This article was updated on 26 June 2019.
As a global city, nearly 4 in 10 people living in Singapore today are not citizens or permanent residents. This means meeting a life partner who is not from Singapore and deciding to get married is not uncommon.
Starting a life together is big step and there is plenty to consider, from finances, buying a home and planning to have children. Here are some of things to take note of when Singaporeans marry a foreign spouse.
Before Getting Married
It is important to know that marrying a Singaporean does not automatically qualify a foreigner spouse for a long-term visit pass (LTVP), permanent residence or Singapore citizenship.
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 Long Term Visit Pass Assessment System. This is an optional, but encouraged, step introduced as a tool to help couples have greater clarity in planning their future together.
You may take close to two hours to complete this form and wait up to four week for processing of 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 Long Term Visit Pass, 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.
Couples who did not apply for a 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 the 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 $3,600 a month and have acceptable qualifications.|
|EntrePass||Foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start and operate a business in Singapore.|
|Personalised Employment Pass||High-earning existing Employment Pass holders ($12,000/month) or overseas foreign professionals $18,000/month).|
The easiest method for a foreigner 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, she or she has to secure employment and then get their employers to apply for a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the Ministry of Manpower.
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 the foreign workers’ levy to hire them.
The first thing your foreigner 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.
Foreigners also do not have CPF accounts. This means that their employers do not have to contribute 17% of their salary into the CPF system, and neither do they have to contribute 20% of their salary to it. You and your foreigner spouse have to put in place concrete plans for your savings needs.
Of course, when your foreigner spouse becomes a Singapore Permanent Resident (PR), 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 foreigner spouse will start receiving the same contribution rates as Singapore Citizens.
* Ordinary Wages (OW) is capped at $6,000 for CFP contributions. This is the same for 3rdyear PRs and Singapore Citizens.
Buying A Home
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 application.
Once your spousebecomes a PR or youhave 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 Public Scheme instead, which gives you more flat options.
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 you will be eligible for. You can do by obtaining a HDB Loan Eligibility 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.
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, your foreign spouse’s existing healthcare coverage in his or her home country would likely not provide any health coverage for him or her in Singapore.
When your foreign spouse gets 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.
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.
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