AFTER working in Singapore for eight years as an engineer, Hong Tao decided to stay for the long haul.
So the China national applied for permanent residence in September 2006.
He was successful. But just over a year later, he was in hot water.
The 36-year-old was arrested last November after checks revealed that his degree from the Anhui Institute of Electro Mechanics was fake.
For that and other work-related misdeeds, Hong was fined $13,000 in court last Thursday. He now faces the prospect of losing his permanent residence.
He joined a list of about 660 people the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has dealt with in the past two years for lying in their applications for immigration passes.
The group includes students, visitors and PRs. Last year alone, about 320 were found out by the ICA.
While rare - and not included in those figures - some have even cheated their way to gaining citizenship.
They include 40-year-old Sivanantham Veeran, who in March 2006 succeeded in his citizenship application. But the Indian national had lied about his 1994 convictions here for immigration offences and other crimes.
ICA spokesman Lim Jing Jing told The Straits Times: 'All applications and their supporting documents for immigration facilities - including permanent residency and citizenship - are carefully checked for tell-tale signs of forgery and other signs of irregularities.'
The ICA also acts on tip-offs and complaints. Those caught were likely to have their PR status or citizenship revoked, said Ms Lim.
The authorities have also come across foreigners who forged applications to land jobs here.
In all, 374 were caught in 2006 with fraudulently obtained employment passes which go to highly qualified people, and S-Passes that are for semi-skilled workers.
Fake diplomas and other phoney qualifications were the most common way of abusing the system.
Though the culprits make up only a tiny fraction of pass holders, the number of cases has quadrupled since 2005, when 97 cases surfaced.
The Manpower Ministry has said tighter checks accounted for the rise.
More foreigners are seeking permanent residency in Singapore. Some 46,900 of them were granted PR status in the first nine months of 2007, compared with 57,300 for all of the previous year.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 27, 2008