Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the best cities in Asia to live and work in. The Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum has ranked Singapore the best country in Asia (and 3rd worldwide) to work in and the best country in Asia for quality of life. Singapore also ranks number 1 in the world for math and science education.
This makes Singapore a very attractive country for foreigners to relocate to, often on a long-term basis, which brings about the question of whether to apply for Singapore citizenship or not. This article considers the benefits as well as the possible downside of attaining Singapore citizenship.
Ease of Travel
Singapore passport holders enjoy a high level of travel freedom due to the visa-free access granted to Singapore citizens by countries across the world. According to the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, a global ranking of countries according to travel freedom their citizens enjoy, Singapore is ranked 6th globally. This makes the Singapore Passport a highly sought-after and attractive option.
Only Singapore citizens (over 21 yrs) are eligible to purchase flats from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and are eligible for HDB housing loans at concessionary interest rates and/or a CPF housing Grant. Only Singapore citizens are eligible to rent a subsidized HDB flat.
A Singapore citizen can purchase landed property whereas a SPRs first require government approval and foreigners are not eligible to purchase such property. Singapore citizen households only need to pay a fraction of the total upgrading cost from the government’s upgrading programmes whereas SPRs have to pay the full cost of upgrading.
Central Provident Fund
The CPF is a comprehensive social security savings plan that has provided many working Singaporean citizens with a sense of security and confidence in their old age. CPF contributions are compulsory for all working Singapore citizens and SPRs. The overall scope and benefits of the CPF encompass the following:
- Retirement – The CPF Minimum Sum provides for basic needs in retirement. It can be used to purchase a life annuity from a participating insurance company, placed with a participating bank, or left in the Retirement Account with the CPF Board.
- Healthcare – Medisave may be used to cover hospitalisation expenses for both members and their dependants. It may also be used for specific outpatient treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
- Home Ownership – Ordinary Account savings can be used to purchase a home under CPF housing schemes. A HDB flat may be purchased under the Public Housing Scheme, or a private property under the Residential Properties Scheme.
- Family Protection – The Dependants’ Protection Scheme helps families to tide over the first few years in the event of an insured member’s permanent incapacity or death.
- Asset Enhancement – CPF members may invest their Ordinary Account balance under the CPF Investment Scheme – Ordinary Account (CPFIS-OA), and their Special Account balance under the CPF Investment Scheme – Special Account (CPFIS-SA).
Employers typically prefer to employ Singapore citizens to avoid having to apply for an EP or S pass for foreigners. Once attaining citizenship, you are entitled to work in Singapore without having to worry about whether your respective work pass will be renewed and your employment is not dependent on such.
Tuition Fees – Singapore citizens enjoy significantly lower tuition fees compared to SPRs and foreigners, whether at government, government-aided or independent schools or institutions.
Edusave Scheme – The Edusave Scheme is a government initiative to maximize opportunities for all children who are Singaporean citizens. The Scheme includes the following:
- Edusave pupils fund – students studying full time at primary or secondary level in a Government or Government-aided school, an independent school or institution, a specialised school or Government-supported special education school will automatically be given an Edusave account and receive a yearly Edusave contribution of $200 or $240 respectively.
- Edusave Scholarships – students who excel in academic and non-academic activities are rewarded with various scholarships and awards.
- Tertiary Education – Singapore citizens are usually only required to undertake a service bond if they are on Public Service Commission scholarships/bursaries or if they are admitted to the Faculties of Medicine or Dentistry, whereas SPRs and foreign students are required to undertake a service bond under the terms of the tuition grant to work for a Singapore-registered company for three years upon completion of their degrees so as to discharge some of their obligations to the Singapore public for the high subsidy to their university education.
Medifund – This is an endowment fund to help Singapore citizens who are unable to pay for their medical expenses. SPRs and foreigners are not eligible for assistance.
Medisave – Medisave Account savings (which form a part of your CPF contributions) can be withdrawn to pay the hospital bills of the account holder and immediate family members, which includes hospitalization, day surgery and certain outpatient expenses.
The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) – CHAS aims to provide accessible and affordable primary care services to more Singapore citizens, and covers acute conditions, ten chronic diseases and selected dental treatment. Patients who qualify for CHAS will receive subsidies when they visit a CHAS-accredited clinic for their healthcare needs.
Medical Fees – Citizens enjoy significantly subsidized fees at SingHealth Polyclinics and Government Hospitals.
Maternity Leave – The mother of a Singapore citizen child is entitled to 16 weeks maternity leave.
Paternity Leave – The father of a Singapore citizen child is entitled to 1 week paternity leave. Fathers are also entitled to share 1 week of the 16 weeks maternity leave, known as Shared Parental Leave.
Childcare Leave – Parents of a Singapore citizen child under the age of 7 years are entitled to 6 days of childcare leave per annum (subject to certain criteria).
Extended Childcare Leave – Parents of a Singapore citizen child between the age of 7-12 years are entitled to 2 days of extended childcare leave per annum (subject to certain criteria).
Infant Care Leave – Parents of a Singapore citizen child are entitled to 6 days of unpaid infant care leave per annum (subject to certain criteria).
Baby Bonus Cash Gift – Parents of citizen newborns will receive $6,000 per child for the first two births and $8,000 per child for the third/fourth or more births.
MediSave – A CPF Medisave account will be created for each citizen newborn with a grant of $3,000 to further support parents in planning their children’s healthcare needs.
Child Development Account (CDA) – This is a special savings account for eligible Singapore citizen children up to the age of 12 where the Government will match savings dollar-for-dollar up to the cap of $6,000 each for the first and second child, $12,000 each for the third and fourth child and $18,000 each for the fifth and subsequent child.
Parenthood Tax Rebate – This is a tax rebate given to married Singapore citizens to encourage them to have more children. PTR can be used to offset income tax payable. The following PRT can be claimed for each qualifying child:
- 1st – $5,000
- 2nd – $10,000
- 3rd and beyond – $20,000 per child.
Working mother’s child relief – Working mothers who are married, divorced or widowed and have Singapore citizen children may be eligible may claim the following tax relief for each qualifying child:
- 1st – 15% of mother’s earned income
- 2nd – 20% of mother’s earned income
- 3rd and beyond– 25% of mother’s earned income per child
No Dual Citizenship
Singapore does not permit dual citizenship and as such, once approval for Singapore citizenship is given, you must renounce your foreign citizenship before officially becoming a Singapore citizen.
Upon reaching the age of 16 ½ years, all male Singapore citizens have to register for NS, and upon turning the age of 18 years or soon thereafter, they will serve a 2 year period as Full Time National Servicemen. Upon completion of their full-time NS they will join the ranks of Singapore’s operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).
NSmen are liable to be called up for a maximum of 40 days of National Service every year until the age of 50 years (for officers) or 40 years (for others). The same applies for SPRs.
CPF withdrawal limitation
CPF savings can only be withdrawn in a lump sum if you denounce you Singapore citizenship. The same applies for SPRs.
Singapore Permanent Residents can apply for Singapore citizenship from 2 years after their SPR approval. Should you have any further questions or require assistance with your application, please contact our Migration Team who will be happy to assist you further.