Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples

Posed photo of a married couple. PHOTO: ST FILE

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline Don't separate foreigner-Singaporean couples. Subscribe