The Ultimate Guide to Relocation to Singapore for Expat Families

Table of Contents

Part 1

Considering Relocation

Making the Decision

The decision to move to another country can be exciting and scary at the same time, especially when you're moving with your children. While you want to choose a location that supports your professional and career goals, you also want to select a child-friendly location that helps your child achieve his or her full potential.

Singapore has been a top destination for expats for quite some time. It's a thriving international hub with top schools and family-friendly activities.

We often hear stories of people who planned to relocate to Singapore for only two years and then stayed for longer!

Here are some things to consider while you're still thinking about relocating:

  • Talk with your loved ones. An overseas relocation can be a difficult adjustment for children who must leave their familiar home, friends and school. It's common for children to struggle in a new and unfamiliar culture.‍
  • Your child may not jump on board and be excited about a move right away, but honest conversations pave the way for cooperation and ensure that your child will feel heard and valued.
  • With regular discussions, you can answer questions, ease your child’s concerns, share your excitement and help him or her prepare psychologically for a successful move.
  • Some children need more support than others. Your child may even need different types and amounts of support as your relocation plans progress.
  • Watch your child for changes in behaviour or signs of distress. Be prepared to offer whatever helpful and meaningful support he or she needs.

Perks of Moving to Singapore

Singapore is a cosmopolitan country with world-class amenites
Singapore is a multicultural hub and has 4 national languages
The education system in the country is top-notch and recognised around the world.
Singapore’s excellent transportation facilities are convenient and safe.
The country ranks second in the world for healthcare
The country was the ideal hub for travel around South East Asia in pre-Covid times
The country is regarded as among the safest in the world to live in


Life In Singapore During COVID

[Information updated as of May 2022]
Singapore has relaxed most of its Covid-19 Safe Management Measures.

Expatriates can look forward to relocating to Singapore after obtaining necessary permissions and approvals.

For the latest information on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore, please check https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg and https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19.

School System Overview of Singapore 

Selecting a school is one of the most important decisions you'll make when relocating to Singapore. The right school environment supports your child's academic, social, emotional and physical development. With a good education, your child will learn essential skills that prepare him or her to succeed in the global economy.

Talk to friends or colleagues, search online or ask an educational consulting service to help you find the right school fit for your child and family. Here’s a broad overview of the schooling options in Singapore.

Public Schools

Private Schools

Private vs Public Schools

Who do the schools cater to?

Public Schools

Prioritised for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents; expats can take the admission tests and try for admission

Private Schools

Mainly cater to international / expat families in Singapore

Curriculum

Public Schools

Local schools are known for offering a competitive education for children from preschool through secondary school. Ranked highly in maths and science, public school systems and teachers promote subject content mastery in a disciplined environment.

Private Schools

Each school chooses its curriculum and approach. Common curriculum pathways are IB PYP, modified Cambridge, Cambridge IGCSE, IB MYP, IB DP, and country-specific curriculum. Focus is largely on whole child development and globally recognised academic qualifications.

Admission process

Public Schools

Common admission tests for primary and secondary

Private Schools

Different schools have different assessment criteria

Fee consideration

Public Schools

Typically have a lower tuition fee

Private Schools

Vary from moderately priced to premium

Social benefits for children

Public Schools

Immerses children in local Singaporean culture

Private Schools

Introduces children to the diversity and different nationalities of the world

Class sizes

Public Schools

Typically about 40 students in a class with large teacher to student ratios

Private Schools

Typically smaller class sizes with lower teacher to student ratio

Second language

Public Schools

Typically the Mother Tongue Language (Mandarin, Malay or Tamil) is offered as a second language

Private Schools

Wider options of second languages

How to Decide Where to Live 

Singapore isn't massive, but most people still find it necessary to live close to either their office location or the school, particularly for young children. While you are still in your current country, you can research neighbourhoods online around your office location and the potential school for your children to get a fair idea of the residential landscape of the country.

