Tuesday 21 October 2014

Marriage preparation, support programmes for Singaporeans wed to foreigners

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Oct 2014

The Government is enhancing social support for couples here that include spouses who are foreigners, as the number of transnational marriages in Singapore increase.

Counsellors say such marriages face unique challenges. Couples could face financial problems, problems with housing, their children's education and for the foreign spouse, the added stress of adapting to a new environment. Another big issue is a mismatch in expectations.

To address such challenges upstream, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (Oct 20) announced two new initiatives to help couples - marriage preparation programmes and marriage support programmes.

The ministry has identified two partners - Fei Yue Community Services and Care Corner - to offer marriage preparation programmes for couples intending to marry and marriage support programmes for those already married.

The pre-marital workshops are meant to address a couple's concerns and expectations, so both know what they are getting into before they tie the knot. The support programmes are meant to help married couples integrate into their new community.

The courses will be customised according to the background of the couple, and are targeted at all transnational couples, regardless of their socio-economic background. They will cover content such as communication, conflict resolution, understanding cultural differences and adapting to the Singapore environment.

Fei Yue intends to attach a buddy to every couple it sees. Said Fei Yue's Deputy Director Arthur Ling: "Hopefully, we can build a relationship, a trust. Perhaps there could be a place to follow up with them, because sometimes the issue also comes about later in their journey of this marriage. That is where they can have an additional source of help."

Marriages between a Singaporean and a foreigner accounted for nearly 40 per cent of all citizen marriages in 2013. These numbers are not likely to go down, said Mr Chan. "Any marriage - whether it is a Singaporean with a Singaporean, or a Singaporean with a foreign spouse, man or female - will have its own fair set of challenges. All the more so if there are cross-cultural differences, if it is a transnational marriage, because the cultural backgrounds are different, the expectations are different," he said.

"What we hope to do is to roll out programmes in the coming months to better support Singaporeans who intend to get married to a foreign spouse."

The programmes will cover areas such as how to prepare for settling down in Singapore, financial management, and employment and immigration issues. "I think it benefits both parties to have a clearer idea about the challenges that they need to face in the immediate days of getting married," said Mr Chan. 

Fei Yue Family Service Centre has seen an increasing number of cases involving foreign spouses over the years - up to 20 cases a month on average. And a counsellor here says that most of the time, these couples do not think about the problems they may encounter, after getting married.

The programmes will be rolled out by both centres in December. It is hoped that couples who see the value of these initiatives will come forward on their own volition. "Both couples must be prepared to walk the journey together," said Mr Chan.

The National Population and Talent Division and the Home Affairs Ministry are expected to announce another initiative targeted at transnational couples, later this week.


New Measures To Help Prospective Singaporean-Foreigner Couples Better Plan For Their Future
New rules clear air for transnational marriages

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