Forum: Relax exit permit rules for NSmen further

With the upcoming easing of exit permit rules, operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) will need to apply for an exit permit only when they will be overseas for at least 12 months, instead of the current six months (NSmen going overseas need to apply for exit permit only for trips of 12 months or longer, Feb 27).

I appreciate this change, but more could be done to ensure NSmen are not hampered by their in-camp training obligations. 

Currently, exit permits are granted for three categories: full-time overseas studies, full-time overseas employment – for which you must hold a work visa and contract – and holding permanent residency overseas. While this covers the majority of NSmen overseas, it leaves out two groups: digital nomads and backpackers. 

Digital nomads are not in one location long enough to establish residency, hence they are not likely to hold permanent residency in any country. Many are self-employed. It is usually not feasible for those in far-flung destinations to fly back to Singapore for in-camp training due to the long flights and high costs. 

This is also the case for Singaporean backpackers travelling around the world in distant destinations for more than a year.

Singaporean men are subject to operationally ready national service duty until they are 40, or 50 for officers. This will make it harder for digital nomads and backpackers to spend a long period outside Singapore until they are older.

Relaxing the exit permit rules further would allow these NSmen to gain global exposure, while still being able to fulfil their national service obligations after they return.

Arjun Nikhil Sriram

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