Singapore is home to more than 490,000 Permanent Residents, and all of them are eligible to apply for Singapore Citizenship. Most of these PRs will apply for Citizenship eventually, while some will never. However, last year, only 20,000 citizenship applications were approved. If you compare this number with the total number of people qualified for Singapore Citizenship then this is a 4% approval ratio.
Obviously, securing the Singapore Citizenship status has become much harder than it used to be. Applying for Singapore Citizenship with the minimum required documents means your chances of rejection are very high. Moreover, people are often confused about what they can do to improve their chances of success in their Citizenship application. We also noticed that many people are not clear about the process, documents required and the benefits and shortcomings of Singapore Citizenship.
Hence, we have created this Singapore Citizenship application guide. This is the only guide you will ever need to learn everything about preparing and applying for Singapore Citizen status.
Before learning about Singapore Citizenship Application process and requirements, it is essential to understand why you should consider Citizenship in Singapore.
Singapore is globally recognized for its political stability, strategic infrastructure, safety, and high standards of living. The city-state offers a free-market economy and world-class healthcare services with state-of-the-art medical facilities. The multiple treaties and trading links are best for entrepreneurial ambitions and employment.
People are moving to Singapore from all over the world to settle because of the luxurious lifestyle and opportunities it offers. A hardworking and smart person can build a fortune here. The city-state also offers good educational opportunities for children.
Due to these reasons (among many), Singapore has become the top choice for ex-pats. Foreigners come to Singapore on various work-related visas but start thinking about settling here after a while. Finally, they find a home in Singapore and believe it’s the best country to live their lives and raise their children.
The first step in making Singapore your home is to obtain the Permanent Residency (PR) status. And the next and the last phase of their journey is to become a Singapore citizen.
Approximately twenty years back, there was a trend that people liked to migrate to the USA, Canada, or Australia. However, we have started to notice a change in that trend now. The dynamics of migration have changed over time. Today people prefer to migrate to Singapore much more than these other countries.
Some of the reasons for this shift in trend are –
A professional from India is staying in the USA and paying 40% taxes. The person is residing in a complete western culture and may need at least 2 days to travel back to India if there’s an emergency.
This scenario seems unattractive as compared to another scenario where an Indian professional is living in Singapore, earning same income. The person has to pay 10-15% taxes with many other Indians living in your vicinity and maybe working with you. To put the cherry on top, you only need 5 hours to travel back to your home country. Not to mention, earning and saving potentials are better in Singapore as compared to western countries.
Before we proceed further, it’s essential that we understand what Singapore Citizenship is.
Singapore citizenship is the process of applying to be national (or subject ) of Singapore. In this process you are applying to the government authorities (namely ICA – Immigration and checkpoint authority). Technically what you are confirming to the authorities is, that even if you were born as a national of some other country, now you prefer to give up that nationality and want to obtain Singapore nationality permanently. Since you are working and staying in Singapore for quite long, you request the ICA to grant you the citizenship.
The process of obtaining Singapore Citizenship in this way, is called the process of naturalization. The specific term used here in Singapore is Citizenship by Registration. The other two types of Citizenship are –
For this article, however, Citizenship by Registration is relevant, and that is what we are discussing here.
In this process, you apply to Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) to become citizen of Singapore. And if your application is approved, you are required to give up your existing Citizenship to register as a Singapore Citizen.
This is the main difference between obtaining a PR status and becoming a Singapore Citizen. You can continue to be a citizen in your home country even after becoming a Singapore PR. This is because you just received a long-term visa in Singapore and some advantages that are not available to work pass holders. However, that equation changes when you obtain Citizenship. This is the reason why you need to consider it carefully before submitting a citizenship application.
For the sake of clarity, Singapore law does not allow dual nationality. So even if your current country of nationality allows dual citizenship, you will have to give it up due to Singapore regulations.
If you are on permanent residency status, below are some reasons to apply for Singapore Citizenship. In fact, the benefits of obtaining Singapore citizenship largely stem from limitations of permanent residency status.
