Spa Businesses Licenses and Permits

The spa and massage facet of the total wellness industry in Singapore has shown unprecedented growth in the past few years. Fighting against a dip in the economy—it is one of the few industries that has resiliently continued to flourish despite less hospitable conditions.

Considering that the economy is now booming again, there has been no ceasing when it comes to the yield earned by businesses, both established and up-and-coming. This may be due to the fact that more and more clients are willing to spend hundreds (and even thousands) of dollars on luxurious treatments with extravagant inclusions. Buying packages, spa retreats and more has developed into a habit for the middle to upper class.

In order to break into this sector of the wellness industry, you must first secure the following licenses/permits:

Massage Establishment License

If a business intends to open to offer massage services, reflexology, nail salon services and others, the business must first secure a license according to the Massage Establishment Act.  These are the licenses you may apply for:

  • Category I – Establishments with this type can operate without strict hours of operation, age restrictions, and are allowed to employ foreign professionals, technicians and the like. Requirements include:
    1. Minimum paid-up capital of S$50,000 in rental, renovation or asset costs
    2. 80% or more of the technicians and therapists must be licensed according to the ME Act.
    3. One of the following – the location for the establishment is at least 100 SQM or the lease for the rented location is a minimum of 2 years
    4. Accreditation from CaseTrust
  • Category II – Establishments which obtain this type of license must be situated away from residential areas, schools and hospitals, these establishments can only employ Singapore and Malaysian citizens and residents.
    1. Requirements for the premises must be met (e.g. no locks on doors which lead to areas for administering services, all staff rooms must have “No Entry” signage, clear segregation of male and female areas)
    2. Company uniform which has to be worn, also needs to be approved by PLRD
    3. Employees providing massage services must go for a compulsory medical health screening before they can be registered with the PLRD.
    4. The shop should have a minimum 2-year lease or have a floor area of at least 100m2.
    5. Accreditation by CaseTrust

If you wish to apply for a Cat I license, you may submit an ‘Upgrade’ application after meeting the Cat I requirements and have obtained the Case Trust Accreditation.

  • Provisional Category (Cat) I Massage Establishment (ME) – This is a temporary license for new MEs that wish to attain the Cat I ME license but will take approximately 6 months to obtain the CaseTrust[1] Establishments with this license can operate at places including shophouses, HDB neighbourhood centres, private shopping centres, commercial complexes and hotels.
    1. The establishment should have a capital investment of at least S$50 000 in renovation costs, assets or rental
    2. One of the following – the location for the establishment is at least 100 SQM or the lease for the rented location is a minimum of 2 years
    3. Letter of Acceptance by CaseTrust
    4. Foreign nationals can be employed on the condition that they are approved by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department

You should ensure that regardless of the category, your employees should have the necessary work permits whether they are locals or are foreign nationals. They should also be approved by the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department (PLRD). Your employees should also wear a company uniform. At least 80% of your massage service employees need to have the certification recognized by PLRD.

However, some exceptions are allowed to operate without the massage establishment license. These include:

  • Establishments offering curative massages or treatments done by a licensed physiotherapist or occupational therapist, or a registered Traditional Chinese Medicine administrator.
  • A massage and spa establishment that offers services in full view of customers (i.e. no rooms, curtains or partitions are in use which block or otherwise make services “private”).
  • An establishment that only offers tanning services. These services must only be administered through a self-operated machine. Additional rooms or private quarters not used for the administration of tanning services must not be available either.
  • Employees administering the services are decently dressed

With effect from March 2018, services such as manicure, pedicure, light treatment, electric treatment, vapour treatment, baths, etc will no longer be regulated under the Massage Establishments Act.

The application fee is about SGD 525. The average time for processing license applications is 12 working days. A Massage Establishment License is valid for up to 1 year only and must be renewed after that time period.

[1] Government appointed accreditation body to ensure good service practices within the company.

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