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Marrying A Foreign Spouse in Singapore: This Is What You Need To Plan For

1 in 4 Singaporeans are marrying foreign spouses today.

As a multicultural global city, it’s no surprise that Singaporeans are finding a life partner who is not from Singapore. In fact, nearly 4 in 10 Singaporeans are marrying a foreign spouse.

For this group, starting a life together is an even bigger step and there is plenty to consider, from just being able to call Singapore home (i.e. getting a PR or citizenship), finances, buying a home and planning to have children. Here are some things to take note of when Singaporeans marry a foreign spouse.

Before You Get Married

It is important to know that marrying a Singaporean does not automatically qualify a foreign spouse for a Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP), or to become a Permanent Resident (PR) or Singapore Citizen.

To have a better idea if your spouse-to-be will qualify for long-term stay in Singapore, you can use the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority’s Pre-Marriage LTVP Assessment (PMLA) System. This is an optional, but encouraged, step introduced as a tool to help couples have greater clarity in planning their future together.

You need to sign in with your Singpass and may take close to two hours to complete this form. There is also a wait of up to four weeks for processing the form, which comprise sections on:

  • Bio-data particulars
  • Residential address and details
  • Immigration records (including passport details and travel history)
  • Marital status history
  • Educational qualifications
  • Income information
  • Medical information (where applicable)
  • Criminal records (where applicable)

If your spouse is assessed by ICA to be eligible for LTVP, he or she will receive a Letter of LTVP Eligibility (LLE) before marriage. The letter is valid for one year and can be used to support their application for an LTVP after getting legally married. This positive outcome does not automatically translate into approval for an LTVP for your foreign spouse – they still need to apply for their LTVP.

Couples who do not apply for an LLE can still apply for an LTVP after they get married, but could face a longer processing time of about six months or more.

Marriage Preparation Programmes

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have pre- and post-marriage programmes to support cross-cultural marriages and for foreign spouses to adjust to Singapore. Some couples are required to attend these programmes as part of the foreign spouse’s LTVP application approval conditions.

The Marriage Preparation Programme (MPP) is attended before marriage and covers roles and expectations of the couple, communication, managing conflicts and in-law relationships within a cross-cultural context.

Employment for Your Foreign Spouse

Before getting married, or receiving an LTVP, your foreigner spouse will not be able to work in Singapore without a valid work visa. There are several passes they can apply for if you are not married yet.

Pass Type Who Should Apply
Employment Pass Foreign professionals, manager and executive, earning at least $5,000 a month and have acceptable qualifications.
EntrePass Foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start and operate a business in Singapore.
Personalised Employment Pass High-earning foreign professionals earning a fixed monthly salary of at least $22,500.

The easiest method for a foreign spouse to start working in Singapore is to secure an LTVP first. At the point of application, foreigners can also apply for a Pre-approved Letter of Consent (PLOC) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). This means your foreigner spouse, who has an LTVP, can go ahead to get a job in Singapore.

If your foreigner spouse has obtained an LTVP, but not the PLOC, he or she has to get their prospective employer to apply for a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the Ministry of Manpower in order to start working.

In both cases, once they have received their LTVP, they will not be counted against the foreign worker quota and their employers will not need to pay a foreign workers’ levy to hire them.

How Your Foreign Spouse Will Get Paid

The first thing your foreign spouse would need to get paid is a local bank account. This will allow him or her to credit their salary, as well as enjoy the convenience of withdrawing money from ATMs, transfer their foreign currencies locally, invest and to pay for their living expenses in Singapore.

Read Also: Complete Guide To Opening A Bank Account In Singapore For Foreigners

As a foreigner, they also do not have CPF accounts. This means that their employers do not have to contribute up to 17% of their salary into the CPF system, and neither do they have to contribute up to 20% of their salary to it. What this also means is that you and your foreign spouse need to have concrete plans for your savings towards purchasing a home (which is typically done through the CPF Ordinary Account funds) and longer-term retirement (which mainly comprises CPF Special Account savings).

