Page semi-protected

Singaporean nationality law

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
Part X Citizenship
Coat of arms of Singapore.svg
Parliament of Singapore
Commenced9 August 1965
Singapore Citizenship Ordinance 1957
Status: Amended

Singaporean nationality law details the conditions by which a person holds Singapore nationality. The primary law governing nationality requirements is the Constitution of Singapore, which came into force on 9 August 1965.

Individuals born to at least one Singaporean parent are typically automatically citizens at birth, regardless of where the birth occurred. Birth in Singapore by itself does not make a child eligible for citizenship. Foreign nationals may become Singaporean citizens after completing a residence requirement (normally 10 years) and renouncing any previous nationalities. Holding another nationality concurrently is generally disallowed and there are many paths for a Singaporean citizen to lose their citizenship should they acquire another nationality.

Singapore was briefly a constituent part of Malaysia and local residents were Malaysian citizens from 1963 to 1965. Prior to this, Singapore was a colony of the British Empire and municipal citizens were British subjects. Although the country gained independence in 1965 and Singaporeans no longer hold Malaysian nor British nationality, they continue to hold favoured status in the United Kingdom; as Commonwealth citizens, Singaporeans are eligible to vote in UK elections and serve in public office there.


Singaporean citizenship was first granted in 1957. Singapore Citizenship Ordinance 1957 which commenced on 1 November 1957 provided Singaporean citizenship to all people who were born in Singapore (except children of diplomats and enemy aliens). People who were born in the Federation of Malaya or citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who had been resident for two years, and others who had been resident for eight years were able to register or naturalise as Singaporean citizen.[1][2] Singaporeans were still considered British subjects at that time, and their passports had the unusual nationality status of "British subject: citizen of the State of Singapore" instead of the usual "British subject: citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies".[3] There are treaties signed by the United Kingdom during this period specifically mention this unusual nationality status.[4][5]

All Singaporean citizens became Malaysian citizens on 16 September 1963 upon Singapore's merger with Malaysia on that date. Malaysian nationality law provided that Singaporean citizenship to continue to exist as a subnational citizenship. Singaporean citizenship continued to be legislated by the Legislative Assembly of Singapore, subject to the approval of the Parliament of Malaysia. Singaporean citizenship was inseparable from Malaysian citizenship; in other words, it was not possible to have Singaporean citizenship without having Malaysian citizenship.

Upon Singapore's secession from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, Malaysian citizenship was withdrawn from Singaporean citizens. Singaporean nationality law was incorporated into the new Constitution of Singapore. The constitution repealed the 1957 Ordinance, and all persons who were citizens as of 16 September 1963 by virtue of the Ordinance continued to be Singaporean citizens.

The Constitution was amended in 2004 to allow female citizens and citizens by descent to transmit their citizenship to children born overseas. For this to occur, citizens by descent must satisfy certain residency requirements.

Acquisition of citizenship

Individuals born in Singapore automatically receive Singaporean citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a Singaporean citizen, except if the father is a foreign diplomat or enemy alien and birth occurred in occupied territory. Children born overseas are Singaporean citizens by descent if either parent is a citizen otherwise than by descent.[6] For an individual born abroad to a parent who is a citizen by descent, the parent must have lived in Singapore for two of the five years preceding the child's birth. Any child eligible for citizenship by descent must have their birth registered at a Singaporean diplomatic mission within one year and cannot have acquired nationality of the country in which they were born.[7] Prior to 15 May 2004, citizenship was transferrable by descent only from fathers who were citizens by birth or registration, and not mothers.[6]

Foreigners over the age of 21 may become Singaporean citizens by registration after residing in the country for at least 10 of the 12 years preceding an application for citizenship. Applicants must fulfill a basic language knowledge requirement (in English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, or Tamil), intend to reside in Singapore permanently, renounce any previous nationalities, and swear an oath of allegiance to the state. Wives of male citizens are eligible for a reduced residence requirement of two years; there are no facilitated paths to citizenship for male spouses of citizens.[8]

The government has discretionary power to waive requirements for further residence and grant citizenship to any person who has resided in the country for at least five of the previous six years. It may also exceptionally reduce residence requirements to 12 months, though this is targeted for foreign investors and skilled migrants who can make considerable economic contributions.[7]

Dual citizenship

The position of the Singapore Government is that dual citizenship is not allowed.[9] The laws regarding Singapore citizenship are found in the Constitution of Singapore.

A dual citizen may have acquired citizenship by birth in a foreign country, by descent from a foreign citizen parent, or by naturalisation. Singapore citizens who voluntarily and intentionally acquire citizenship of a foreign country after the age of 18 may be deprived of their Singapore citizenship by the Government.[10] Foreigners who naturalise as Singaporean citizens are required to renounce all foreign citizenships.[11] Persons who are born outside of Singapore and have at least one parent who is a Singapore citizen may register with a Singapore consulate within a year to acquire Singapore citizenship by descent. However, such persons must renounce their foreign citizenship, if any, before reaching 22 years of age. The Constitution of Singapore is silent on a Singapore citizen who acquired citizenship by birth and is a foreign citizen by descent. So long as such a person refrains from exercising the rights of foreign citizenship, the Government has no grounds for depriving them of his Singapore citizenship and they may hold on to dual citizenship.[12]

The prohibition of dual citizenship is a contentious issue in Singapore. As the economy becomes more globalized and Singaporeans more mobile, many Singaporeans have acquired foreign citizenships and reluctantly renounced their Singaporean citizenship even though they may feel a strong emotional attachment to Singapore. Immigrants who have been resident in Singapore for long periods and qualify for Singaporean citizenship may be reluctant to become naturalized citizens as it would mean giving up the citizenship of their native countries.

