SPH newspaper Tamil Murasu published a report last Fri highlighting the plights of some of the Indian nationals who are currently work pass holders in Singapore but can’t get back to Singapore to work due to the present COVID-19 pandemic (‘Stuck in India with job in Singapore‘, 30 Oct).
Vijay Reddy, an IT personnel working in Singapore, is one of them. His father had a surgery and he went back to Hyderabad with his wife, also an Employment Pass holder, and daughter to see his father in Feb this year.
“I was supposed to return to Singapore on March 21, but all international flights got cancelled on the same day,” he said. “After that I applied to the MOM 22 times, but there has been no approval.
“I wrote a personal e-mail and my company sought the help of EDB, MAS and the High Commission of India, but nothing has happened and I am stuck in Hyderabad.”
Reddy said he is still paying rentals in Singapore despite his family is now stuck in India. He is also paying salary for his maid, who is from Andhra Pradesh. “She has been with us for a year and is now all alone in Singapore,” he said. “I’m providing essentials to her but she is stressed as she is not sure when we can be back with her.”
“It’s difficult for me as I can’t find a job in India. I also have to pay 30 per cent income tax in India because I have been out of Singapore for 180 days. My daughter has also been away from school for eight months,” he added.
However, Reddy is lucky as his company still continues to pay for his salary in Singapore. He is most worried about the fate of his Employment Pass which will expire in Dec. “It will be a huge impact on my family if I am not able to go back to Singapore in time,” he said.
“Singapore is opening green channels to several countries, so why can’t it open one to India too, at least for the Employment Pass, Work Permit and Dependant Pass holders who want to return to Singapore?”
“I can understand the MOM’s negative response because they want to keep the country pandemic free. But we are ready to do any additional Covid-19 tests and do the mandatory quarantine so that we can return to Singapore,” he added.
“I have suffered from stress and anxiety disorder”
Another IT person from India, Mohan Ashok Bhuti, is also in the same situation.
Bhuti who works for a multinational company in Singapore, returned to Pune in July as his father was ill. “I have applied to MOM six times but have not received approval to return to Singapore,” he said.
He too, is worried that his Employment Pass may not be extended. “I have to go back as soon as possible because my Employment Pass will expire on December 15,” Bhuti said.
“If I stay in India for more than 180 days, I have to pay tax here too. Also I’m paying rent for my apartment in Singapore and have taken loans. The situation is very delicate for me.”
According to reports in India, Indian nationals have formed support groups and approached their Ministry of External Affairs in India for help. They, like Reddy and Bhuti, are work pass holders in Singapore, all wanting to get back to Singapore to work. It has been said that there are at least 8,000 of such individuals in India, in the same predicament like Reddy and Bhuti.
However, they all need approvals from MOM before they are allowed to step foot in Singapore due to COVID-19. According to information on ICA’s website, MOM requires all new and existing Work Pass holders (including dependants) currently outside of Singapore to obtain MOM’s approval first before they can commence their journey to Singapore.
Their employers are required to apply for the entry approval for their foreign employees. Work Pass holders who arrive in Singapore without a valid entry approval will not be allowed to clear immigration, and will be asked to fly out of Singapore within 48 hours, at their own cost.
One IT person interviewed, who is currently in Singapore, complained that he couldn’t go back to India to celebrate his daughter’s birthday out of fear that he may not be able to get back to Singapore again due to the current travel restrictions imposed by the Singapore authorities.
Sivakumar Muthu said, “My daughter’s birthday was in May but I was unable to celebrate it with her (in India).”
“I desperately want to be with her,” he said. “My job is important so I cannot just throw it away and go to Chennai. But I’m unable to concentrate. I have suffered from stress and anxiety disorder.”