New measures to help
    transnational couples


   
Chnnel News Asia
October 24, 2014

By Imelda Saad


MORE measures have been introduced to help couples in which one spouse is a Singaporean and the other a foreigner to better plan for their future, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) announced on Friday, Oct 24.

From January next year, the process of applying for a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) will be revised. Couples are encouraged to jointly submit an application for a Letter of LTVP Eligibility, which will be valid for a year, before getting married. The couple can then use
the letter to support their application for an LTVP after marriage.

Under this process, the wait for the issuance of an LTVP will be reduced to up to six weeks, instead of six months or more for couples who only submit their application after marriage.

According to MSF and ICA, the joint application will "help prospective spouses have sufficient pertinent information about each
other before committing to a marriage".

Information that both sides will have to declare to receive their Letter of LTVP Eligibility includes marital history, employment status and criminal records. Completed forms will then be given to both parties.

Authorities said that this will protect both the prospective husband and wife, as well as help to mitigate the incidence of marriages of convenience - 124 people were convicted for marriage of convenience in 2013, while another 160 were convicted for false declarations.

The move will also provide greater clarity, prior to marriage, on whether the foreign spouse qualifies for a long-term stay in Singapore, based on the circumstances of the couple at the time of the LTVP application.

Mr Randolph Khoo, director of dispute resolution at Drew & Napier, said: "In a sense, one might say the state is taking on the role of
somebody assessing the future of the marriage and its viability, but I suppose it may fulfil a certain objective function, in telling the couple by not approving the eligibility, that there are perhaps some issues that hinder them from having a sustainable family life in Singapore."

The LTVP allows a foreign spouse to stay in Singapore for one year, before the pass needs to be renewed again.

Over the past five years, ICA processed about 14,600 LTVP and Long Term Visit Pass-Plus (LTVP Plus) applications each year. The LTVP Plus  is for couples with at least one Singapore citizen child from their marriage or who have been married at least three years.

EASIER FOR FOREIGN SPOUSES TO GET A JOB

It will also be easier for spouses on LTVP to seek employment. The Manpower Ministry will issue a Letter of Consent, tied to the LTVP,
to foreign spouses who want to secure employment.

Such spouses will not be counted against the foreign worker quota and employers need not fork out a foreign worker levy to hire them.

Upon the issuance of a Letter of Consent, the validity of the foreign spouse's LTVP will be extended to two years upon renewal of
the pass.

However, ICA and MSF said that marriage to a Singaporean does not automatically qualify a foreigner for a long-term stay in Singapore.

"All applications will be assessed on a set of prevailing criteria, including the ability of the Singaporean sponsor to support and look
after the family," the authorities said.

Applications are unsuccessful usually because the Singaporean spouse cannot demonstrate his or her ability to support the foreign spouse.

Foreign spouses that do not get long-term passes end up staying on a Social Visit Pass.

This latest announcement comes on the back of measures announced by MSF earlier this week. These cover pre- and post-marital workshops for transnational couples. Both workshops will be mandatory for a small selected group of couples deemed vulnerable as part of their LTVP application process.

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