The following websites would be of use for identifying potential areas to live in:

While Singapore offers many picturesque locations to live in, keeping the school commute easy for your children would be the best bet. So it would be practical to find a house or condominium within easy distance of your child’s potential school.

Private schools sometimes offer door-to-door school bus pick up and drop off for an additional fee.

The well-connected public transport system and transport services, such as Grab, Gojek and Comfort Delgro, can be used for travel to your office location. You will also have the option to rent or purchase a car to make moving around easy. 

Stage 1 - Parent Moving Checklist

01
Are you familiar with the different types of schools?
02
Have you made a list of places where you would like to consider living?

Pro tip: Singapore is relatively small, and public transport is efficient. Consider choosing a school first and then choose a house.

03
Have you had conversations with your child about international relocation?
Part 2

Taking Steps for Relocation

How to Get Entry Approval Into Singapore

Start thinking well in advance about your entry approval into Singapore. Your employer will help you with some of the documents, but other documentation you'll be responsible for yourself. Due to COVID-19, some applications are taking longer than usual, so start working on these passes as soon as possible.

  • SPass - The SPass pass allows mid-level skilled staff to work in Singapore. You'll need to be earning at least S$2,500 monthly and have the proper qualifications and work experience to get this pass. The minimum salary requirement to procure passes for your family is S$6,000 for this pass.
  • Employment Pass - Employment Pass allows executives, managers and foreign professionals to work in Singapore. You'll need to be earning at least S$4,500 per month and have acceptable qualifications. Your employer will also need to have demonstrated that they engaged in fair recruitment that considered all job seekers.
  • Dependent's Pass - The Dependent's Pass allows spouses and children to join workers in Singapore. For your dependents to qualify for this type of pass, you'll need to be earning a fixed monthly salary of at least S$6,000 per month and will need to be sponsored by an established Singapore-based company.
  • In-principle Approval (IPA) - The In-principle Approval is a letter that is issued when your work permit application is approved. The letter is only valid for a specific period of time. Once you get an IPA, you'll need to apply for an entry date.
  • Student Pass - Student passes are required for international students who wish to study at an international school in Singapore. Applications take two to four months to process, so it's essential to start this process as early as possible.
  • Long-Term Visit Pass - The Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) is a pass for your step-child, common-law spouse or disabled child if you're an Employment Pass or SPass holder. If you earn over $12,000, you can also get a pass for your parents. This pass is good for up to two years.
  • Air Travel Pass/Connect @Singapore/Reciprocal Green Lane - During COVID, short-term travellers from certain countries can use the Air Travel pass and SafeTravel passes to enter Singapore for business. The type of pass used depends on when and why the traveller is entering Singapore.
  • Some other work pass options available are the EntrePass and the Personalised Employment Pass. More information on all visas is available here

Please note that due to Covid-19, it is most likely your family will have to quarantine at a dedicated facility or your own home, depending on the country you are relocating from. 

As the situation is constantly changing due to Covid-19, please check the latest travel guidelines at https://www.ica.gov.sg/ before your move. 

Requirements for Your Child

To enrol your child in a school in Singapore, you'll need:

  • Two years' progress reports from your child's old school.
  • Complete vaccination records.
  • Information about allergies, special educational needs and so on.
  • Any further documentation as per your preferred school in Singapore. 

School Research and Virtual Tours

At this point, start reaching out to schools and attend virtual tours of the campuses that you're considering for your child.

Most international schools offer webinars where parents can learn about the curriculum, school culture, what the school looks like and more. Virtual tours are an inexpensive way to view what schools have to offer and also give you a feel for what each school is like in person.

