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Singapore Tightens Rules for Foreign Workers’ Families

Photographer: Sam Kang Li/Bloomberg

Visitors look at the central business district skyline from the SkyPark atop Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Close

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Photographer: Sam Kang Li/Bloomberg

Visitors look at the central business district skyline from the SkyPark atop Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Singapore is imposing stricter rules for families of foreigners working in the city-state and tightening its immigration policies after public disquiet over the influx of workers from overseas.

From Sept. 1, foreign workers must earn at least S$4,000 ($3,150) a month compared with the current S$2,800 to sponsor their spouses and children for their stay in Singapore, according to a notice on the manpower ministry’s website. Some workers will also no longer be able to bring their parents and in-laws on long-term visit passes.

Singapore’s companies added 27,200 jobs, fewer than initially estimated, in the three months through March amid stricter labor regulations and weaker global demand. Public anger over immigration policies and the rising wealth gap contributed to the ruling party’s worst performance since independence in last year’s general election.

The planned changes are “part of the overall direction to moderate growth of Singapore’s non-resident population,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. “This will help ease the pressure on our social infrastructure. Nonetheless, Singapore remains a global talent capital.”

Foreign workers whose families are already in Singapore won’t be affected, according to the statement. Those who switch companies after Sept. 1 will be subject to the new rules because any change in employer is considered a new application.

Under Pressure

The government is under pressure to placate voters without disrupting the arrival of talent and labor that helped build the only advanced economy in Southeast Asia. Public discontent surged when the strain on the rail system caused its worst breakdown in December and high property prices boosted inflation.

“The key criterion in assessing the level of dependent privileges for a work pass holder is based on his economic contribution and whether he can finance his dependents’ stay in Singapore,” the manpower ministry said in the statement.

The city yesterday also tabled changes in Parliament to its immigration act. Under the proposed amendments, permanent residents who flout the city’s laws or are involved in any activity which “threatens a breach of peace or is prejudicial to public order” will lose their permanent residency status or have their re-entry permit canceled.

Singapore also plans to criminalize marriages of convenience to obtain immigration privileges and the forgery of immigration documents, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement posted on its website yesterday. The last major amendment to the immigration act was in 2004.

The proposed penalty for sham marriages includes a fine of as much as S$10,000 and a jail term of as long as 10 years. Forgery of documents may be punishable with a fine of as much as S$8,000 and a jail term of as long as five years, according to the statement.

The proposed amendments will allow the immigration authority to “stay ahead of the changing modus operandi of immigration offenders” and facilitate the legal entry of bona fide foreigners, the ministry said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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