The government argues that authorising its citizens to concurrently hold foreign nationalities would be undesirable since, due to Singapore's geopolitical position, it cannot afford to allow its citizens multiple allegiances which may be compromised in times of national crisis. The government also fears that those without a second citizenship may feel aggrieved if dual citizens enjoy the benefits of citizenship during periods of wealth but leave the country in trying times.[13] Nevertheless, the government is open to the possibility of allowing dual citizenship if local and global circumstances demand so.[14]

Renunciation of citizenship

Citizens of Singapore can only renounce Singaporean citizenship if they have acquired citizenship of another country. At the time of renunciation, renunciants must submit their Singaporean passports and National Registration Identity Cards for cancellation.[15] From 2007 to 2011, about 1,200 Singaporean citizens renounce their citizenship every year, 300 of them are naturalised citizens.[16] Male Singaporeans cannot renounce citizenship until completing national service; however, exceptions are made for males who emigrated at a young age. In 2012, a Hong Kong-born teenager filed a lawsuit regarding this requirement in order to give up his citizenship.[17]

Commonwealth citizenship

All Singaporean citizens are Commonwealth citizens and are entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. For example, they can vote in all elections, hold public office and serve on juries in the UK. Singaporean citizens may also receive consular assistance from British embassies in non-Commonwealth countries without a Singaporean representative.[18][19]

These rights include:

Travel freedom

Visa requirements for Singaporean citizens

In 2017, Singaporean citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 159 countries and territories, ranking the Singaporean passport as tied for first (along with Germany) in the world according to the Henley Passport Index.[22]

See also



  1. ^ "Yearbook on human rights for 1957". 1959. p. 288. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  2. ^ Low 2017.
  3. ^ "History of Travel Documents & Passes". ICA. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Exchange of Notes between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Finland regarding the Abolition of Visas for travel between the United Kingdom and certain British Territories, and Finland" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Notawisseling tussen de Nederlandse en de Britse Regering inzake de afschaffing van de visumplicht en de erkenning van reisdocumenten, Londen, 01-04-1960". Archived from the original on 8 February 2018.
  6. ^ a b Low 2017, p. 22.
  7. ^ a b Low 2017, p. 23.
  8. ^ Low 2017, pp. 22–23.
  9. ^ Heng, Janice (7 March 2013). "Dual citizenship not right for now, but Govt will keep an open mind: DPM Teo". Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  10. ^ Article 134(1)(a) Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
  11. ^ Article 126(1) Constitution of the Republic of Singapore
  12. ^ Articles 122(4) and 126(3) for Singaporean citizens by descent and registration respectively, no provision for Singaporean citizens by birth
  13. ^ Wong, Siew Ying (27 May 2005). "Singapore Won't Go the Path of Dual Citizenship: SM Goh". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  14. ^ Paulo, Derrick A. (24 August 2006). "Time Not Ripe for Dual Citizenship". Today. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014.
  15. ^ "ITEMS TO NOTE FOR RENUNCIATION OF SINGAPORE CITIZENSHIP". Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  16. ^ "1,200 renounce their citizenship every year - ASEAN/East Asia | The Star Online". 29 February 2012. Archived from the original on 9 May 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  17. ^ K.C. Vijayan (18 January 2012). "Hong Kong-Born Teen Trying to Give Up Singapore Citizenship". Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  18. ^ "Support for British nationals abroad: A guide" (PDF). United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  19. ^ Clara Chong (30 March 2020). "Coronavirus: MFA's efforts help to bring home Singaporean stuck in Slovenia". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 12 June 2021. Mr Nazrul was told the good newsthat (sic) the British embassy in Slovenia was able to help.
  20. ^ "Judgments of the Court in Cases C-145/04 and C-300/04 – Kingdom of Spain v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (PDF). The Court of Justice of the European Communities. 12 September 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
  21. ^ Representation of the People Act 1983, Section 4(6)
  22. ^ "Passport Global Ranking". Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.

General sources

Further reading

  • Chiew, Seen Kong; Tan Ern Ser (1990). The Singaporean: Ethnicity, National Identity and Citizenship: Singaporean Identity and Citizenship. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies.
  • Goh, Phai Cheng (1970). Citizenship Laws of Singapore. Singapore: Educational Publications Bureau.
  • Tan, Kevin Y.L. (Yew Lee); Thio Li-ann (1997). Tan, Yeo & Lee's Constitutional Law in Malaysia and Singapore (2nd ed.). Singapore: Butterworths Asia. ISBN 0-409-99908-3., ch. 10 ("Citizenship")