One key thing to note is that PR status itself is not permanent. You get a Re-Entry Permit (REP) when you get a PR. ICA used to give REP for a period of 10 years long ago. However, the duration was shortened, and now you can only renew it for 5 years at a time. The Re-Entry Permit is subject to approval. The approving authorities will look at various factors like income, stay, and your record in Singapore. If you fail to fulfill any requirement, you may lose your PR status. Hence, PR is not permanent, and Singapore Citizenship is your ideal choice to make Singapore as your permanent home.
A Permanent Resident is expected to remain economically active and contributing. If your income drops or there is no income for a year or two, you may not be able to renew your PR for the entire 5 years period. We have seen cases where people have started new businesses, and their income fell significantly (Which is quite normal for a new business). However, ICA renewed their REP for the next 2 years only.
This is another possible scenario where your company might transfer you to a foreign country on a job posting (especially when you are working for a multinational corporation). This creates a similar issue as we discussed above. Working in a foreign nation, you would file your income tax in that country and not in Singapore. Hence, no income will be declared in Singapore, and the PR will only be renewed for a 2-year period.
To add to that, Singapore authorities expect that you relocate to Singapore in these 2 years. Failure to do so may result in no further renewals of your PR status.
Because authorities ask a simple question –
“If this person is not staying in Singapore, why does he need a PR?“
As a main applicant, you can sponsor all people from your family (spouse and children) to get a PR in Singapore. However, the sponsorship for children remains valid until they reach the age of 21. After that, they will not be considered a part of your family unit, and you cannot sponsor them.
Now what happens in general practice is as follows – If your child (above 21) is studying in Singapore, their PR will usually be approved for 2 years. If the child is already employed, the employment income will be taken into consideration.
If the child is studying abroad (UK/USA), the PR will not be approved. After completing their education, if the child wants to work in Singapore, he/she will have to follow the same route you followed (i.e., get EP, work for a few years, and eventually apply for PR).
Hence, you must be careful of these scenarios – especially if you have children approaching the age of 21.
As a PR, you are allowed to buy HDB or any other private apartment. But, you still have to pay 5% extra stamp duty (also called ABSD). So on a unit of 1 million SGD, the extra cost is 50K SGD which is quite a lot. Moreover, suppose you want to buy additional properties for investment purposes. In that case, you will have to pay higher ABSD compared to Citizens.
One of the crucial points to note is that the PR status of family members is not independent. It depends largely on the main applicant. In a nutshell, if anything tragic happens to the main applicant, the PR status of the family may not be renewed or renewed only for a shorter period.
We have had cases where the main applicant died and the family faced multiple issues during PR renewal.
Now, this thing is generally rare. We don’t see many cases of these types. However, it is worth noting that if you are involved in any offenses, your PR may result in non-renewal or immediate cancellation (depending on severity). These offenses may not necessarily be planned crimes. It can be something that happens in the normal course of life.
For example, you broke the signal while driving your car and hit a pedestrian crossing the road. Unfortunately, the Pedestrian got injured badly. Obviously, the traffic police will charge you in court (As violating a signal is considered dangerous driving under section 64 of Road Traffic Act). But the bad part is, depending on the severity of the injury, your PR may get cancelled immediately or may not be renewed at all.
The same thing can be said about unwanted social publicity. Sometimes people write something on a social media platform, like Facebook, Instagram etc. It is possible that your post may be classified as impacting racial harmony in Singapore, hate speech, etc. We know some cases where a person posted something on Facebook, and then his PR was not renewed after the post was classified as something inappropriate.
Singapore passport offers little to none travel restrictions when you travel around the globe. While travelling to countries like the USA, Singapore passport holders gets the benefit of liberal visa requirements..
Singapore was also placed in the 2nd spot by the Henley Visa Restrictions Index, 2018 in a global ranking of countries regarding the travel freedom (visa-free access) to their citizens. The study proves the high degree of travel freedom Singapore citizens enjoy.
The school fees for children of Singapore Citizens are subsidized. Depending on the educational institution and the marks scored, up to 100% of the fees may be waived. In university education, many promising students also get scholarships of a considerable amount.
Singapore students get priority placement in reputed educational institutions. Also for the courses in demand the places are reserved for the local students. For example you might know that the obtaining a seat in medical college in Singapore for a foreigner is next to impossible.
