SINGAPORE - Couples planning to tie the knot can soon choose to complete the steps needed to file for marriage online, such as verification of documents and the necessary declarations, on a new Web portal instead of doing it in person.
The new Registry of Marriages (ROM) portal, called Our Marriage Journey, will also provide information and resources to help couples prepare for marriage, among other functions.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said in Parliament on Monday (Jan 10) that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that certain processes, such as verification of documents, can be digitalised.
Currently, couples must make a statutory declaration of certain matters, such as that they are not already married, before a Commissioner for Oaths.
Under the amendments to the Women's Charter, which were passed on Monday, they no longer have to do so. They only have to make the declaration in a prescribed form online.
However, the consequences of a false declaration, among other things, will be similar to those of a statutory declaration.
Couples can still solemnise their unions in person, but they will also be able to do so through a video link, an option introduced during the circuit breaker in May 2020 that will be made permanent.
The registrar at the ROM can also cancel a couple's application to marry if the official is satisfied that there is a good reason to do so under the amendments to the Women's Charter, Ms Sun said.
In December last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development piloted a programme where solemnisers mentor newly-weds in their first year of marriage. The Journey With You (Joy) programme started with 20 solemnisers.
Ms Sun said: "Many licensed solemnisers develop good relationships with the couples and have a wealth of helpful tips."
Religious ceremonies relating to the marriage can also be held before, during or after the solemnisation, as the ROM has received appeals on the matter, she added.
Currently, such religious rites can be held only after the solemnisation.
The amendments to the Women's Charter also include updating the safeguards to ensure that the sanctity marriage is not abused.
Ms Sun said: "We do not want to be a marriage hub for marriages where neither party has any nexus to Singapore, as it could compromise the ROM's ability to carry out its due diligence and inadvertently undermine the significance of marriage."
She said the ROM wants to be able to continue doing its checks that couples "have the capacity to marry and are entering into a marriage willingly and in good faith".
Currently, those who are not Singaporeans or permanent residents can marry here as long as one partner has been in Singapore for 15 days before filing the notice of marriage.
But with the amendments, at least one partner must be in Singapore for 31 continuous days before they can file for marriage. This will prevent couples where both partners are on short-term visit passes, which are valid for up to 30 days, from marrying here.
Ms Sun said: "Nonetheless for exceptional cases, the registrar will be empowered to waive this requirement should he or she be satisfied there is good reason to do so."
The amendments are expected to come into effect in the later half of the year.