Foreign spouse repatriated after overstaying short-term visit pass

A case about foreign spouse being repatriated was forwarded to us by a social worker who has asked to remain anonymous.

Wang E is a PRC national married to a Singaporean husband for nine years. Since 2006, she has been given short-term pass and has to renew them regularly. She was repatriated from Singapore this year after overstaying beyond her given short-term visit pass. Wang E’s husband shares his story about this issue.

To Wang E’s husband, his wife’s repatriation is caused by the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) for failing to issue the rights status (Citizenship) for her. He feels that this is a problem that citizens like him with a foreign spouse could also face and wishes to highlight the issue.

Wang E’s husband shares his story

As seen in the letter below, it is my appeal letter to ICA and asking them to feedback the policies to Minister  Teo Chee Hean. A month later, ICA sent a letter to inform us that my wife appeal is not successful.  I went down to ICA office to meet up an officer and below is a recount of the conversation between myself and ICA officer in interview room:

Myself: I have explained the incident to the ICA officer; the repatriation wasn’t all my wife fault. Partly it is ICA and their policies initiated by the minister who should be held responsible for my wife repatriation.

ICA officer:  Your wife should be careful as she cannot anyhow go anywhere as she was holding a short term visitor pass.

Myself: I told the officer my wife is a fully grown adult, and she needs to integrate with our society. I am not able to be with her 24 hrs as I need to work.  If ICA failed to issue a status of citizenship for my wife, she is just a tourist and no protection by the law.

I asked the officer, do they know that short term visit pass (STVP) could likely pose problems to my wife, and any authorities can prosecute her (Ministry of Manpower and the Police).

ICA officer said that she had no idea on how the other agency work.

Myself: It is very strange for my wife still holding a STVP after nine years marriage as a tourist. Don’t you think that shows there is some serious flaw in policies as the lower income group has always been unfairly penalized by the policies?

The ICA officer then replied that they will take note on that and nothing she can do as the appeal is final.

Myself: I understand in some country, a couple marriage for nine years can get her citizenship status. Why has ICA rejected numerous time of my application for my wife long term stay with her husband?

ICA officer: You cannot compare Singapore immigration law to other countries. In Singapore, marriage does not automatically grant your wife a citizenship to stay in Singapore.

Myself: If ICA do not recognize our marriage, why our government allow a Singaporean to marry a foreigner?

ICA officer: It is a call for individual and government cannot stop citizen to marry foreigners.

Myself: What criteria on ICA evaluation to approve my application for my wife to stay with her husband.

ICA officer then said that they evaluate not only on income and other factors also put into consideration.

Myself:  From my experience and the impression given to me, ICA evaluation criteria is only based on my income. I told her that my low income isn’t my fault; it is created by the government open door policies to immigrants that make it difficult to find a better job.

I asked the officer what criteria ICA used to evaluate on my wife application.

ICA officer: This is secret, and we cannot disclose it to the public.

Myself: I am not asking for ICA’s secrets;  I just want to know the guidelines on the evaluation criteria for my wife application.

The ICA officer repeated that she cannot divulge the evaluation criteria to the public.

Myself: Do you know why the long term visit pass being issued has a condition to my wife? Failing to find a job, ICA canceled my wife Long-term visitor pass (LVP) after six months without any reason.

I also highlighted another error to the officer.  Why did the ICA system record a 12 months LTVP was being issued to my wife last year. In fact, it was only six months. I told the officer that the six months record on LTVP could be proven by the records in my wife’s passport.

ICA officer: We are not going to discuss this matter today.

After that, ICA officer told me I can attempt to appeal for  my wife to revisit Singapore but have to prepare myself for the application to be rejected.

It is very disappointing that our civil servants have this kind of elite mentality in our public service and keep the guidelines on the criteria being nontransparent.  ICA and the Minister do not want to admit failure on their policies. They want us to accept this is our fate and the citizen need to bear with it. I have no idea how long my wife will be banned for revisiting Singapore.

This incident can happen to any citizen who has foreign spouse and I wonder how many foreign spouses are being affected by their policies and forced to commit an offence which they did not have to.

Editor’s note (Terry) – TOC has written to ICA for their response on this matter. They replied saying, “We regret that we are not able to discuss details of the case with a third party.”

Till today, the criteria of what does ICA judge upon to grant approval for LTVPs/PRs is not public. Applicants can only submit and hope for the best that their applications will be approved.

The letter has been edited for clarity.

Letter from Wang E’s husband to ICA. 

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