The green card backlog for employment-based applicants in the US, meanwhile, hit a whopping 1.2 million—68% of whom are Indian. In fact, of the 800,000+ Indian nationals waiting in line, as per US Citizenship and Immigration Services data, some 200,000 would probably die probably die The Economic Times Over 8,00,000 Indian nationals in green card backlog in US Read more before they receive the coveted card.
That’s the acutely conservative global backdrop in which Singapore has chosen to open up a new long-term (two-year) visa called ‘Tech.Pass’ announced earlier this month. Singapore’s move comes after several tourism-friendly countries like Barbados and Costa Rica began offering longer visas in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
It also comes months after the Singapore Manpower Ministry’s (MOM) move to put 47 employers (on top of 1,200 employers already being scrutinised) on a watch list as their workforce mix had too many foreigners. “We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring,” the ministry had said had said The Straits Times 47 employers placed on watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices; most from financial and professional services sectors Read more in August.
Unsurprisingly then, Singapore’s new Tech.Pass visa—limited to 500 people in the first batch starting January 2021—comes with strict requirements. To qualify, you must check the box on two out of these three criteria:
- monthly salary of at least S$20,000 (US$14,800) in the past year
- five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in a tech firm with a valuation or market capitalisation of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million funding
- five years of cumulative experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users or at least US$100 million in revenue
That description only fits high-ranking candidates from the world’s top tech firms. “There’s hardly a CEO here who would pay themselves that kind of a salary,” is a common response, especially from entrepreneurs in places like India and Indonesia.
It’s a narrow funnel. “There are, what, 10-15 unicorns a year in India? Even if you account for a wider bracket of high-networth companies, only few hundred from a population of 1.3 billion can apply, if the [Tech.Pass] criteria you read out is final,” notes Gagan Sabharwal, Senior Director, Global Trade Development at Indian trade association Nasscom.