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Singapore Citizenship - Benefits and Drawbacks

There are several benefits of becoming a Singapore Citizen – the ease of travelling with a Singapore passport and benefits in education, health-care, housing and employment. There are certain disadvantages as well, like denouncing your home country citizenship and mandatory National Service for two years in certain cases.

Singapore is considered as one of the best cities in Asia to live in. It is safe, environment friendly and westernised. It ranks high in most of the World Rankings and reports and is said to have a high quality of living. These factors among others attract many of us to Singapore, often on a long term basis. Consequently, many of us toy with the question of whether or not to secure Singapore Citizenship. This guide compares the pros and cons of becoming a Singapore citizen.

Advantages of Singapore Citizenship

Singapore Passport Travel Freedom

Singapore Passport holders have very few travel restrictions around the world. A Singapore Passport holder enjoys liberal visa requirements especially while travelling to destinations like the USA. It is a known fact that immigration often tends to clear Singapore passport holders more quickly.

According to the Henley Visa Restrictions Index, 2016 – a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom (visa free access) their citizens enjoy – Singapore ranked 5th in the study, proving the high degree of travel freedom its citizens enjoy.

Employment Rewards

Most companies prefer to hire citizens or PR’s than foreigners. In addition to general mentality, the advantage for employers is that there is less paperwork, formalities and expenses involved.

Housing

Only Singapore citizens (over 21 years of age) are eligible to buy and rent apartments from the HDB – Housing & Development Board. These include subsidised 2 room (i.e 1 bdrm + living room), 3 room (2 bdrm + 1 living room), 4 room (3 bdrm + living room), 5 room (4 bdrm + living room) and executive flats. Singapore citizens are also eligible to buy subsidised executive condos and studio apartments developed by the HDB.

Citizens can also enjoy the unique benefit of obtaining loans, at a concessionary interest rate, from the HDB to fund their housing. In addition, Singapore citizens who are first time buyers of government-built flats can enjoy housing subsidies such as the housing grant. The CPF Housing Grant is a subsidy (up to SGD 40,000) provided by the Government to assist eligible households (who on satisfying certain eligibility criteria) to buy a HDB flat.

Only a Singapore citizen is eligible to rent a subsidised flat from the HDB, once he has satisfied other eligibility criteria.

When HDB flats are being upgraded by the Government, Citizens pay only a fraction of the costs while Permanent Residents have to incur the entire cost.

While citizens can buy any type of private residential property, Permanent Residents must first seek approval from the Ministry of Law if they want to buy landed property. Listed below is a brief overview of various features for each type of resident.

Citizens PR’s Foreigners
Purchase of subsidised new flats from HDB Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Purchase of resale HDB flats Eligible Eligible (Subject to HDB’s Eligibility schemes) Not Eligible
Rental of subsidised flats from HDB Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Rental of a room/flat from home owners Eligible Eligible Eligible
Purchase of non-landed property- private apartments/condos Eligible Eligible Eligible
Purchase of landed property – bungalows, terrace housing Eligible Eligible (Subject to approval from Ministry of law) Not Eligible
Rental of landed and non-landed property Eligible Eligible Eligible
CPF Housing Grant Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Main Upgrading Subsidy and concessionary interest rate for payment of upgrading cost Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Mortgage loans from HDB at a concessionary interest rate Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Mortgage loans from banks Eligible Eligible Not Eligible
Note: Eligibility is subject to fulfilling certain conditions. For more information please visit the Housing & Development Board Infoweb.

Central Provident Fund (CPF)

The CPF is a compulsory social security savings plan for Citizens and Permanent Residents. Both employers and employees make monthly contributions of 17% and 20% respectively to the CPF which is divided into three accounts: Ordinary Account (the savings can be used to buy a home, pay for CPF insurance, investment and education), Special Account (for old age, contingency purposes and investment in retirement-related financial products) and Medisave Account (the savings can be used for hospitalization expenses and approved medical insurance).

The CPF contributions by the employer are non taxable and your share of the contribution can be used for tax relief purposes. Non-citizens and non-PR’s are not eligible for CPF. Any contributions by a foreigner is considered voluntary contribution and cannot be used for tax relief purposes.

For more information please visit Central Provident Fund.

Education

Edusave Scheme

The Edusave Scheme is a government initiative to maximise opportunities for all Singaporean children.

The scheme awards students who excel in academic and non-academic activities. It covers students who are Singapore citizens, studying full-time in a government or government aided or independent school, junior college (JC), centralised institute (CI), Institute of Technical Education (ITE) or special education school. The three components of the scheme are Edusave Pupils Fund, Edusave Grants and Edusave Scholarships & Awards.

