Forum: Don't separate transnational couples in Singapore during pandemic

Immigration policies and travel restrictions brought about by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic are putting transnational families under tremendous stress.

In the last month, the Association of Women for Action and Research has seen two cases of transnational couples, made up of a Singaporean citizen and a non-resident, who are at risk of being physically separated from each other.

In both cases, the non-resident spouse has failed to secure a long-term visit pass (LTVP), and the short-term pass (30 days, renewable up to three times) the spouse is on is expiring.

This leaves them scrambling for alternatives to guarantee their stay here. If their passes expire and they fail to get an extension - granted on a case-by-case basis by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) - these migrant spouses would be forced to leave Singapore.

However, travel restrictions and the limited number of flights now make it difficult for them to even return to their home country. Those with children risk being separated from them. What should these families be expected to do in such a situation?

The ICA typically does not reveal why an LTVP application has failed. Even in non-pandemic times, this caused great uncertainty for transnational families. Without an LTVP, migrant spouses also do not have the right to work.

In these exceptional times, we call for the authorities to be more compassionate to these families. All migrant spouses of Singaporean citizens should automatically be on the Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus. Those whose passes are expiring or due for renewal during this period of strict travel restrictions should receive an automatic extension.

Chong Ning Qian

Senior Executive, Research

Association of Women for Action and Research