Of course, when your foreigner spouse becomes a Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) or Singapore Citizen, their CPF accounts will be opened for them, and they and their employer will have to start making CPF contributions each month.

When this happens, you need to note that 1st- and 2nd-year PRs have a lower contribution rate than usual. After the 3rd year as a PR, your spouse will start receiving the same contribution rates as Singapore Citizens. For reference, 1st-year PRs receive an Employer CPF Contribution of up to 4% and have to make an Employee CPF Contribution of up to 5% (for those 55 and below); 2nd-year PRs receive an Employer CPF Contribution of up to 9% and have to make an Employee CPF Contribution of up to 15% (for those 55 and below). In certain instances, employers can also make full CPF contributions for 1st- and 2nd-year PRs under the Full Employer & Graduated Employee contribution rates.

Buying A Home Together With Your Foreign Spouse

The HDB has separate Non-Citizen Spouse Schemes for new and resale flats, each with their own criteria.

For new (Built-To-Order or Sale of Balance) flats, you’ll only be eligible for 2-Room Flexi flats in non-mature estates. You’ll also need to be a first-time applicant and your non-citizen spouse must be holding a valid LTVP or Work Pass at the time of your HFE letter and new flat application.

Once your spouse becomes a PR or you have a child who is born in Singapore, or you plan to live with your parent and or sibling who is a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, you are able to form a Singapore family nucleus and can apply under the married couples and/ or parents with children Scheme instead, which gives you more flat options.

Read Also: How Much Does It Cost To Deliver A Baby In Singapore

For buying a resale flat on the open market, there is no restriction on the size of a flat that a couple can buy, subject to certain terms and conditions. Do check the HDB website for the latest and make use of their e-Services to check your eligibility.

Do note that when planning for your flat, it is wise to first check the amount of loan and CPF housing grant that you will be eligible for. You can do so by obtaining an HDB Flat Eligibility (HFE) Letter or In-Principal Approval from the Bank. This will allow you to have a better idea of your budget before starting looking for your dream home.

You can also choose to purchase a private property to live in. However, you may incur a much heftier ABSD if you purchase the property under both your (as a Singapore Citizen) and your spouse (as a foreigner) names. This is because foreigners have to pay up to 60% ABSD for any residential property purchase. Your workaround can be to either rent first and wait till your spouse becomes a PR or citizen before buying, or simply purchase the property under the Singapore Citizen’s name.

Read Also: Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD): How Much You Have To Pay To Own Multiple Properties & 5 Ways To Avoid ABSD

Insurance For Your Foreign Spouse

Insurance is another crucial pillar you cannot afford to neglect. Not only is the cost of healthcare high in Singapore, but your foreign spouse’s existing healthcare coverage in his or her home country also would likely not provide any health coverage for him or her in Singapore. Since 2012, LTVP+ holders receive healthcare subsidies for inpatient treatment at Restructured Hospitals. As a local, you may also tap on your MediSave funds to pay for medical expenses incurred by your spouse who is an LTVP holder. However, these may not be sufficient.

If your foreign spouse has a job here, he or she may also receive certain employer healthcare benefits. You should check how extensive this is and whether it covers any family members, as well as seriously consider getting additional healthcare coverage if you deem that it is insufficient. Certain insurers in Singapore also enable foreigners who hold a long-term visit pass plus (LTVP+) to purchase policies with coverage that are similar to PRs, so you might want to check with them before buying any policy. In the interim, you may also consider an international health plan, which can be costly.

Once your spouse receives PR status, he or she will automatically be covered under Singapore’s mandatory national health insurance – MediShield Life. As his or her CPF accounts will also be just opened at this point, there will not be any CPF balances in his or her MediSave Account to pay for MediShield Life premiums, optional national insurance coverage such as the Dependant’s Protection Scheme and Home Protection Scheme premiums. This means you will have to either top-up their CPF accounts, pay for their premiums out of your MediSave Account balances or get them to pay in cash.

This article was first published on 14 September 2017 and has been updated with new information.

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