If you have children who will be going to university education soon, then this is a relevant point to consider.
Medical facilities are heavily subsidized for Singapore citizens, especially in public hospitals in wards B or C.
There are many other benefits government offers to citizens. However, for the sake of brevity, I will just mention those here rather than a full explanation.
As you can see there are many factors which favour in obtaining Singapore citizenship. Also the PR status is not permanent as most of us presume. Therefore, you are at risk even if you stay in Singapore on a PR. So its best to make Singapore your home and settle here permanently, and obtaining citizenship status is the right thing to do.
As we discussed the reasons why you should apply for Citizenship, here are other factors that you should consider before making your final decision. These are some of the reasons why you may not want to apply for Citizenship.
Male Singapore citizens must register for NS as soon as they turn 16.5 years old. Once they reach the age of 18, they are enlisted for 2 years of full-time Singapore National Services unless deferment from enlistment at a later date is granted. They are also required to serve 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service each year until the officers get 50 years old and non-officers reach the age of 40.
Hence, your male children will have to serve two years of National Service if your Citizenship application is approved. Now many people are wary of this and do not take Citizenship or PR for their male children.
You have to give up the Citizenship of your home country while accepting Singapore Citizenship. As a result, you can no longer receive the benefits you used to get as a citizen of your home country.
Depending on your home country, the impact can be significant. Hence, you must carefully consider this point.
For example, suppose your country gives dole (Unemployment benefits) to its citizens. In that case, you cannot claim them after giving up your home country citizenship. If there is a state-sponsored pension scheme to support you in old age, you will also lose all access to those benefits.
As Singapore does not allow dual Citizenship, you will have to renounce your home country citizenship and give up your home country passport.
Singapore Citizens cannot withdraw all their CPF savings together. They have to renounce their citizenship status for that. This rule stands for SPRs also. However, giving up Citizenship is a complicated task and not as simple as renouncing Permanent Residency.
As a general rule, all primary students, who are Singapore citizens, must pursue education in Singapore’s local stream. However, if your child intends to attend an international school, you have to seek permission from the government authorities.
It is a general consensus that Singapore is a costlier place to live as compared to other Asian countries, especially in retirement years. Therefore, if you plan to obtain Singapore Citizenship and spend your retirement years here, you must plan your finances carefully.
Preference to apply for Singapore Citizenship is not uniform across nationalities. We have noticed that people from the Asian continent, primarily from China, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, and Cambodia are almost always clear with their intentions to apply for Singapore Citizenship.
On the other hand, ex-pats from developed economies like the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, generally do not go for Citizenship applications. This is because they prefer to stay on PR and don’t intend to settle down permanently. There could be several reasons for that like they might be already getting state benefits. Also, the possibility of retiring in any of these countries holds them back from applying for Singapore citizenship.
However, in the last few years, we have also seen an uptick in applications from nationals of these countries.
It was easier to acquire Singapore Citizenship a decade ago. You could just reach the ICA’s office on a sunny afternoon, take your papers, wait until they call your ticket number, show them all the certificates, and submit the required copies.
You would get your results in 3 months after finishing all the formalities. The chances of rejection were quite slim, especially if you had stayed for more than two years in Singapore as a PR. However, times have changed. Now ICA approves only 20,000 Citizenship applications each year.
You could apply with the minimum required documents and could still get selected in the past. However, the circumstances are not the same anymore. The approval rate for a Singapore Citizenship is considerably lower than that in 2008.
|Number of Applications filed||40,000|
|Places released by ICA||20,000|
|% Approval rate||18%|
While 40,000 applications are filed, many of them are family applications, consisting of spouse and children. So 40,000 application consist of 110,000 applicants.
Firstly, you must understand the eligibility to apply for Singapore Citizenship. People from the following categories can apply for Singapore Citizenship:
A person who is at least 21 years of age and has been living as a Singapore Permanent Resident for a duration of 2 to 6 years before the date of application. Such applicants can apply with family members for Singapore Citizenship, provided they also have PR status.
