Wednesday 11 July 2012

Singapore Tightens Rules for Foreign Workers’ Families

From Sept, only those earning above $4k a month can sponsor dependants
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 10 Jul 2012

IN A move to slow down the inflow of foreigners here, skilled foreign workers will soon find it harder to bring their families to Singapore.

From September, only S Pass and Employment Pass (EP) holders who earn at least $4,000 a month can sponsor a Dependant's Pass for their spouses and children.

Currently, S Pass holders earning more than $2,800 and all EP holders are able to do so.

Another change is that EP holders will no longer be able to sponsor parents-in-law to stay here on Long Term Visit Passes.

Those on a P2 Pass, a lower level of Employment Pass, will no longer be able to bring their parents over. These changes will affect family members arriving only from September, not those already here.

A notification of the changes was put up on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) website yesterday.

MOM said the move is part of efforts 'to moderate growth of the non-resident population, including the foreign workforce inflow, in Singapore'.

This will help ease the pressure on social infrastructure, said the ministry.

But it added that Singapore 'remains a global talent capital' and continues 'to welcome highly skilled foreign talent who wish to bring their dependants to stay with them'.

Family members already here will not be affected as long as their sponsor - the S Pass or EP holder - stays with the same company. But if he changes employers after Sept 1, he will be subject to the new rules. Any change in employer is treated as a new work pass application, said MOM.

Hence, if a worker changes employers and earns less than $4,000 in the new job, his family here will no longer be able to stay.

Employers and human resource professionals said the changes could discourage skilled foreigners from coming.

This would make it harder for employers - already facing a labour crunch - to hire the talent needed, said Mr David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute.

While the move 'might be seen to be pleasing certain quarters of society', it is not clear if it will truly benefit Singapore, he added.

Immigration has been a hot topic in recent years, with some Singaporeans saying that the country has grown too congested, leading to problems such as overcrowded trains.

Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat said if foreign employees value the ability to bring family with them, employers will be under pressure to hire higher-paid foreigners who are able to do so.

Mr Phillip Overmyer, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, noted that Singapore is an attractive headquarters location.

But this means that firms have to bring in talent from abroad - and they may want to bring their families.

'If these people find it hard to do so, their companies may also find it difficult to do what they hoped to do in Singapore,' he added.

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