Marrying a foreigner? Help at hand to settle in

Marrying a foreigner? Help at hand to settle in

With three in 10 Singapore marriages involving a foreign spouse, government bodies have teamed up to offer support for the unique problems faced by these transnational couples.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will provide pre- and post-marital programmes from Dec 1 that will cover immigration, job, housing and money issues, Minister Chan Chun Sing announced yesterday.

Other initiatives will be announced later this week by the Ministry of Manpower, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the National Population and Talent Division.

Couples planning to wed can sign up for the MSF's Marriage Preparation Programme, which aims to help them understand the realities of marriage in Singapore.

It will cover topics such as whether the foreign spouse can work here, and whether they will get immigration privileges to stay in Singapore, said Mr Chan.

Those who are married can opt for the MSF's Marriage Support Programme, which will help them and their children integrate into Singapore society.

"It's not just for the adults," Mr Chan noted.

"More importantly, it is to provide that stable platform for their children to grow up in Singapore and to have the chance, like other Singaporeans, to seize the opportunities that society (offers)."

The programmes are being launched at a time when the number of transnational marriages is going up, added Mr Chan.

A decade ago, unions between a Singaporean and a foreigner accounted for only one in five marriages. These numbers exclude marriages between Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Marriage counsellors said marital unions involving foreigners face special challenges such as reconciling different cultural backgrounds, mismatched expectations, adapting to life here, and running into financial, job and housing issues.

The programmes will first be rolled out at two Family Service Centres (FSCs) run by Fei Yue Community Services and Care Corner.

They will be extended to other FSCs later, said Mr Chan.

While attendance will be voluntary, he hopes transnational couples will see their value. The MSF will also tap the network of FSCs and local communities to refer cases that would most benefit from these programmes.

"If both parties come to the table and have a frank discussion on their expectations of each other, and the kind of challenges they would encounter together, I think it will bond them," he added.

yanliang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 21, 2014.
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