Spouse of a Singapore Citizen who has been living as Singapore PR and has been married for at least 2 years prior to the date of application. In this scenario, the spouse that is a Singapore citizen becomes the sponsor, and the spouse on PR becomes the applicant.
A child born in a foreign nation to a Singapore citizen can apply to become a citizen in Singapore. It is worth noting that a person (or child) can apply under this scheme without even being a PR. This is the only scheme which allows direct application to Singapore PR status.
Other than these eligibility criteria, several other factors play an essential role in the final result of your Singapore citizenship application:
Below is the general list of documents you must compile for your Citizenship application. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may need additional documents. However, for the sake of brevity, we will not cover all those scenarios here. If you need any help on this matter, you can check about it with our office. The documents listed here are not significantly different from the ones that you needed when filing your PR application. So to that extent, I can say that the efforts involved in compiling these documents are not that significant, as you have already done it once before.
If you are also planning to apply for Citizenship for your spouse, you need a similar set of documents as above.
If you include your children in your citizenship application, you need to provide the following documents;
Any time is the best time to file your Singapore Citizenship application if you feel you are ready and want to make Singapore your forever home. However, you must be a Singapore PR for at least 2 years to become eligible to apply for Singapore Citizenship. Hence, you are required to wait at least two years to apply after securing Singapore’s PR status. However, the actual optimum time to file your citizenship application may differ based on your ethnicity. So we follow different recommendations for this.
One of the most important decisions you must make at this stage is whether you want to go through the entire process on your own or you want to take help from an agent. People often react shocked to the idea of using an Agent for the Singapore Citizenship Application.
They often expressed this view –
“Why do you need an agent when you can do it yourself?”
Unfortunately, many people overlooked the changed circumstances. This opinion was justified in 2008 when getting Singapore Citizenship was relatively easy. Today, the chances of a successful citizenship application are almost negligible. So, don’t make your decision on hearsay views and rumors.
Hiring an agent to file your Singapore citizenship application can smoothen the entire application process and help you in many ways. The benefits of hiring an agent are:
A Singapore Citizenship Application specialist can offer an in-depth analysis of your profile and the chances of a successful application. Then, after careful evaluation, the Singapore Citizenship agent can provide insights regarding the changes and improvements your profile needs. An agent can also help you choose the best scheme based on your profile.
Your citizenship application must meet all the ICA requirements. Missing out on even minor details can cause rejection. However, a Singapore Citizenship agent can help you meet all the requirements and do not miss any important detail or document. More specifically, an agent can help you in the following ways.
A Singapore Citizenship specialist can guide you to make your profile better and stronger. For example, suppose your application was rejected in the past, and you are reapplying. In that case, you can definitely use some guidance from experts. A Singapore Citizenship agent can tell what your profile lacks and how you can make those areas strong.
An agent can assist you with another essential task by ensuring that all your documents are error-free. In some cases, a minor error can result in a negative outcome for your application. Unfortunately, ICA does not disclose the reason for rejecting an application, so you can never know why your application was rejected.
Singapore Citizenship agents can analyze your documents to ensure all details are filled without errors. As these agents handle many cases, they are adept with documents and typical mistakes.
A Singapore Citizenship cover letter is not be mandatory. However, it helps your application stand out from the thousands of other applications by creating an excellent first impression.
A Singapore Citizenship agent will write a concise and personalized cover letter for you.
You must consider all the factors mentioned above before you apply for Singapore Citizenship.
Make sure that your profile is solid not to get rejected quickly. If you think your profile fulfills ICA’s criteria, you should apply immediately.
As you decide to file your Singapore Citizenship Application, you must go through some pre-filing preparations. Prepare everything in advance rather than missing out on a crucial document or information at the last moment. As the entire process is online, the chances of making mistakes are high if you are not careful.
Secure all the required and additional documents with yourself before starting the online application. You only get 7 days to finish your application after you start, and you must submit all the documents within this duration. Hence, double-check all your required documents before you start the online application. Organise all documents in folders for each person to be included in the application.
Make sure the data provided by you is accurate and error-free. Double-check to ensure there are no basic mistakes or grammatical errors in your content. For certificates, make sure you didn’t leave anything blank or there are not errors like names misspelled, mismatched, etc.
