5 things to know about Singapore’s new border restriction categories

Singapore is introducing four border restriction categories from 21 August 2021. Here's how it affects you.

As part of its gradual reopening, Singapore has introduced vaccination-differentiated border measures for travellers. 

Countries and regions will be classified into four categories, based on their vaccination rates and number of new COVID-19 cases. Category I is the lowest risk, while Category IV is the highest. Certain countries will also fall into a special VTL category, namely Germany and Brunei. 

Singapore Border Restriction Categories

Here’s a summary of Singapore’s revised border restriction categories by country, which take effect from 20 August 2021, 2359 hours (effectively 21 August 2021).

🛂Singapore Border Restriction by Category
  Cat. I Cat. II Cat. III Cat. IV VTL
Short-term visitors
Application required ATP Details on ICA website VTP
Pre-departure PCR test


On-arrival PCR test
7 days

14 days

14 days
ART during SHN N/A
Day 3, 7, 11

Day 3, 7, 11
Post-SHN PCR test N/A
Day 7

Day 14

Day 14
No SHN. PCR test on Day 3, 7
Cat I: Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China (ex-Jiangsu), New Zealand, Taiwan
Cat II: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, Mainland China (Jiangsu)
Cat III: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland
Cat IV: All other countries/regions
VTL (from Sept 8): Germany, Brunei

A few important points to note.

(1) It’s all about the past 21 days

It’s not just about the country you boarded your flight to Singapore from; it’s about where you’ve been in the past 21 consecutive days. 

For example, a Bangkok resident would not be able to travel to Frankfurt, then onwards to Singapore without SHN unless he/she stays 21 consecutive days within Germany. 

This does not mean your trips must be at least 21 days long! Someone who travels from Singapore to Germany for five days is still eligible for an SHN waiver upon return, provided his/her 21 day history comprises just Singapore and Germany. 

Making a false travel history declaration on your arrival card is a serious offence. Don’t be daft. 

(2) Connecting flights may affect your category

It follows from the above point that taking a connecting flight changes the equation. 

For example, someone flying from Frankfurt to Singapore via Doha on Qatar Airways would be subject to a 14-day SHN upon arrival. That’s because your 21-day history includes Germany (Category II) and Qatar (Category IV), and the most restrictive rules apply. 

Those originating from lower category countries would therefore be advised not to transit in higher category ones. 

(3) The special case of Germany and Brunei

Germany and Brunei are unique in that they fall into two headings: Category II and VTL. Travellers are free to choose which scheme they enter under. 


Travellers entering under the VTL scheme will need to:

  • Book a designated VTL flight
  • Take a pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test within 48 hours of their flight to Singapore
  • Take a post-arrival PCR test at Changi Airport (S$160)
  • Take a PCR test on Day 3 and Day 7 after arriving in Singapore (S$94.16 each)

There is no SHN for VTL travellers upon arrival. After their on-arrival test is completed, they will head directly to their declared self-isolation accommodation and wait for the results (usually within 24 hours). If they test negative, they can go outside and carry on with life as normal.

A further PCR test will be done on Day 3 and Day 7 at a designated clinic (no self-isolation required for either of these). All in all, travellers will do four PCR tests.

VTL flights are shown below. Be sure to read my detailed post on the VTL travel process as well.

VTL from Germany to Singapore
Flights Days
0705 (+1)
VTL from Brunei to Singapore
Flights Days

Category II

Arrivals from Germany and Brunei who do not take VTL flights will be classified as Category II travellers. They will then be subject to:

  • A PCR test on arrival at Changi Airport (S$160)
  • A 7-day SHN, either in a hotel or their place of residence
  • A PCR test on the 7th day of their SHN (S$125)

They will do two PCR tests in total, since there is no requirement for a pre-departure or Day 3 test in this case. 

If you want to avoid additional PCR tests and can work from home (you will need a separate bedroom and toilet, as per regulations), then you might deliberately take a non-VTL flight. 

