Staying in Singapore on visit pass

A photo illustration of a woman carrying her daughter.
A photo illustration of a woman carrying her daughter.PHOTO: ST FILE

For nearly every month since January last year, Alicia (not her real name) has been heading to Malaysia by plane or bus, and returning shortly after.

All for the sake of her five-year-old daughter.

Following her divorce in 2014, her Dependant's Pass (DP) expired in January last year, and she has been on a visit pass, which has to be renewed for her to stay in Singapore.

"ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) gives me eight to 30 days of extension, if any, depending on the reasons I have, like a date for a court case," said the 35-year-old, whose daughter is on a DP here and attends pre-school.

The court had awarded joint custody of the girl to both parents, and care and control to Alicia, which means she is responsible for the girl's daily care.

But being on a visit pass means she cannot work and has trouble renting a home.

She stayed at a friend's place for a year for free, before moving in May to a room in another friend's home in Bukit Batok with her daughter, paying $800 a month in rent.

Her applications to change her daughter's DP to a Student's Pass - for foreigners studying here - had been rejected three times.

If her daughter had a Student's Pass, Alicia could apply for a Long-Term Visit Pass to accompany her as a guardian.

"I have my daughter here and I have the care and control, but it's clearly not enough for me to extend the visa to a long-term one," she said.

Alicia, who declined to reveal her nationality for privacy reasons, alleged that her former husband - an American who is a banker on an Employment Pass - had started cheating on her in 2011. He now sees their daughter nine days a month and pays $2,000 monthly for child support. "It's so difficult to plan anything because I don't know when I will be kicked out of the country," said Alicia. She found a lawyer in May - who charges her a small fee of $300 a month - to help with legal proceedings.

"I'm still looking for a job offer but it's very difficult, especially when companies are employing only locals or permanent residents.

"I'm scared I'll lose my daughter - she's my everything. I would be glad to go back to my home country and start life all over again, but I also don't want to separate her from her father.

"So I'm totally stuck."

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Staying in S'pore on visit pass'. Print Edition | Subscribe