Marrying a foreign spouse in Singapore: this is what you need to plan for

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Singapore is a globalised city. 3 in 10 people living in Singapore are not citizens or permanent residents. This means that meeting that special someone and deciding to get married is not uncommon.

Starting a life together is a big step and there is plenty to consider, from finances, buying a home and planning to have children. Here are some of the things to take note of when Singaporeans marry a foreign spouse.

Before Getting Married

There is a common misconception that marrying a Singaporean means automatic citizenship or permanent residence for the foreigner. However, it's important to know that marrying a Singaporean does not automatically qualify a foreigner for long-term stay, permanent residence or Singapore citizenship.

To have a better idea if your spouse-to-be will qualify for long-term stay in Singapore, you can use the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's Pre-Marriage Long Term Visit Pass Assessment System. This is an optional, but encouraged step introduced as a tool to help couples have greater clarity in planning their future together.

If your spouse is assessed by ICA to be eligible for Long Term Visit Pass, they will receive a Letter of LTVP Eligibility (LLE) before marriage. The letter is valid for one year and can be used support their application for an LTVP after marriage.

Couples who did not apply for a LLE can still apply for an LTVP after they get married but could face a longer processing time of about six months or more.

Marriage Preparation Programmes

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have pre and post marriage programmes to support cross-cultural marriages and the foreign spouses to adjust to Singapore. Some couples are required to attend these programmes as part of the foreign spouse's LTVP application approval conditions.

The Marriage Preparation Programme (MPP) is attended before marriage and covers roles and expectations of the couple, communication, managing conflicts and in-law relationships within a cross-cultural context.

Employment for Your Foreign Spouse

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will issue a Letter of Consent (LOC) to foreign spouses with an LTVP when they secure employment. This means they will not be counted against the foreign worker quota and their employers will not need to pay the foreign workers' levy to hire them.

Buying A Home

The HDB has separate Non-Citizen Spouse Schemes for new and resale flats, each with their own criteria.

For new (Built-To-Order or Sale of Balance) flats, you'll only be eligible for 2-Room Flexi flats in non-mature estates. You'll also need to be a first-time applicant and your non-citizen spouse must be holding a valid LTVP or Work Pass at the time of your application.

If your spouse and yourself have a child who is born in Singapore, or you plan to live with your parent and or sibling who is a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, you are able to form a Singapore family nucleus and can apply under the Public Scheme instead, which gives you more flat options.

For buying a resale flat on the open market, there is no restriction on the size of a flat that a couple can buy, subject to certain terms and conditions. Do check the HDB website for the latest and make use of their e-Services to check your eligibility.

Do note that when planning for your flat, it is wise to first check the amount of loan you will be eligible for. You can do by obtaining a HDB Loan Eligibility Letter or In-Principal Approval from the Bank. This will allow you to have a better idea of your budget before starting looking for your dream home.

This article was first published in Dollars And Sense.