Singapore Expats

Guide to NS Issues

Permanent Residents

Second generation PRs who attain PR status through their parents are required to serve NS. However, PR can be given up at any time. If you do not wish to serve, simply give up your PR at ICA. This allows you to legally avoid NS.

Note that giving up PR will have an adverse effect on any future immigration dealings with Singapore. Travelling and social visits on temporary visas should be no problem at all, while re-applying for PR and citizenship is probably out of the question. In between lies employment passes and such – I’m not sure about this but they’d take giving up PR into account.

First generation PRs are generally not required to serve. From the ICA website: “Main applicants who are granted PR status under the first generation Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers (PTS) Scheme or the Investor Scheme are exempted from NS.” However, I have met a first generation PR beginning service at the age of 25. I’m not sure if this is the norm – he is a doctor - or if there is some age based criteria. I imagine willingness to serve is something they ask you at the PR interview.

“Males who are granted Singapore PR, and who were previously Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents, are liable to be called up for NS regardless of the type of PR status they have been granted.” This is the official line. I think what this means is that if you have earlier renounced citizenship and PR they might be willing to grant you PR if you agree to serve.

So think about it carefully if you are planning to apply PR for your child. If you do not want him to serve NS, it is probably best not to apply PR rather than force him out of the country and deny him the opportunity to live here again. Of course if you’re sure he will never have anything ever to do with Singapore other than social visits then PR will provide some short term benefits but you can never predict these things.

What if you are willing to serve? Completing NS is generally a direct route to citizenship, no questions asked. If citizenship is what you want, this is probably the fastest and easiest route. You can, of course, choose not to naturalise as a Singaporean citizen, the other minor benefits such as the occasional government handout will still accrue to you.

Dual citizens

This is the interesting bit where most of the problems arise. I will start with a broad statement that is mostly true:

The only way a male Singaporean citizen can legally avoid NS is if he
1) has another citizenship before the age of 11
2) informs Mindef of his intention to renounce Singaporean citizenship and applies for the necessary exit permits from the age of 13 and obtains deferment at 18
3) does not use or benefit from Singaporean citizenship after 11
4) finally renounces Singaporean citizenship at 21

1) This is a very important point that is often missed. The child must be a citizen of another country before 11, whether by being born there, or having a parent from that country, or by naturalization before 11. Permanent residence/ green card etc. is not citizenship.

Simply by being a Singaporean citizen with no other citizenship obliges the Singapore Government to provide you protection in a foreign country and to receive you if that country no longer wants you around. Whether you actually seek assistance is a different matter. You are in that country legally only at the request of the Singapore Government to that country’s government, and that is a huge “socio-economic benefit”. Also, a passport is a legal document, not citizenship per se. So even if your passport has expired you’re still a citizen. Not having a valid passport is not a way of saying that you have not benefited. The only way of doing so is to have another citizenship, meaning that you have someone else’s legal protection under international law.

So if the child at 11 has only Singaporean citizenship, there is no legal way out, regardless of any permanent resident status or later acquisition of another citizenship.

2) Contact Mindef before the child turns 11 and inform them of your child’s situation. They will allow you to defer service until 21, when he can legally renounce Singaporean citizenship. In between exit permits are required for the child to legally remain out of Singapore. I am unsure of the exact procedure for this.

If you have not done this before the child turned 11 do so as soon as possible and there might be a way out.

3) Once that is done remember not to obtain “socio-economic benefits” for the child. This includes applying for/ renewing a passport, getting NRIC, travelling on a Singapore passport, residing in Singapore as a citizen. This might be somewhat negotiable if the benefit is very small. Someone here (May_168) renewed his son’s passport and entered Singapore briefly on a Singapore passport after 11 and managed to get Mindef to defer, but at a heavy cost. Be careful.

4) Renounce citizenship at an embassy or consulate or in Singapore upon turning 21.

Other information
Singaporean citizenship by birth is the only “automatic” form of citizenship, and is given only to children born in Singapore to a Singaporean parent. Being born overseas to a Singaporean only entitles you to citizenship by descent, which requires registration with an embassy or consulate. If you are sure that you do not want Singaporean citizenship for your child, give birth overseas and don’t register his birth with the embassy at all. He will not be a Singaporean. However, Singaporean citizenship is unavoidable if born in Singapore to a Singaporean parent.

Singaporean citizenship cannot be renounced until the age of 21. So once the child gets citizenship he has it with him until he is 21, which necessitates the whole deferment thing above.

If he decides to serve/ has no choice but to serve: he must still decide which citizenship he wants before he turns 22. The good news is that reservist obligations will cease upon renunciation. Similar to loss of PR above, renunciation of citizenship has an adverse impact on immigrating to Singapore in future. Renunciation is also in full – there is no way to change from citizen to PR.

If all has failed

If your child does not fulfill the above criteria, simply remaining out of Singapore is the only remaining option. People who might be in such a situation are those who emigrated and obtained citizenship after 11, or dual citizens who lived in Singapore after 11, or simply those who did not contact Mindef and inform them of the child’s intention to renounce.

If the criteria are not met you can try to discuss your case with Mindef. Some have been successful, although I think these cases are mostly those who have lived overseas all the time and were merely careless. Those who emigrate after 11 have little hope. A lawyer is definitely useful.

If there are no further avenues, it comes down to a choice between two years of service or a lifetime regarded as a criminal in Singapore. If ever he tries to enter Singapore, NS, a jail term, a heavy fine (increased since Melvyn Tan paid $3000) or all three await.

This is highly inadvisable. He won't be able to set foot in Singapore without being arrested, not even in transit. If Singapore does not matter very much to you, at the very least make sure the child has another citizenship. This is extremely important. Don’t risk anything hoping his citizenship application will be successful. If it isn’t, he will be back in Singapore in no time, facing possible charges.

A simple flowchart for dual citizens

1. Another citizenship at 11?
Yes - go to 2
No - serve NS, stay out of Singapore, or face charges

2. Socio-economic benefits after 11? Passport, NRIC, etc.
Yes - serve NS or stay out, but contact Mindef for assistance if benefit is very minor or accidental
No - go to 3

3. Informed Mindef of intention to renounce?
Yes - Maintain exit permits and renounce at 21
No - Do so now and hope for the best

Source: Singapore Expats Forum

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25 Jun 2009
Singapore Expats Forum