unlicensed agent, who charged each foreign worker SGD3,500 to SGD4,000 and paid the employers for using their false information, was charged in court with 32 counts of making false statements on work pass applications and ultimately sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to 16 counts.

In the past two years, 78 individuals have been convicted of giving false information to obtain work passes, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

BAL Analysis: The ministry continues to focus on work pass applications and flex its investigatory power under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Employers should be aware of the heavy enforcement environment and make sure their policies and procedures are in compliance with the work pass regulations and framework.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in Singapore. For additional information, please contact singapore@balglobal.com.

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