In a letter to the Straits Times on 16 May, Singapore permanent resident, Stephen McNulty, pleaded with the authorities to “remove the one barrier that is preventing” him from “from taking the final step to truly calling Singapore home.”
Mr McNulty was replying to an earlier letter by Christopher Chong which Mr Chong had written to the same paper and suggested, among other things, that “permanent residency should come with a fixed term, following which applications have to be re-assessed based on the individual's social contributions and whether he intends to take up citizenship.”
However, Mr McNulty said he know of “many other permanent residents” who share his view.
“Not allowing dual nationality is an old-fashioned position, one that has changed in many proud countries over the last decade or so,” his letter said.
“Forcing me to give up my ties to my home country,” he explained, “and having to apply for a visa to visit my family and friends there, is a show-stopper.”
He called on the authorities to allow dual-citizenship and that allowing him to retain the citizenship of his home country “would in no way diminish the respect I would have for my additional citizenship in Singapore.”
Singapore currently has some 500,000 permanent residents.
In 2010, then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong sparked controversy when he said at a dialogue session with residents in his Marine Parade constituency that “there was a possible change in policy” regarding PRs.
He indicated that “the government might consider offering citizenship to select PRs and not renew the PR status of those who decline the offer.” (AsiaTimes)
"In the past, we could just give you permanent residence without taking up Singapore citizenship,” Mr Goh reportedly told his audience at the dialogue session. “Moving forward, we are going to approach some of them to take up Singapore citizenship. If they don't, then their PR will be not renewed. That's a better way.”
He added, "We now have quite a few PRs, 500,000 in Singapore, so hopefully maybe 50,000 can be selected to become Singapore citizens, the rest can be PRs, contributing to Singapore’s economy.”
His remarks caused alarm among some in the PR community who were concerned that they may lose their PR status.
Three days after Mr Goh made those remarks, his press secretary, Ho Tong Yen, clarified that the figure of “50,000” which Mr Goh had mentioned was “only for illustrative purposes”.
Also, he said, Mr Goh’s remarks were only a “general observation” on how the government would be controlling the inflow of PRs into the country.
"The Government will continue to review and refine its policies to ensure that those who have PR status are an asset to our society, and that those who are given citizenship are, in addition, assessed to be committed in their allegiance to Singapore,” Mr Ho said.
In March 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean – who is also in charge of population policy – weighed in on the issue of dual citizenship, but this time concerning Singaporeans who might want to hold such citizenships.
“Singapore is now not in a situation where allowing Singaporeans to hold dual citizenship will strengthen it ‘as a people or a nation’,” he was reported to have said in response to Nominated MP Eugene Tan's question in Parliament on the conditions on which the government will accept dual citizenships.
"Allowing Singaporeans to retain or acquire a second citizenship is unlikely to enhance identity but could dilute it,” Mr Teo said, and added that the government will however keep an “open mind” about the matter.
It was recently revealed by the government that 20,000 citizenships and 30,000 PRs were granted in 2013.
Here is the letter by Stephen McNulty in full:
Barrier preventing PRs from taking up citizenship
MR CHRISTOPHER Chong ("How to help foreigners integrate"; Tuesday) suggested that permanent residency should have a fixed term and then be re-assessed, with one of the criteria being the permanent resident's intention to become a citizen.
As a permanent resident here, I would look forward to becoming a Singapore citizen if not for one issue - the requirement that I give up citizenship of my home country.
I know of many other permanent residents who share my view. Not allowing dual nationality is an old-fashioned position, one that has changed in many proud countries over the last decade or so.
Forcing me to give up my ties to my home country, and having to apply for a visa to visit my family and friends there, is a show-stopper.
Singapore should consider changing this policy. Allowing me to retain the citizenship of my home country would in no way diminish the respect I would have for my additional citizenship in Singapore.
I have lived here for nine years and do consider Singapore home. So the authorities should remove the one barrier that is preventing me, and many others, from taking the final step to truly calling Singapore home.