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Only 18% of foreign students granted PR want to become Singaporean citizens

by Vincent Law

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (6 Feb), Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo, revealed that 7,251 foreign students applied for PR in Singapore in the 17 years between 2000 and 2017.

However, only 5,932 or 82% were granted Permanent Resident (PR) status.

And out of these PRs, only 1,072 or 18% subsequently took up Singaporean citizenship.

Ms Teo was asked by an MP who wanted to know the trend among foreign students applying for PR status in Singapore.

When asked about the nationalities of the students whose PR applications were successful, she said that she did not have the detailed breakdown.

"I think a good majority of them would come from Asia," said Ms Teo.

PR an intermediate status for foreigners to take up citizenship

According to the infamous 6.9 million Population White Paper, which triggered a big public protest in Hong Lim Park in 2013, PR is "an intermediate status through which foreigners take up citizenship".

"It is meant for those who have a long-term stake in Singapore and intend to sink roots here," the paper added.

But since in the 17 years, only 18% of foreign students granted PR were willing to take up Singaporean citizenship, it's not known why the govt continues to extend PR status to the other 82% who rejected becoming Singaporeans. Perhaps they should be downgraded to S-Pass or EP holders.

"50% of my schoolmates did not serve bonds and return to China"

Few years ago, China media was able to interview some PRC students who had studied in Singapore universities.

Apparently, some of these students returned home straight away after graduation without serving their required bond in Singapore. The reason is because they were no longer given PR automatically upon graduation from Singapore universities, said the students.

They were supposed to serve a 3-year bond working in Singapore after they had graduated because our Singapore government actually subsidized or even paid for their tuition fees.

26-year-old Weng Kang (翁康) who graduated from NTU with a Masters, told the reporter, "In the batch of schoolmates together with me, half of those who graduated after 1 year have gone home (我身边的那批同学,有一半在毕业一年后就陆续回国)."

Another student Dong Zhi Hong (董志鸿), 24, was also given scholarship to study Masters in NTU. He said, "About 50 percent of my schoolmates did not serve their bonds with the government and return to China. They won’t be coming back in the future either (大概50%的同学没有履行合约就回国了,未来他们也不特别想回来)."

Mr Dong had tried to apply for PR but was rejected. He told the reporter that he would try one more time. If rejected again, he would simply leave Singapore and the scholarship bond agreement would not be able to stop him to do so. It’s not known what happened to Mr Dong.

It’s also not known if any of the foreign bond-breakers paid any monetary damages before they left Singapore but according to an AGO report in 2016, it appears they did not.