(4) Vaccinated status only counts in certain situations

  Fully Vaccinated Partially Vaccinated/ Unvaccinated
VTL No SHN Not allowed
Category I No SHN
Category II 7-day SHN
Category III 14-day SHN
14-day SHN
Category IV 14-day SHN

For Category I, II and IV, there is no differentiation between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers. All will be subject to the same measures.

Vaccination status matters for the VTL (which is only for fully vaccinated individuals), and Category III where fully vaccinated individuals have the option of serving their 14-day SHN at home instead of in a hotel. 

(5) Look out for Category III countries

🌏 Current Border Categorisation
Cat I: Hong Kong, Macau, China (ex-Jiangsu), New Zealand, Taiwan
Cat II: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, China (Jiangsu)
Cat III: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland
Cat IV: All other countries
VTL (from Sept 8): Germany, Brunei

While Category I countries are not subject to an SHN, none of them are accepting short-term visitors from Singapore. Likewise, within Category II only Germany is a realistic option (and even then, it’s preferable to enter via the VTL scheme). 

If you really want to travel but aren’t keen on Germany, keep an eye on the Category III list. This comprises places deemed to be at “higher risk” of COVID-19 infections, but not as high as Category IV. If things play out well, they could be candidates for moving into Category II or the VTL list. 

COVID-19 has proven unpredictable, but I’d be surprised if Japan, Switzerland, and South Korea don’t get upgraded in the next couple of months (whether they allow Singapore residents in is a separate matter).

Likewise, Canada (already Category II) plans to open its borders to vaccinated travellers from 7 September 2021- but keep in mind there are no direct flights from Singapore. This matters more on the return leg to Singapore, where you’ll want transit in a Category I or II country. 


More destinations soon? | Photo: Changi Airport

Singapore’s vaccination-differentiated border measures are subject to change, depending on how the vaccination and COVID-19 situation evolves in the country or region. Based on past circumstances, they’ve typically provided at least 48 hours notice of changes, which should be sufficient for a speedy return if required. 

Two -way quarantine-free travel is dependent on more countries getting added to the VTL list (more likely), or Category I countries opening to Singapore residents (less likely).

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Hey Aaron, I am curious what happens if you transit through a category 1 country to/fro Germany, eg. via CX through HK on the way back to SG, do you still need to do SHN since both VTL and Cat 1 does not need SHN

Last edited 2 years ago by JW19

Wonder what happens if you travel CX a to Germany (not VTL) and on the VTL flight back from Germany. Technically on arrival in sg you cannot declare 21 days history only in sg / Germany yet HK is a cat 1 country

Happy Camper

Making a false travel history declaration on your arrival card is a serious offence. Don’t be daft.”

I’m lovin’ this! 😄

Although.. I’ve actually no doubt in my mind there will be idiots from both SG and EU that would pull a stunt like that… sadly…


Thanks, I think needs a small correction on CAT II 7 days SHN, “only individuals with identical travel histories can stay with you during this period” is not true. It is clearly mentioned in SHN guide that “If sharing a place of residence with others, stay in your own room at all times, and use a dedicated toilet. ” https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/files/MOH-Health-Advisory-SHN.pdf I think only those 14 days SHN-DF but opt-out scenarios, you cannot stay with other house members unless they travelled together. I am preparing to return from Australia, hence I have monitored the situation closely and studied all the details, while… Read more »


oh? this is nice.. means I can serve the SHN with a travel buddy!


Just wondering if they might revise germany to cat I after Oct or Nov…


No way. Cat I is reserved for covid-zero countries and regions.



re Cat IV, I thought this was only SHN at SDF, you can’t fly to the UK and return with SHN at home? Or did i miss something?


Thanks Aaron – appreciate your quick response on your articles over the last 24 hours, appreciate there is a lot of news!


Hello Aaron, I’d like to check if you have any insight regarding the terms that says “They must have been fully vaccinated in their country of departure or Singapore.” found on this article: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/fully-vaccinated-travellers-can-travel-to-germany-and-back-without-serving-shn?utm_medium=social&utm_source=telegram&utm_campaign=sttg

Does this mean that to travel between Germany – Singapore, one needs to be vaccinated in either Germany / Singapore and not anywhere else? E.g. if one was vaccinated in another country, stays in Germany / Singapore for 21 days, this VTL will not apply?


