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Singapore Business Licenses and Permits

Typically application for licenses and permits in Singapore can only be done after successful incorporation of your company; however, in a few instances, application for licenses and permits is done simultaneously with the application for name approval from Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), from which, the ACRA system will indicate if another approving authority is required to grant licenses or permits.

There are several businesses that will require licenses or permits to operate. Private schools, travel agencies, liquor distributors, moneylenders, banks, childcare centres, importers/exporters, wholesalers and retailers of liquors are some examples of businesses that require license or permits by the Singapore authorities.

We have provided here some info on businesses that commonly require licenses or permits. For more information on how to apply for licenses and permits for your business please email us or call our Business License Specialist at +65 6242 6533.

Financial or Funds Management Services

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) oversees the issuance of licenses for financial and funds management services. There are essentially three types of licenses:

  • Capital Markets Services License for businesses that work with securities.
  • Commodity License issued for commodity trading agencies.
  • Financial Adviser License for financial firms that provide advisory services to the public.

Educational Institutions

Setting up an educational institution or to provide educational services usually requires one or more licenses to operate. Each of the licenses is issued by a different government authority; it can be the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and/or Ministry of Education.

Tobacco and Liquor Retails

You will need a separate license to sell tobacco and liquors in Singapore. A Tobacco Retail License issued by Health Sciences Authority of Singapore will permit you to sell cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. Each license issued is only for a single retail outlet. If you have multiple retail shops, you will need to obtain licenses for all of them.

There are different types of liquor licenses with each type for specific business activity. A Wholesale Beer License is just for wholesaling of beers and therefore different from a Retail Beer License. Depending on the nature of your business establishment, Asiabiz can assist you in finding the appropriate business license.


All food related businesses are required to have a Food Shop License from National Environment Agency (NEA), which will conduct an inspection prior to issuing a license. There are other licenses that are required based on the food and beverages that will be served in the restaurant.

Travel Agencies

Travel agencies in Singapore that sell tickets for individuals or groups to travel outside of Singapore are required to obtain a travel agent’s license with Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Employment or Human Resource Agencies

If your business involves recruitment and job placement services for individuals and companies, you’re required to obtain an Employment Agency License through Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Below is a chart for quick reference on the relevant authorities for specific trade and businesses.

Cases Requiring Referrals Referral Authority
If the company name or service is related to architectural services Board of Architects (BOA)
If company name or activities are related to real estate. Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS)
If company name or activities are related to commodities futures trading, brokerage, clearing etc. International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore)
If the proposed activities involve community services for the elderly, families, youths, disabled and children Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS)
If the proposed business name contains terms such as “Military” or “Defense”. Ministry of Defense – Defense Technology and Resource Office
Organization rendering educational or training services of academic nature.  Names of such establishments containing terms such as ‘college’, ‘national’, ‘Singapore’, ‘university’ etc. Ministry of Education (MOE) – Private Schools Section
If the proposed name contains the acronym ASEAN Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
If the proposed company is to be engaged in financial services and with name containing terms related to financial services such as ‘Bank’, ‘Futures Exchange’, ‘Clearing House’ and ‘Securities Exchange’  or other similar terms Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)
If the name and activities contain or involve “Islam” and “Muslim” Majlis Ugama Islam of Singapore (MUIS)
If the business activities are related to arms, explosive chemicals and ammunition Singapore Police Force (SPF) – Licensing Division
If the proposed name or tourism related activities involve the term ‘Merlion’ Singapore Tourism Board (STB)
If the proposed name or activities are related to law or legal services The Law Society of Singapore

Certain business activities require prior approval from the relevant authorities before registration with ACRA:

Cases Requiring Referrals Referral Authority
If the proposed name and activities contain accounting services Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS)
If the proposed name and activities contain the term “Co-op” or “Co-operative” Registry of Co-operative Societies
If the proposed name and activities contain the terms ‘Medical’ or ‘Clinic’ Ministry of Health (MOH)

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