Parliament: Changes to overseas trip notification rules, more courses for servicemen

As of yesterday, operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) no longer need to notify the authorities of overseas travel that is less than six months.

Other changes announced in Parliament: More SkillsFuture courses will be made available to boost the employability of national servicemen, and the men will be able to access and share photos of themselves and their buddies to foster stronger bonds.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How revealed these changes during a debate yesterday on the Ministry of Defence's (Mindef) annual budget.

"Securing Singapore's freedom is a sacred duty shouldered by our national servicemen. It is only right that we continually think of ways to support them," Mr Heng said.

One such way is to remove the need for NSmen to notify Mindef or the Home Team of their overseas travel and give their contact information before leaving Singapore for trips of less than six months. Previously, NSmen were required to give notification for trips longer than 14 days but less than six months.

Mr Heng said the change will not compromise operational readiness as there are other exit control measures in place, and such measures could be tightened if the need arises. These measures include how servicemen are still required to apply for an exit permit before travelling overseas for six months or longer. Those on operational and mobilisation manning need to seek permission from the units before travelling overseas.

"Our national servicemen have to balance personal and NS commitments, and we must strive to increase convenience for them by reducing administrative burdens wherever possible. This will help them focus on their training," said Mr Heng.

 
 

He also said full-time national servicemen (NSFs) will be able to subscribe to about 3,000 courses with the $350 in credits given to each of them.

Currently, NSFs can use their credits to subscribe to about 200 online courses offered by local universities and polytechnics.

The wider selection of courses, planned to be introduced by the middle of this year, will include SkillsFuture courses that focus on emerging domains such as data analytics and cyber security.

These e-Prep (Electronic Pre-Release Employment Programme) credits are valid for up to one year after NSFs complete full-time national service.

Mr Heng said a new initiative called NS Memories, which will be trialled for three months, will allow national servicemen to access photos of themselves with fellow servicemen throughout their national service cycle, doing activities such as training. These photos can be downloaded and shared on their personal social media accounts.

Another change allows NSmen with certain expertise to contribute in those areas earlier in their NS training cycle.

Previously, those with "niche civilian expertise" that is also relevant in military settings, such as nursing and infocommunications, had to complete the full 10-year training cycle.

Now, they could be deployed to roles such as nursing and being network communication officers after completing two high-key in-camp training sessions and having served five years in operationally ready national service, said Mr Heng.

Lim Min Zhang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'Changes to overseas trip notification rules, more courses for servicemen'. Print Edition | Subscribe