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Response to "Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples" (ST, 17 May 2019), "Don't consider only salary when granting PR status" (ST, 20 May 2019), "Singapore shouldn't lose out on talented foreign spouses" (ST, 22 May 2019)

The Straits Times
28 May 2019

Help available for foreign spouses of Singaporeans

We refer to the letters from Ms Lim Wen Ting (Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples, May 17), Madam Pham Thi Ngoc Anh (Don't consider only salary when granting PR status, May 20) and Mr Harry Chia (Singapore shouldn't lose out on talented foreign spouses, May 22).

The Government is committed to supporting Singaporeans' aspirations for marriage and families.

To help prospective Singaporean-foreigner couples plan their future, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) introduced the Pre-Marriage Long-Term Visit Pass Assessment (PMLA) in 2015.

This provides prospective foreign spouses of Singaporeans greater clarity on their eligibility for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP).

Such couples are strongly encouraged to go through the PMLA before marriage.

To further support the foreign spouse's stay in Singapore, ICA also introduced the Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus scheme (LTVP+).

Foreign spouses of Singaporeans are eligible for LTVP+ if they have been married for at least three years, or have a Singaporean child (or are expecting one), among other criteria. The LTVP+ is of longer validity, and provides healthcare subsidies for inpatient services at a level similar to permanent residents, and other features.

Foreign spouses who are granted an LTVP or LTVP+ will be able to take up employment in Singapore without the need for work passes, and foreign worker quotas and levies will not apply to them.

Others, of course, may be eligible for work passes on their own merits, and if they find, or already have, employment in Singapore, can remain here.

The foreign spouse can subsequently apply for permanent residence (PR) or Singapore citizenship (SC).

Likewise, the granting of PR or SC will depend on a range of factors, including the stability and length of the marriage.

At the same time, ICA has increased the penalties for sham marriages, to deter foreigners from using this as a means to obtain immigration facilities in Singapore.

For this reason, and also to ensure that those whom we welcome to stay in Singapore are positive additions to our society, we consider all applications for long-term stay very carefully.

The specific criteria or grounds for accepting or rejecting applications cannot be made known publicly, to prevent attempts to game the system.

Visit the ICA website at www.ica.gov.sg for more information.

Brenda Tham
Deputy Head, Public & Internal Communications
Corporate Communications Division
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority

<Original Letters>

The Straits Times
22 May 2019

Singapore shouldn't lose out on talented foreign spouses

Singapore ought to approve long-term visit passes or permanent residency for qualified foreign spouses of Singaporeans (Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples, May 17).

If there is such a foreigner who is a graduate and wants to settle down in Singapore, surely such a person should be given a chance to contribute to the economy and start a family here.

The alternative could be Singapore losing two talented individuals to another country.

Yes, there are sham marriages, but with our network and technology, these can be identified relatively easily.

While I understand that we must control the number of incoming foreigners to protect local graduates, we must also be flexible to those who are married to Singaporeans.

First World countries like Canada or Australia give automatic permanent residency to foreigners married to their citizens. Singapore should consider doing the same.

Harry Chia

++++

The Straits Times
20 May 2019

Don't consider only salary when granting PR status

I can understand the struggles that foreigner-Singaporean couples living separately must be going through (Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples, by Ms Lim Wen Ting, May 17).

 

I have been living in Singapore since I gave birth to my only child in 2012, and he is now in Primary 1. He is a Singaporean and is liable for national service. When my son turned four, I went to work while my husband shouldered most of the childcare responsibilities.

In the beginning, I took on any job I could find, even though I am a university graduate. These included working in a bakery and as a cook.

I had hoped that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) would grant me a Long-Term Visit Pass of at least three years. But this remains elusive and has scuppered any hope of us having more children.

More recently, I started applying for permanent residency and have already been rejected twice.

It is my hope that the ICA will recognise that other factors are equally, if not more, important than one's monthly salary when considering granting PR status to eligible applicants. I also urge the authorities to keep Singaporean families together.

Pham Thi Ngoc Anh

+++++

The Straits Times
17 May 2019

Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples

In Singapore, there is an unspoken problem - foreign spouses of citizens face difficulties in being able to stay with their spouses here.

When such a couple register their marriage in Singapore, it is made clear to them that being married to a Singaporean does not mean the foreign spouse has the right to stay in the country.

This sets a bitter tone at the start of the marriage.

Currently, it seems there are no clear criteria for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) that is approved by the authorities.

Without an LTVP, a foreign spouse cannot stay and work in Singapore and this leads to more financial difficulties for the couple.

It is also very difficult for the couple to purchase a Housing Board flat or have children.

Being forced to live separately is likely to lead to strained marriages among such couples.

For couples who decide to have children with no guarantee of an LTVP for the foreign spouse, this could mean a cruel separation of families and children growing up without their mother or father.

In other First World countries, it is almost unheard of that foreign spouses or parents are unable to get the documentation to live with their spouses and children, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, like having a criminal record.

While there may be cases of foreigners from poorer countries getting into a sham marriage with Singaporeans in a bid to live in the Republic, the rest of the foreigner-citizen couples here should not be punished as a result of these black sheep.

The penalty for fake marriages should be increased to prevent them from happening.

However, tightening immigration controls on all foreign spouses is unfair to innocent couples.

Some suggestions would be to have separate categories of visas for foreign spouses and parents, and to have more transparent processes to facilitate the process for a foreign spouse to gain residency in Singapore, especially those with children.

After all, these foreign spouses are parents of Singapore citizens.

Lim Wen Ting