Relaxed rules for Singaporean foreign spouses brings smiles to families and businesses owners

From next January, foreign spouses on Long-Term Visit Passes (LTVP) will be able to take up jobs in Singapore with greater ease. Employers hiring people on LTVP will be required to get a Letter of Consent from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) exempting them from quotas and levies for such workers. Presently, employers have to apply for relevant work passes for potential employees on LTVP but only if the employers meet the required quota and pay the levies where applicable. More importantly, with the introduction of the Letter of Consent, the LTVP will be valid for two years upon renewal.

The LTVP allows a foreign spouse to stay in Singapore for one year, after which it needs to be renewed. The LTVP+ is for couples with at least one Singapore citizen child from their marriage or who have been married at least three years. In addition, the LTVP+ entitles the holder to employment and healthcare benefits.

Easing the employment potential, waiving the levy and exclusion from quota count, comes as a relief to the employers in Singapore. This will expand the labour pool and also reduce the cost burden for the employers who can save from the levy waivers. It will be relatively easy for them to find workers, especially in service sector.

The procedure to apply for the LTVP for foreign spouses of Singaporeans has also been revised. Accordingly from January next year the couples – where one person is Singaporean and the other a foreigner – 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. This measure will expedite the processing time to six weeks against the current six months or more.

The revised procedure helps in two ways – firstly , prior to marriage, it provides clarity for the couple regarding the foreigner’s eligibility to stay in Singapore on a long-term basis and the potential to be employed. This will help them to understand if it is viable to have a sustainable family set up or highlight the challenges that they may have to endure if the foreign spouse is not eligible for extended stay or employment in Singapore. Secondly, the parties are required to declare several personal details on the application form, including marriage history, employment status and criminal records, if any. A copy of the form is given to both parties. This provides comprehensive insight on the prospective partners and thus prevents sham marriages and mitigates potential marital discords.

The number of Singaporeans marrying foreigners has been on the rise in the recent years. Over the past five years, ICA has processed around 14,500 applications for LTVP and LTVP+ each year. In some of the transnational marriages, the foreign spouse’s educational qualification is not recognized in Singapore and they have to settle for less paying jobs or remain unemployed. They bear an emotional burden of not being able to financially contribute to the family. When ill health or permanent disability hits the bread-winning partner in marriage, the foreign spouse and the family may find it challenging to wade through the hard times. Such testing situations may cause friction in families.

The changes in the rules provide greater clarity for the marrying partners and this helps them to make well-informed marital decisions. The shortened processing time helps the couple to start their life in harmony and also paves for financial stability and planning. The foreign spouses who are presently here will be able to secure employment and contribute to their family financially.