Here are some key considerations to help you narrow down your search:

  • If you are considering international schools, you will discover that the international schools here offer either a country-specific curriculum or a globally recognised curriculum like the International Baccalaureate and the IGCSE to make transitioning to any other educational system easier.
  • Students typically will learn one foreign language as part of their studies. Mandarin is generally offered in most schools. Other languages such as Spanish, French, German, Hindi, etc., are offered by some schools.
  • Some schools offer special programmes for children who are not fluent in English to help them build their proficiency. Check with the school you are speaking to for this.
  • Would you like your children to mingle and make friends with others from different nationalities or do you think they will be more comfortable with other children from their own country? Your choice of school could depend on this factor as well.
  • Private schools each set their own tuition and fees. You can expect to pay anywhere between SGD 17,000-50,000 per year for tuition fees at K-12 international schools in Singapore, plus additional fees for extracurricular activities, uniforms, books, technology usage and other items.
  • Some international schools have a long waitlist, and others can accommodate new children at any time of the year (OWIS usually is in the latter category). 

You can start reaching out to schools for details, ask friends, family and acquaintances for recommendations or join Facebook expat groups for other families’ experiences of schools in Singapore. 

Once your relocation plans are confirmed, inform the school that your child is currently attending. The teachers and staff can help your child successfully wrap up classwork and prepare for academic success in the new school.

Your child’s teachers may also offer additional educational and psychological support before the move. Be sure to ask for transcripts, records and other documents that the new school may need.

Support Your Child Through the Process

Your child will need support during the relocation. Depending on their age, they may need help saying goodbye to their friends. Help your child with their farewells through virtual or real parties (whatever is allowed in the location you're planning to leave). Stay safe!

Today’s technology offers your child dozens of ways to stay in touch with family members and friends. They can use Zoom, Facetime, snail mail, seasonal presents and family traditions to maintain links. Young children may need help gathering the contact details of their friends to stay connected when they move.

Your child may feel more excited about the move when he or she knows details about where you’re moving. Access Singapore’s official websites and social media pages, local news blogs and local events pages to discover more about the country’s history, culture, traditions and weather. Expat Arrivals, Expat Living and SassyMama also offer helpful information that ignites excitement and relieves your child’s stress before the move.

Resources for Settling Down in Singapore

As you prepare for your move, here’s a handy guide for essential services in Singapore during and post-quarantine. 

Groceries

Fairprice

Cold Storage

Giant

Redmart

Amazon Prime

Smaller supermarkets and mom & pop shops

Banking

DBS / POSB / UOB / Standard Chartered / Citibank / HSBC

Various international banks

Banking apps

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Getting around

Grab

Comfort Delgro

Gojek

MRT

Public buses

Apps for information on public transport

Shopping

Lazada

Shopee

Amazon

Ezbuy

Foodpanda

Entertainment Information

Sassymama

HoneyKids

Time Out

Expat Living

Straits Times

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School Selector

International School Database

HoneyKids

Sassymama

Facebook groups

Stage 2 - Parent Moving Checklist

01
Do you have an In-principle Approval (IPA)
02
Did you make a list of 3 to 5 schools that would be appropriate for your child?
03
Have you compiled a list of the expected documentation the schools require and have you begun gathering that documentation?
04
Did you compile a list of specific condos or apartments that you're considering?
05
Did you reach out to schools and start attending virtual tours or seminars?
06
Have you continued to work with your child to ensure they feel safe and comfortable with the move?
Part 3

Making the Move

Logistics and Packing for Your Relocation

Planning and packing for an international relocation can be more complicated than a domestic relocation.

  • Pack wisely. There could be shipping delays. If you're in quarantine after arriving in Singapore, you'll want your child's favourite books, activities, belongings and other essentials with you.
  • Keep important documents with you. Do not ship your important documents to yourself, as you'll never know when you'll need them during relocation.
  • Get a pre-departure COVID test. This may be required, depending on your place of departure.
  • Bring extra medications. Don't plan to fill prescriptions immediately upon arriving in Singapore - have additional medicines with you to give yourself time to sort out prescriptions and doctor visits upon arrival.