Yes, they clarified that in yesterday’s press conference.


Thank you very much for the clarification Aaron and Michael! Appreciate it 🙂


You can kind of rationalise this requirement as a means to control for the fact that there are open borders in Europe. While it is not bullet proof, it can help minimise the risk that a potential VTL passenger might have spent less than the 21 days in Germany.


Dear Aaron,
A question to seek your advise. Depart Spore to Germany and return. Singaporean and in the country for past 18 mths. Reached Germany and stayed 13 days before going back to Spore via VTL. I am not 21 consecutive days in Germany. Can I still be exempted from SHN? Confused on 21 days. Tks a lot for help.


Not Aaron, but the answer is yes. As mentioned in the article:

This does not mean your trips must be at least 21 days long! Someone who travels from Singapore to Germany for five days is still eligible for an SHN waiver upon return, provided his/her 21 day history comprises just Singapore and Germany.


I wonder how would the US be categorised ? State by state or the whole country lumped together as one? We know different states have very vast differences in their pandemic fight situation


As I dissect the rule, there seems to be a difference between VTL and Category II in terms of place for isolation. With VTL you can effectively “SHN at home” until your negative test result is out. You can do this in the same home even with people who don’t share the same travel history, as long as you have a vacant room with its own toilet. But with Category II – regular SHN rules apply if you want to do it at home. You can’t have others in the same home who don’t share the same travel history, so… Read more »


Managed to get through to ICA. They say the SHN rule for Category II are not defined, so clarified that you can mix with other people in the same residence even if you don’t have the same travel history. They only have that mixing prohibition for Category III and worse.


HK is accepting vaccinated tourists from Singapore (with 14 day quarantine)


Vaccinated and still 14 days quarantine, are they attracting medical tourist?


Japan is getting out of hand.. wont open for awhile.. now daily 20+k cases and state of emergency just extended..


How much is a 7 day SHN? Mind sharing some links too so people can compare?

4 tests alone about 600.. add another 100+ for your 24 hours hotel stay and its 700+ alr.. how does it compare to to SHN pricing.


I’m surprised that transit makes a difference. Legally you don’t enter the country if you stay airside, so it seems strange to treat FRA-DOH-SIN differently from FRA-SIN.

Anyone you encounter in any of the transit airports will likely be tested, if not for the airline then for their destination.

Has anyone heard the reasoning behind it? Just curious.


by right you can exit and explore the country during a long transit. so how will they know you stayed “sterile airside”

also, the country itself has many cases. Many boarding may not be “covid-free”


But wait, how does covid get to airside without valid tickets and identification? They won’t get through security!


Urm, airport staff?

R0 = 8

Fully vaccinated recently infected passenger.


Probably they see the flight DOH-SIN also increasing the risk, as could be seated next to people from super high risk zones.

On a VTL flight from Frankfurt you don’t have that risk.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bruno
SQ Flyer

This has nothing to do with legal or national borders or even air freedom arrangements. As others have pointed out, transit flights are typically non-sterile (neither in terms of air travel nor medically), and the virus is a physical threat. A non-stop flight removes that third-country risk entirely, as is expected within a travel lane.


But do you know which route the virus is on? Maybe it is going to DOH but not towards SIN

SQ Flyer

On a highway to hell, certainly.


Can unvaccinated children under the age of 12 serve their SHN at home under categories II and III?


Interestingly enough, Germany is currently going through the start of a 4th wave but has a vaccination rate (both doses) of 57%. However, I am sure SIN gov knew the trends before launching the VTL scheme, yet decided to go ahead based on the vaccination rates in both countries. Unless things reverse, I am cautiously optimistic as well that other countries from Cat III might be added to VTL eventually (e.g. Switzerland is perhaps 3-4 weeks behind Germany when it comes to vaccination rates).