If you find any errors in your certificates, you must take the necessary steps and obtain the right documents from your home country. Your embassy may allow you to carry out these procedures in Singapore also.
If some documents are in your local language, you must submit affidavits or notarized translations for them. Cross-check the translation and ensure there are no errors. An approved translator must be engaged to avoid errors. The process should follow the prescribed method in Singapore – i.e., Notarisation, etc.
Scan copies of your documents must be submitted with your Citizenship application. However, you have to bring the original documents for verification by the immigration officer once your citizenship application is accepted. Therefore, keep all your original documents in your custody to avoid any inconvenience after the approval of your application.
Use a good scanner to scan all your documents in high resolution. Avoid taking pictures with a phone camera. If you still want to use your phone camera, use a special app and scan the document in good lighting. Make sure that every tiny detail is visible on your documents’ digital copies.
The application filing process is completely online. First, you visit the ICA system on the internet. Then, use your Singpass to log in and make appropriate selections depending on which scheme you choose to apply under. In the next step, you lodge details of all applicants and attach all the scanned copies of all required documents.
Once you are done, you must make a payment of 100 SGD per applicant (Usually) the amount of fees will depend on the scheme.
Please note that you have only seven days to complete all the steps for Singapore Citizenship Application.
Before going ahead and submitting your Singapore Citizenship application, you must ensure that you are not making the following mistakes. These mistakes could result in the rejection of your application. Hence take necessary steps wherever required to eliminate any weaknesses in your application.
A common mistake most people make is applying for Citizenship status right after securing the Permanent Residency. You have a high chance of rejection at this moment. Therefore, it is not worth your efforts when the approval rate is low. It is recommended to apply at least 2-3 years after securing your PR status.
Not making any significant social contributions and not integrating socially with other Singaporeans increases your chances of rejection. ICA considers these factors while assessing your citizenship application. So take some steps towards charity, social contribution, and social integration.
If you only submit the minimum required documents for your Singapore Citizenship application, you may be making a huge mistake. For example, you may have won a prestigious award that could help with your Singapore Citizenship application. However, ICA will never know about it unless you attach the relevant document. As more people are applying for Singapore citizenship every year, you cannot rely on the minimum documents mentioned by the immigration authority. You must offer additional documents to showcase why you are a better choice than thousands of other applicants.
Attaching too many additional documents with your Singapore Citizenship application is also a common mistake.
For example, attaching a school certificate about winning a dance competition a decade ago is entirely irrelevant. You must only include supporting documents that are relevant and can help your application somehow. Too many irrelevant documents may hurt your citizenship application.
A personalized cover letter can leave an excellent first impression on the immigration officer. It can be a deciding factor in the approval or rejection of your application. A carefully drafted cover letter can also add relevant and valuable information to your citizenship application.
The immigration authorities generally assess the following:
The ICA wants to ensure that you are well-educated, skilled, and a good fit for Singaporean society.
The ICA wants to assess the level of commitment you have towards the city-state.
If the ICA grants you Citizenship and you leave Singapore in the next few years, it will be a waste of ICA’s time and efforts. ICA carefully examines every application to ensure that they are giving Citizenship status to candidates who want to make Singapore their home.
ICA wants to ensure that your children are likely to stay in Singapore and settle here. Here’s an example to understand it better. Suppose you are applying for Singapore Citizenship with your spouse and children except for your male child. It indicates that your male child does not want NS liability.
It also means your children may not continue to settle in Singapore. ICA may not prefer your application in this scenario. It wants to grant citizenship status to people willing to settle in Singapore with their families permanently.
The Singapore government has set aside approximately 20,000 spots for new Citizens in Singapore every year. 20,000 citizenship applications (on average) were approved by the ICA from 2015 to 2019. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers of approved applications were less in 2020. These quotas are (as we understand) further distributed into quarters. ICA approves around 5,000 applications each quarter. There can be more subcategories depending on ethnicity, age group, industry, etc. However, ICA has not disclosed them.
After submission, your application becomes part of a subcategory in that quarter and gets evaluated on those factors. If you don’t get approval in that quarter, your application might be considered in the next quarter’s quota.