Preparing for Quarantine After Relocation

At this time, inbound travellers are required to quarantine in their place of residence or a dedicated facility after arriving in Singapore. It's good to have a plan for this:

  • Know which apps you'll be using to order essential supplies if needed (apps such as Grab, Foodpanda, and so on).
  • Schedule personal visits to schools after your quarantine ends.
  • Have entertainment for you and your child or children at your house, including games, books, toys and more.
  • Set a schedule and structure your time with kids at home. Create an "arts and crafts" time, game time and time to engage in online social activities with friends from your place of origin.
  • Take time to play with your kids while in quarantine. It will help relax you and your children!
  • Help your children maintain a positive attitude during your SHN time by making plans to see fun Singapore destinations immediately after the SHN time ends.
  • All inbound travellers aged seven and above must receive a COVID test before or upon arrival in Singapore. You can read more about the SHN period on the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website: https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/health/shn.
    You can also read more about COVID testing upon arrival in Singapore at https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/health/covid19-tests/pcrtest.

Guidance on this issue changes regularly, as does the COVID situation in Singapore and worldwide. Find the latest and most up to date information at https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg.

Settling Down in Singapore

Hurray! Your family has completed quarantine, and most probably, you would now be moving into a temporary accommodation or service apartment.

Now is a good time to start organising school visits in person and finalise a place to stay as well.

You can also start exploring the many attractions of Singapore with your children and start enjoying life in this beautiful country. (The Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and Sentosa are always nice places to start with!)

School Visits

As you start exploring school options in person, think about the atmosphere and culture of the school for your child. A strong sense of belonging from the start will allow your child to settle into their new country and life. A dynamic school atmosphere keeps children excited about learning. 

Here are some of the features you could ask the Admissions Team about:

  1. What is the class size? Moderate class sizes allow teachers to give each child individual attention. Your child will also have the opportunity to explore personal interests, which can increase engagement each day.
  2. What is the method of learning? Children should be encouraged to ask questions and explore subjects. Inquiry-led learning provides meaningful contexts to gain a deep understanding and develop vital skills.
  3. Does the school build 21st-century skills? Collaboration should be emphasised both in and outside the classroom. Your child will learn how to relate to peers and work well with others, two skills that are essential for success in today’s global economy. The school should also offer co-scholastic learning opportunities for children to develop holistically. 
  4. What is the school’s value system? A positive school environment celebrates a child’s achievements, talents and character. Your child will feel valued as a person and know that they are an important part of the school community, ensuring that they quickly assimilate into their new life.
  5. What is the qualification pathway for secondary school? Based on your child’s plans for higher studies, you may want to ask about the best pathway in secondary school. IGCSE in Grades 9-10 and IB DP in Grades 11-12 are two optimal and globally recognised qualifications for students who might relocate again.  

An international school like OWIS offers a balanced curriculum combining inquiry-based academic learning with arts, physical education, cultural activities and fostering a value system based on kindness. Look for a well-rounded school because this can improve your child’s integration and pave the way for a smoother adjustment to a new country.

Your Child's Opinion

As a parent, you ultimately hold the responsibility for choosing the right school for your child. His or her opinion does count, though. Talk with your child about what type of school he or she wishes to attend.

Your child can take a virtual or in-person tour of potential schools, review the curriculum and academic requirements and consider extracurricular activities. If possible, select a school together as you increase your child’s engagement and excitement for this new opportunity.

School admission

The school you choose for your child will require you to complete and sign an application form, and there will be an application fee.

The school will also need documentation like a copy of your child's birth certificate, a photocopy of your child's and your passport, a photocopy of your child's student pass, a photocopy of your immigration status or visa, an employment letter guarantee and so on.

School requirements will vary, and the conditions will vary by grade level as well. For example, for IB DP admission, grade 11 students need two references from teachers.

Finalising a home

Now that you’ve finalised a school, it’s time to look for the perfect home for your family. Since you now have an understanding of Singapore’s neighbourhoods, you can actively start looking at homes through an agent or by following up on leads yourself. 

Until you’re eligible to buy a home as a Permanent Resident, you can rent HDB housing, a condominium unit or an independent house from a private landlord. These could be furnished or unfurnished.

