EMPLOYERS applying for work passes for foreigners using tertiary qualifications from China will soon have to show proof that the certificates are real.

This is the latest move to crack down on the use of false educational certificates, after the law was changed last year to make it a standalone offence.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on its website that from Feb 4 this year, a clear copy of a "verification proof" must be provided when applying for or renewing passes of workers with a diploma or higher qualifications from China.

This applies to workers brought in on an Employment Pass, S Pass, or Training Employment Pass.

Applications for work permits, which are for less-skilled workers, are not affected.

Last year, 52 foreigners were convicted of false declaration of academic qualifications, down from 110 in 2011.

The MOM did not say if past cases disproportionately involved qualifications from China.

It said it has taken the latest step "to further ensure the authenticity of the qualifications presented by a potential foreign employee at the point of application".

This is "an extension of verification checks by employers", added the MOM, because bosses have already been checking the certificates of their skilled workers.

Mr Teo Siong Seng, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, agreed that this is a common practice when looking to hire staff.

But he felt that requiring proof only for qualifications from one country "may create a certain double standard". Faked qualifications can come from various countries, he added.

The MOM said that the requirement was introduced for qualifications obtained in China "as there are already established channels" there which employers can use to verify the qualifications in question.

On its website, the MOM notes three such channels. These include the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Centre, an institution directly under China's Ministry of Education.

The MOM said it will also explore identifying similar verification channels for qualifications from other countries.

Mr Thomas Ting, managing director of security equipment company TJ Systems, said that firms can also carry out their own checks - as his has done when hiring workers from China. "We get them to tell us which university they went to and then we check with the place directly."

Even for small and medium-sized enterprises, this is "not very difficult", added Mr Ting, a member of the executive council of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Those who submit fake educational certificates when applying for a work pass can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to two years, or both. Employers may also be barred from hiring foreign workers.

Workers are presumed to have known that forged certificates were submitted for them, unless they can prove otherwise.