Singaporean nationality law

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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: Current legislation

Singaporean nationality law is regulated by the Singaporean Citizenship Act since 1965. The Act determines who is, or is eligible to be, a citizen of Singapore. The Act replaced the previous Singapore Citizenship Ordinance 1957 in 1965 from the Constitution of Singapore.

Singaporean citizenship is typically obtained by birth in Singapore based on the principle of jus sanguinis, or birth abroad when at least one parent is a Singapore citizen or by adoption by at least one Singaporean citizen. It can also be granted to a permanent resident who has lived in Singapore for a period of time through registration. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) is the department of the Government of Singapore responsible for citizenship-related matters, including confirmation, grant, renunciation and revocation of citizenship.

History of Singaporean citizenship[edit]

Singaporean citizenship was first granted in 1959 when Singapore was a self-governing colony of the United Kingdom. At that time, Singapore had already been granted full internal self-government. The Singapore Citizenship Ordinance Act of 1957 provided Singaporean citizenship to all residents who were born in Singapore or the Straits Settlements, British citizens who had been resident for two years, and others who had been resident for ten years.[1] Singaporeans were still considered British subjects at that time, and their passports had nationality status of "British subject: citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies".[2][3][4]

All Singaporean citizens became Malaysian citizens on 16 September 1963 upon Singapore's merger with the latter on that date. Its nationality law provided that Singaporean citizenship to continue to exist as a sub-national citizenship. Singaporean citizenship continued to be legislated by the Legislative Assembly of Singapore, the state Parliament at the time.

Upon Singapore's secession on 9 August 1965, Its citizenship was withdrawn from Singaporean citizens.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 The constitution repealed the 1957 Ordinance, and all persons who were citizens as of 16 September 1963 by virtue of the Ordinance continued to be Singaporean citizens.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 allowing 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.

Acquiring Singaporean citizenship[edit]

There are four ways an individual can acquire Singaporean citizenship or nationality: by birth with at least one Singaporean parent; by descent (being born to a Singaporean); by registration; and by adoption. Among these, only citizenship by birth is granted automatically with limited exceptions, while citizenship by descent or adoption is acquired automatically if specified conditions have been met. Citizenship by registation, on the other hand, must be approved by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

Citizenship by birth[edit]

A person is a Singaporean citizen by birth if he or she is born in Singapore with at least one parent who is a Singaporean citizen provided both parents are registered officially as legally married.

However, a child whose father is a foreign diplomat who enjoys immunity in Singapore will not be granted Singaporean citizenship even if his or her mother is Singaporean. The gender-specific language of this clause allows an unusual scenario where a child born in Singapore whose mother is a foreign diplomat and whose father is Singaporean will obtain Singaporean citizenship by birth but not if the gender roles are reversed.

Citizenship by descent[edit]

A person born outside Singapore on or after 15 May 2004, with at least one parent who is a Singaporean citizen, is a Singaporean citizen by descent. If the parent from whom the child derives citizenship is a Singaporean citizen by descent, the parent must have been resident in Singapore for a total of at least five years before the child's birth or a total of at least two years out of the five years immediately preceding the child's birth.[5]

A person born outside Singapore before 15 May 2004 will be a Singaporean citizen by descent only if his or her father was a Singaporean citizen by birth or by registration at the time of birth.

If the parent from whom the child derives citizenship is a Singaporean citizen by registration, the child will be granted Singaporean citizenship by descent only if they do not acquire citizenship of the country of their birth.

Citizenship by registration[edit]

Registration is the term used in the Constitution to refer to the process commonly known as naturalisation. A person can apply for registration as a Singaporean citizen if he or she has been a Permanent Resident for at least two years and is gainfully employed or married to a Singaporean citizen.[6] A male Permanent Resident may also apply upon satisfactory completion of full-time National Service, as may children of Singaporean citizens resident in Singapore.[7] Each application is considered on its own merits.

Citizenship by naturalisation[edit]

Although provided for in the Constitution, citizenship by naturalisation is no longer granted.[8] The government instead uses the constitutional provision for citizenship by registration to grant citizenship to residents.

Dual citizenship[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Male Singaporeans cannot renounce their citizenship until completing national service as is the case with countries such as Austria, Switzerland and South Korea; however, exceptions are made for males who emigrated as an infant or at a young age.[16]

Commonwealth citizenship[edit]

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. Singaporeans are entitled to consular assistance from British embassies in non-Commonwealth countries without a Singaporean representative.[17]

These rights include:

Other Commonwealth countries recognize Singaporean citizens as Commonwealth citizens, though the significance of this designation varies from one member state to another. For example, Singaporeans may be entitled to certain rights or privileges offered by the United Kingdom under British law, including:

Rights and obligations of Singaporean citizens[edit]

Singaporean citizens are entitled to

Male Singaporean citizens, including second-generation permanent residents, are required to perform military service (women can do it voluntarily). Singaporean citizens are not allowed to work for a foreign (non-Singaporean) military.

Travel freedom of Singaporean citizens[edit]

Visa requirements for Singapore
  Visa not required
  Visa on arrival
  Electronic authorization or online payment required / eVisa
  Both visa on arrival and eVisa available
  Visa required prior to arrival

Visa requirements for Singaporeans are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Singapore. According to the 2020 Henley Passport Index, holders of a Singapore passport had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 191 countries and territories, ranking Singapore 1st in travel freedom, tied with Japan.[28]

Singaporean nationality is ranked thirteenth, together with Luxembourg and Portugal, in The Quality of Nationality Index (QNI). This index differs from the Visa Restrictions Index, which focuses on external factors including travel freedom. The QNI considers, in addition, to travel freedom on internal factors such as peace & stability, economic strength, and human development as well.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lepoer, Barbara Leitch (ed.) (1989). Singapore : A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: GPO for the Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link), ch. 10 ("Road to Independence").
  2. ^ "History of Travel Documents & Passes". ICA. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  3. ^ "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 from the original (PDF) on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "On citizenship by descent in Singapore". Consulate General of the Republic of Singapore. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Benefits and drawbacks for a citizen in Singapore". 3ecpa. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Apply for Singapore Citizenship". ICA. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Citizenship". Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
  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. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Coronavirus: MFA's efforts help to bring home Singaporean stuck in Slovenia". Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ Representation of the People Act 1983, Section 4(6)
  20. ^ "Can I join? Eligibility for officers and soldiers". British Army.
  21. ^ "AM I ELIGIBLE TO BE A RATING?". Royal Navy.
  22. ^ "Eligibility Check". Royal Air Force.
  23. ^ "Detailed eligibility requirements". Working for the Police. Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  24. ^ "UK Ancestry visa". UK Visas and Immigration.
  25. ^ "Prove you have right of abode in the UK". UK Visas and Immigration.
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ "Support for British nationals abroad: A summary" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  28. ^ "Passport Global Ranking". Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  29. ^ "The 41 nationalities with the best quality of life". 6 February 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 Singapore (2nd ed.). Singapore: Butterworths Asia. ISBN 0-409-99908-3., ch. 10 ("Citizenship")