School/University fees

At present, Permanent Residents and Foreign Students pay a higher percentage of school and university fees when compared to Singapore Citizens. School fees for junior college, government-aided schools and centralised institutes are 10-20% higher for PR’s and 30% higher for foreign students when compared to that of citizens. Independent schools ensure that PR’s pay 20% or higher than what citizens pay and foreign students pay 50% or more. PR’s admitted to the ITE pay 10% more while foreign students pay a higher proportion. For polytechnics and Universities, PR’s pay 10% more than citizens, while foreign students pay 50% more. The table below shows a brief comparison of the fees and schemes for the three types of residents.
Citizens PR’s Foreign Students
School Fees payable per year in SGD
Government Schools
Primary level Free 42 80+ other charges
Secondary Level 60 72 130+ other charges
Pre-University level (Junior Colleges, Centralised Institute) 72 84 240+other charges
Independent Schools
Secondary level 1800-3060 2160-3672 variable depending on the school
Pre-University level (only applicable for Junior Colleges) 2700-4800 3240-5760 variable depending on the school
Others
ITE 164-496 180-546 > 546
Polytechnics 2100 2310 2150 + other charges
Universities (NUS, NTU, SMU) 6110 6720 6220 – 17,820
Subsidy/Schemes
Edusave Scheme Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
For more information, please visit Ministry of Education.

Health-care

Medifund

Medifund is an endowment fund set up by the Government to help finance medical expenses of needy Singaporeans only. The Medifund grants are provided to approved hospitals and medical institutions, to help low income Singapore citizens (who on satisfying certain eligibility criteria) pay for their medical treatment. This service is not available to Permanent Residents or Employment Pass/Work Permit holders.

Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS)

At present, the 18 polyclinics spread across Singapore offer affordable primary health-care. However there are some citizens who may not be able to get to these polyclinics and the PCPS tries to bring affordable health-care closer to them. Under this scheme, participating private general practitioners and dentists provide common outpatient medical and dental treatment at polyclinic-level charges. The PCPS is applicable to citizens only (who also have to satisfy other eligibility criteria).

Medical Fees and Charges

The medical consultation charges in polyclinics are marginally higher for Permanent Residents and non residents when compared to citizens.Subsidies at restructured hospitals for Permanent Residents is 10% lesser than citizens of the same income level. For example, a Singaporean patient who stays in Class C ward and has a monthly income in the range of $3,351-$3,500 will get a hospitalisation subsidy of 78%. Whereas, a Singapore Permanent Resident staying in the same class ward and earning the same salary range will get a hospitalisation subsidy of 68%.Foreigners on the other hand are not eligible to receive hospitalisation subsidy. Mentioned below is a comparison of subsidies available to Citizens, PR’s and Foreigners.
Citizens PR’s Foreigners
Public Healthcare Subsidies
Public & Restructured Hospitals (% subsidised)
Types of Ward Class
Class B1 20% 10% Not Eligible
Class B2 65% 55% Not Eligible
Class C 80% 70% Not Eligible
Types of service
Day Surgery 65% 55% Not Eligible
Specialist Outpatient Clinic (SOC) 50% 40% Not Eligible
Polyclinics medical consultation charges in SGD – approximate figures
Adult 8-9 12-14 Not Eligible
Child/Elderly 4-5 12-14 Not Eligible
Healthcare Financing Schemes
Medisave 6-8% of monthly wage 6-8% of monthly wage Not Eligible
Medishield Eligible Eligible Not Eligible
Eldershield Eligible Eligible Not Eligible
Primary Care Partnership Scheme Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Medifund Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Note: Eligibility is subject to fulfilling certain conditions. For more information please visit, Ministry of Health.

Election

Only Singapore Citizens have the right to:

  • vote in parliamentary elections
  • stand for election and become a member of Parliament
Citizens PR’s Foreigners
Right to vote in parliamentary elections Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Right to stand for election and become a MP Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible

Leave Benefits

Maternity Leave

You are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave if your child is a Singapore Citizen. For the first two confinements, the first eight weeks of maternity leave will be employer-paid. The last eight weeks will be funded by the Government (capped at 20,000 SGD per confinement including CPF). For the third and subsequent confinements, the full 16 weeks will be funded by the Government (capped at 40,000 SGD per confinement including CPF). In case neither you nor your child is a Singapore citizen, the number of days of paid maternity leave will depend on your employment contract.

Enhanced Childcare Leave

Parents of Singapore citizens, who have worked for the employer for at least three months, will be entitled to 6 days of paid childcare leave per year per parent until the child turns seven, regardless of the birth order of the child. The first three days will be employer-paid and the last three days Government-paid (capped at 500 SGD per day, including CPF). Regardless of the number of children, the total childcare leave entitlement for each parent is capped at 6 days per year. In case neither you nor your child is a Singapore citizen, the number of days of enhanced childcare leave will depend on your employment contract.

New Infant care Leave

Parents of Singapore citizens, who have worked for the employer for at least three months, will be entitled to 6 days of unpaid infant care leave per year per parent until the child turns two, regardless of the birth order of the child. In case neither you nor your child is a Singapore citizen, the number of days of new infant care leave will depend on your employment contract.

