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Industry-Specific Business Licenses in Singapore

Depending on the type of business activities your company conducts, you may need a business license before you can start business operations in Singapore in strict compliance with Singapore laws.

Before you obtain a license

Before obtaining a  business license in Singapore, you should note the following points:

  • Business licenses in Singapore are issued only to registered companies. This means that your company must be registered with accounting and corporate regulatory authority before it can apply for Singapore business license.
  • Operating a business without a license is a punishable offense under Singapore laws. All businesses are therefore advised to carefully check the licensing requirements and get appropriate licenses to avoid any adverse legal consequences.
  • Not all business types in Singapore require licensing in order to do business in Singapore. Even if your business falls under one of the below-mentioned industries, whether or not you need license may depend on your service offerings, areas of service and business revenues. 

Consult Precursor, your expert business advisory, and find us at Precursor now.

To help you determine whether your business needs licensing as well as the accompanying requirements, please look through the description of the most popular industries as follows.

For more information on going about applying for business licenses in Singapore, visit

Import and Export Permit in Singapore

Singapore permits the import and export of non-controlled goods without any licensing requirements. However, for the trading of controlled goods, you will require a relevant import/export permit license relating to the goods you are dealing in, issued by the specific governing agency. Examples of controlled goods include cigarettes and tobacco products, drugs, petrochemicals, animals and food products. The list of controlled goods as detailed down by Singapore Customs is comprehensive. For more information, please refer to this link. Here you can find a whole list of goods that are controlled or prohibited. Do read through the list first before you decide to start a trading business in Singapore.

Business license in Singapore for Retail Business

Business Licensing requirements for retail shops vary depending on the nature of goods and services being sold. Following are the licenses required under Retail:

  • Tobacco Retail License, issued by the Health Sciences Authority, for the retail of tobacco products.
  • Liquor License issued by the Liquor Licensing Board for retail of liquor.
  • Telecommunication Dealer License issued by Info-comm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore for the manufacture, import, hire, sale, offer or possession for sale of any approved telecommunication equipment or equipment set out in the First Schedule of the Telecommunication (Dealers) Regulations.
  • Pet Shop License issued by the AVA, if you intend to use a premise for the display, sale or export of pets. You do not need a pet shop license if you are only selling pet accessories or only engaging in pet grooming activities.
  • Wholesale Dealer’s License for Chinese Proprietary Medicine (CPM) issued by the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore (HSA) under the Medicines Act to allow the companies to import Chinese Proprietary Medicines (CPM). The CPM must be listed and approved for sale in Singapore prior to importation.
  • Retail pharmacy license issued by HSA for pharmacies or drugstores.
  • Cosmetic Products Notification under the guidance of HSA for retail of cosmetic products.

Singapore business licensing requirements for construction business

There are several permits, approvals, and licenses that are required for setting up a construction company in Singapore. In addition to this, if such a company employs workers from other countries, one needs to apply to the Ministry of Manpower for work permits in order to hire foreign laborers.

Singapore business license for Hotels

Several licenses and permits are required for setting up and running hotels or boarding houses in Singapore. 

Apart from getting the licensing and approval from the Hotels Licensing Board, Separate permits or licenses would have to be obtained for activities such as: organizing ad-hoc entertainment, playing copyrighted music or videos, running a spa, selling tobacco products, operating a swimming pool, etc.

Singapore Business license requirements for Spa

A Massage Establishment License is required in order to offer massage services, foot reflexology services, manicure treatments, spa baths or other similar treatments.

Singapore Business licensing requirements for Employment Agency

For any business that involves recruitment and job placement services for other employers, an Employment Agency License is required from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore before such a business can commence.

Employment agencies include head-hunting firms, executive search companies, foreign domestic worker agencies, local and foreign staffing companies, construction worker agencies, online jobs portals, nanny-placing agencies and so on.

Singapore business licensing requirements for travel agency

Businesses that involve arranging and selling of travel or tour packages will need to apply for a Travel Agent’s License with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The license is required if your business falls within Section 4 of the Travel Agents Act (Cap. 334) as below:

  • selling tickets entitling an individual to travel, or otherwise arranging for a person a right of passage on any conveyance. A Travel Agency License is not required if the conveyance is owned by the company.
  • facilitating a person’s ability to travel by selling or arranging transport tickets, hotel accommodation and foreign visas to destinations outside and within Singapore. A Travel Agency License is not required if the mode of transport and the place of accommodation is owned by the company.
  • purchasing for resale the right of passage on any conveyance
  • arranging or conducting tours within or outside Singapore
  • hold yourself out as or advertising that you are willing to carry on any activity referred to in the previous points.

Business license in Singapore for Medical Clinic

There are three essential types of licenses needed in order to operate a medical clinic in Singapore.

The Medical Clinic Licenses are compulsory for any Health Care institutes, and licenses for dealing with hazardous chemicals, the usage of irradiating equipment or purchase of certain medicinal products are also needed. Lastly, licenses and approvals to carry out medical procedures will also be required.

Business license in Singapore for Food and Beverage Business

All food related businesses in Singapore are required to have a Food Shop License from the National Environment Agency (NEA), which will conduct an inspection prior to issuing a license. Other related licenses that you may need or want to apply additionally are:

  • Halal Certification issued by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS)
  • Liquor Licence issued by the Liquor Licensing Board for the retail sale of liquor, including beer. Different types of licenses are issued depending on whether consumption is on or off premises.
  • Tobacco Retail License, issued by the Health Sciences Authority, for the retail of tobacco products.
  • For operating a central kitchen you may require Factory Registration and a License to Operate a Meat or Fish Processing Establishment or Cold Store, issued by the AVA.
  • License for Importing Food Ingredients? If you intend to import processed food products and food appliances, you need to apply for several licenses with the Food Control Division (FCD) of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Singapore business licenses for Real Estate Agency

Given the rising importance of Singapore’s real estate industry, a new statutory board was set up in 2010 to better regulate the industry and raise professional standards in the interest of consumers. The new framework has enhanced the licensing of real estate agencies, introduced a compulsory registration of real estate agents since 2011 and established new industry regulations.

Singapore business license for Event Management Business

Event management companies that are in the business of organizing various types of events will have to obtain one or more licenses depending on the event or activity being organized. Examples of such licenses include Arts Entertainment License, Copyright Permit, Public Entertainment License, Trade Fair Permit, Animal Exhibition License, etc.

Singapore Business licensing requirements for Educational Institutes

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

Singapore business licenses for Publishing Business

A publishing business publishes written materials such as books, magazines, newspapers and any sort of periodical. The Newspaper Permit and Printing Press License are the two primary licenses that are required for anyone wanting to start a publishing business in Singapore.

In summary, as there are quite a number of industries that require licenses/permits to be obtained, it's advisable to seek help from a professional business advisory consultancy firm to avoid any delays in the commencement of business and to prevent adverse consequences in the future.

At Precursor, we have industry experts who have served top companies and multinationals for their business compliance requirements in Singapore, to find out more please visit us on our website now.

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