After submitting your Citizenship application along with required and additional documents, you can only wait for the results. You must prepare yourself for the post-approval process beforehand and not leave anything to the last moment. You can keep checking your application status in ICA online system to stay updated.
ICA takes about nine to twelve months to declare your application’s outcome. Therefore, if you receive your result in three months, it’s most likely a rejection. However, a longer wait time still means good news as successful applications take longer. In a similar manner, your application is most likely a successful one if you receive a thick envelope, as you are supposed to receive many other documents with the results.
The post citizenship approval process is divided into three stages;
After your application gets approved, you receive an in-principle approval. After receiving the IPA, you have to do two things:
You have to conduct these sessions and tours physically. Only children below 16 years are exempted from this. Anyone above 16 years must fulfill these requirements. Additionally, you have to complete an online course called e-journey.
You will have to feed these details into the ICA system after completion. A final citizenship approval is issued upon successful completion of all prerequisites.
After receiving your final approval for Singapore Citizenship, you must prepare to renounce your existing Citizenship with your home country’s embassy. You must file ICA approval in the embassy and also submit your home country passport.
Normally, they cancel your passport and issue a certificate of renunciation within 1 day. After receiving your renunciation certificate, you have to make an appointment to finalize your citizenship registration process at ICA and take the citizenship oath. Please note that these final steps may vary a little based on your home country.
The renunciation applies only to persons over 21 years old. Minors are exempted from it.
In the next step, you must register your Singapore citizenship with the ICA. You must provide your renunciation certificate to immigration officers and complete all formalities.
One step includes taking the oath of allegiance. Taking the oath signifies that you are giving up all your loyalties to your home country or any other country and remain loyal to Singapore only. Then, you take the oath in front of the commissioner. Many people get emotional during the process.
After taking the oath, you receive papers confirming that you have been registered as a Singapore citizen (a paper IC). As the next step, you can apply for a Singapore Passport. From this moment, you technically become a Singapore citizen.
The final step of your Singapore Citizenship journey is the citizenship ceremony. The ceremony is organized in grassrout Clubs every quarter in order to felicitate new citizens. You receive your citizenship certificate and pink Singapore NRIC during this ceremony. The function is headed by a local MP or minister and also includes lunch.
This marks the end of your citizenship journey.
After completing the registration stage, you are a full-fledged Singapore citizen. Therefore, you must do the following immediately after that:
When a minor child gets Singapore Citizenship by registration, such a child is not required to renounce his/her Citizenship. Technically, the law allows dual Citizenship for children. However, after reaching the age of 21, the child must choose Citizenship of either their home country or of Singapore. They are supposed to take the oath accordingly after making their decision.
Laws of most countries do not allow renunciation of Citizenship of a minor child by his / her parents. Hence Singapore government follows this procedure.
However, this situation gives rise to one of the most frequently asked questions about the passport. Should you cancel the child’s previous passport, and how should you do that?
The answer to this question is – yes. You should cancel the previous passport by presenting the final citizenship approval as you should not keep two passports (especially if the countries do not allow dual Citizenship). There is a difference between being a citizen and holding two passports.
Your Citizenship application can get rejected for several reasons. As disheartening as it can be, you still have two options after receiving the bad news.
ICA allows you to submit one appeal letter for your rejected Citizenship application. However, it is not easy to overturn the decision of ICA unless you have made significant improvements in your profile. Remember that you can only make one appeal, so try to make it as good as possible.
Some tips for a good appeal letter:
Make sure you have the required documents to back your claim.
After a rejected citizenship application, the second option is to wait and reapply after six months. This option is recommended as it will give you ample time to work on your profile. For instance, your salary may have increased in these six months. In addition, you may have got a promotion. Also, your duration of stay in Singapore gets increases.
As Singapore has tightened the criteria for Singapore Citizenship application approvals, engaging the services of an immigration agent is your best option. You must also carefully measure all the advantages and disadvantages of being a Singapore Citizenship before applying. Applying with your family gives a good impression. Work on your profile, and do not apply just for the sake of applying. Your application must show that you genuinely want to be a part of Singapore.