Parenthood Incentives

Baby Bonus Scheme

If your child is a Singapore citizen then he/she is eligible for the Baby Bonus Scheme. The Baby Bonus Scheme is a government initiative that supports parents’ decision to have more children by helping to ease the financial burden of raising children. A cash gift of up to SGD 8,000 for the first and second child and up to SGD 10,000 for the third and fourth child is provided by the Government. In addition, your children will also enjoy Government contributions in the form of a dollar-to-dollar matching for the amount of savings you contribute to your child’s Children Development Account (CDA). The CDA is a special savings account for your children, until they turn 6 years of age. The Government contribution to the CDA for your first and second child is up to a cap of SGD 6000 and up to SGD 12000 for the third and fourth child.

Centre-based child care and infant care subsidy

This is a government initiative aimed at making centre-based child and infant care a more affordable option. Infant care subsidy up to SGD 600 a month is available to Singapore citizen’s infants aged 2-18 months, who are enrolled in licenced child care centres. Child care subsidy up to SGD 300 will be available to Singapore citizen’s children below 7 years of age attending licenced child care centres.

Parenthood Tax Rebate (PTR)

PTR is a lump sum rebate given to married Singapore tax residents to encourage them to have more Singapore Citizen children by providing them with financial support for bringing up their children. The PTR can also be used to offset their income tax payable. It is applicable to Singaporean children of Singapore tax residents. With effect, Year of Assessment 2009, PTR up to SGD 5000 for the first child, up to SGD 10,000 for the second child and up to SGD 20,000 for the third and every subsequent child can be claimed.

Tax Matters

There are certain tax relief benefits that are exclusive to citizens. Enlisted below are 6 types of tax incentives for parenthood specifically, which are applicable only to citizens and do not extend to PR’s or foreigners.

Parenthood Tax Rebate

PTR is a lump sum rebate given to married Singapore tax residents to encourage them to have more Singapore Citizen children. The PTR can also be used to offset their income tax payable. It is applicable to Singaporean children of Singapore tax residents. With effect, Year of Assessment 2009, PTR up to SGD 5000 for the first child, up to SGD 10,000 for the second child and up to SGD 20,000 for the third and every subsequent child can be claimed.

Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR)

WMCR was introduced to reward families with children holding Singapore citizenship and to encourage parents to take up citizenship for their children. This relief can be claimed by a working mother who is a Singapore tax resident and whose children are Singapore citizens. There are other eligibility criteria that need to be fulfilled as well. The amount of WMCR claimable for each child is based on a specified percentage of the working mother’s earned income corresponding to the child order – 15% of mother’s earned income for the first child, 20% for the second child, 25% for the third and every subsequent child thereafter. This is with effect Year of Assessment 2009.

Qualifying/Handicapped Child Relief (QCR/HCR)

This relief is given in recognition of families efforts in supporting their children and caring for handicapped children. On satisfying the QCR/HCR eligibility criteria and any additional set of criteria applicable to the child, relief to the tune of SGD 4000 and SGD 5500 can be claimed under QCR and HCR respectively.

Grandparent Caregiver Relief (GCR)

GCR is a relief to provide recognition for grandparents who play the role of caregiver and help working mothers take care of their children. The children have to be Singapore citizens and the grand-parent should be living in Singapore. There are other eligibility criteria that need to be met as well. You can claim SGD 3000 as GCR.

Income tax rates are the same for citizens, PR’s and foreigners (if foreigners have resided in Singapore for 183 days or more in the previous year). However, all Central Provident Fund contributions by citizens and PR’s, including the employers contribution is non-taxable. In addition, the employee’s contribution can also be used for tax relief purposes. Foreigners do not enjoy tax relief for CPF.

The table below compares the tax relief available for Citizens, PR’s and Foreigners.

Citizens PR’s Foreigners
Tax incentives for parenthood
Parenthood Tax Rebate Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Working Mother’s Child Relief Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Qualifying Child Relief Eligible Eligible Eligible
Handicapped Child Relief Eligible Eligible Eligible
Grandparent Caregiver Relief Eligible Not Eligible Not Eligible
Others
Tax Relief for CPF (Central Provident Fund) Contributions Eligible Eligible Not Eligible
Tax Relief for CPF Cash-Top Up Eligible Eligible Not Eligible

Disadvantages of Singapore Citizenship

National Service (NS)

Male Singapore citizens are liable for National Service and must register for NS upon reaching 16.5 years of age. They will be enlisted for two years of full-time National Service immediately upon reaching 18 years of age, unless deferment from enlistment a later date is granted. They are also required to serve 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service every year until the age of 50 years (for officers) or 40 years (for non-officers). Hence if you become a Singapore citizen your male child will have to serve the two-years of National Service. This is also applicable for second generation PR’s.

Citizens PR’s Foreigners
National Service Mandatory Second generation male PR’s Not Eligible

No Dual Citizenship

If you decide to become a Singapore citizen you will have to denounce citizenship of your home country and give up your home country passport. Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. This is perhaps the biggest disadvantage of acquiring Singapore Citizenship.

CPF Withdrawal limitation

If you wish to withdraw all your CPF savings as a lump sum, the only option is to renounce your citizenship status. This rule holds good for Permanent Residents as well.

On the whole, many people find it beneficial to become a Singapore Citizen and eventually make Singapore their home. For more information on how to file for Singapore Citizenship, refer to

Singapore Citizenship Application Filing Guide.

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