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Not easy to marry a work permit holder

If a foreign worker marries a Singaporean without approval, he may be barred from entering the country. -TNP
Esther Ng

Wed, Nov 07, 2012
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - Human resources executive Q.H. Su, a Singaporean, fell in love with a plumber, a Malaysian, and became pregnant.

As the 26-year-old's fiance, Mr J.M. Lin, 30, was a work permit holder, they applied to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September for approval to get married.

On Sept 28, the couple received a letter from the ministry rejecting their application.

The reason: Mr Lin had "infringed one of the work permit conditions as (his) relationship with the proposed spouse had resulted in her pregnancy without obtaining marriage approval from the Controller of Work Passes".

The letter said Mr Lin would also be banned from entering Singapore. His work permit was cancelled and he left Singapore on Oct 12.

Miss Su told The New Paper: "I thought female work permit holders are not allowed to get pregnant while working in Singapore, but I never knew male work permit holders are not allowed to make Singaporeans pregnant.

"When I raised this matter with MOM, its officer told me that my spouse had infringed clause 10 of the work permit conditions stating that a work permit holder is not allowed to have any illegal, immoral or undesirable activities in Singapore, including breaking up a family.

"But how is building a family illegal, immoral or undesirable?"

Bewilderment turned to despair when Miss Su realised she would be a single mother of a daughter born out of wedlock.

"What will my child think in future? That she is unwanted by her own dad?," she said.

"Furthermore, single mothers have few benefits - I won't be able to qualify for a BTO (build-to-order) flat. I'm not entitled to four months' maternity nor six days' childcare leave."

The rejection left Miss Su depressed.

"For three weeks in October, I cried every day. Apart from my family, I couldn't tell anyone my problems, not even my close friends.

"It was very hard putting up a brave front at work," she said.

To make matters worse, she was torn between her family who wanted her to deliver her child in Singapore and Mr Lin who wanted her to re-locate to Johor Baru.

Fortunately, Miss Su's "three weeks of hell" had a happy ending when her appeal against the rejection was successful.

She had sent an e-mail to MOM, the Prime Minister and her Member of Parliament on Oct 16 asking them to reconsider her case.

In a letter dated Oct 19, MOM said it would approve the couple's marriage application and lift Mr Lin's entry ban.

The letter said he could also apply for a work pass should he find a suitable employer in Singapore. MOM added: "We are sorry that the situation has caused you much distress... Do take care and we wish you a smooth delivery."

When contacted on Friday, Mr Lin said he was "very happy" over the lifting of the entry ban and the approval of his marriage to Miss Su.

"We plan to register our marriage next month. Our family members are very happy for us and I start work on Monday with my previous employer. All is good," he said.

Miss Su said she was surprised and grateful to receive the news. She had gone to see her MP, Mr Masagos Zulkifli on Oct 15 to see if he could help her.

Mr Masagos told TNP that he had advised Miss Su to consult HDB on getting a flat once a proper family unit was formed.

Two non-government organisations, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) said they rarely come across work permit holders seeking assistance to marry Singaporeans.

Said Home's director of global partnerships and philanthropy Jolovan Wham: "It's usually inquiries from foreign workers on how to go about marrying another work permit holder in Singapore."

As at June this year, there were 931,200 work permit holders, of which 208,400 were foreign domestic workers.

Must seek approval first: MOM

All current and former Work Permit holders are required to seek approval from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) before marrying a Singapore citizen or permanent resident.

An MOM spokesman said in an e-mail response: "If a foreign worker marries without the necessary approval, he/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.

"This also serves to discourage and prevent a large pool of unskilled or lower skilled migrant workers from settling here through marriages with Singaporeans.

"MOM reviews all marriage application 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.

"MOM has reviewed Ms Soh's case and notified her that her appeal was successful," he said.

More are marrying foreigners

National Population and Talent Division's Population in Brief 2012 report showed that 8,949 or two in five marriages (39.4 per cent) here were between citizens and non-citizens in 2011, up from 34 per cent in 2001.

Marriages between Singaporean grooms and non-citizen brides made up the majority (77 per cent) of such marriages.

The total number of marriages involving a Singaporean last year was 22,712.

Most of the non-citizen spouses originated from Asia, while non-citizen grooms came from various regions.

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