Rentals would vary depending on the number of rooms, the amenities and the neighbourhood. Typically, a security deposit has to be paid to the homeowner to secure the rental unit. 

Helping Your Child Settle In

The student experience is incredibly important, especially in those early days at a new school. Family involvement means a lot when a child is adjusting to a new school in a new country.

From volunteer opportunities within the classroom to various events where family members are welcome, you can help your child settle in by becoming a school community member where your child is attending class.

Hopefully, the school you choose supports the learning community by welcoming parents into the classroom. You can contribute as much of your time as you're able - there's no "one size fits all" approach to participating in your child's school.

Ask the school regularly for updates about your child's progress. Stay engaged with your child's learning. If your child is struggling in one or more areas, find out from the school what they would suggest to make your child's experience better.

Join parent associations to make friends with other parents and start building your support network. You're going to need as much support as your child during this time!

Encourage your child to join extracurricular activities to help them make friends and feel more welcome on their new campus. All the while, help your child maintain links with their old friends in their old hometown. This old support network will help your child feel connected to friends and family during the transition.

Parent Moving Checklist

01
Have you visited schools in person and completed the admissions process?
02
Have you converted your IPAs into Long-Term Passes?
03
Have you finalised a condo?
04
Have you prepared your child to start at the new school and kept checking in on their well-being?
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Part 4

About OWIS

One World International School - A Quick Overview

One World International School (OWIS) has been nurturing children to become lifelong learners since 2008. OWIS is part of the prestigious Global Schools Foundation, a Singaporean, not-for-profit organisation that has earned more than 200 awards in educational excellence in less than twenty years. We're proud to be a member of the GSF and to lead the way in international education in Singapore.

OWIS has two well-designed campuses:


One World International School, Nanyang Campus

21 Jurong West Street 81, Singapore 649075

One World Preschool, Mountbatten

Block G, #01-04/06, 231 Mountbatten Centre Access through, Guillemard Crescent, Singapore 397999

Fees

Our moderate fees, which range between SGD 17,500 to SGD 21,000 per year, enable us to provide affordable education to all students, emphasising values, 21st-century skills and a child-first environment. That does not mean that we are compromising in any way in our curriculum or extracurricular activities.

We are also deeply invested in having an international staff of teachers, teaching resources and the technology that we need to nurture our students into well-rounded global citizens.

Curricula

OWIS follows these globally recognised and inquiry-based curricula:

  • IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) for Early Childhood and Primary students (up to Grade 5)
  • Modified Cambridge (Grades 6-8)
  • Cambridge IGCSE (Grades 9-10)
  • IB DP (Grades 11-12)

We believe in inquiry-based learning and whole-child education that builds 21st-century skills in children, such as inquisitiveness, collaboration, creativity, resilience and leadership. 

We also offer special programmes, such as English as an Additional Language and a Chinese-English Bilingual Programme.

Multiculturalism

We're proud that our school supports multiculturalism and diversity. No nationality dominates our student body - each child knows that they are an equally important citizen of our student body.

Kindness is an imperative value taught to all of our students. To ensure that our school supports these values, we've hired a multicultural staff, including teachers from different locations, who all have different skills and experiences to offer to our students.

Technology

Technology is also an essential part of everyday learning. We provide a host of sophisticated digital tools to our students, including the most up to date hardware and software for classroom projects, research, homework and more.

Admissions Process

For the convenience of our students and their parents, we utilise a fair and streamlined admissions process. While our academic year runs from August to June, students can also start at any time of the year.

Support for New Students

Since many of our students come from far, far away, we know how important it is for each child to feel included and supported during their time in school. This is why we offer students a buddy system. We also provide a parent liaison officer for new families adjusting to Singapore.

Want to know more about One World International School? See what our Head Of School has to say on our website at https://www.owis.org/about/welcome

Please schedule a virtual tour or contact our admissions team today. 

Welcome to Singapore! We hope to meet you soon.