Tough for transient workers to marry Singaporeans

Tough for transient workers to marry Singaporeans
Little Yen Faye's mother holding a The New Paper with Yen Faye's picture on the first page.

When Miss Yan Faye was born, about one in five marriages in Singapore was between a foreigner and a Singaporean.

By the time she was 10, in 2003, it was close to one in four.

It is now closer to one in three.

But even though more foreigners and Singaporeans are getting married, it is still tough for a domestic worker to marry a Singaporean.

The restrictions are made known to domestic helpers, who are here as work permit holders.

A Ministry of Manpower spokesman tells The New Paper on Sunday: "If a foreign worker marries without the necessary approval, he or she may be barred from entering Singapore for a period of time.

"This is to reiterate that as transient workers, they ought to come to Singapore for work purposes only."

Migrant worker rights groups say this means work permit holders are discriminated against.

A spokesman from Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics says: "If the Government is concerned about scam marriages, they should develop clear guidelines and criteria for eligibility that is not based on income and nationality.

"Penalties can also be imposed. But to deny two people their right to marriage is wrong."

DISCRIMINATION

The president of the Transient Workers Count Too, Mr Russell Heng, sees it as a discrimination against Singaporeans as well.

He says: "The issue here is discrimination - not just against the foreign domestic worker, but against the Singaporean wanting to marry somebody he or she loves."

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) explains that the rules are there to discourage and prevent a large pool of unskilled or lower skilled migrant workers from settling here through marriages with Singaporeans.

But it does make exceptions.

MOM says all marriage applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

"Factors taken into consideration include the economic contributions of the applicants, the ability of the applicants to look after themselves and their family without becoming a burden to the society or state," explains the spokesman.

Foreigners, who are allowed to marry their Singaporean partner, can reside in Singapore if they have a valid work pass or are granted the relevant immigration passes such as the long-term visit pass (LTVP).

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) grants LTVPs.

Like MOM, it says on its website that all applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Government has introduced programmes to help foreigners, who marry their Singaporeans partners, adjust to life here.

MARRIAGE PROGRAMMES

From last December, a Marriage Preparation Programme and a Marriage Support Programme for Singaporean-foreigner couples have been introduced.

The programmes are designed to help couples gain more insight into cross-cultural issues in their marriage, offer conversational language skills to the foreign spouse, and point out avenues to seek job opportunities to help with family finances.

There are also buddies who are trained to assist cross-cultural couples.


This article was first published on January 18, 2015.
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