Singaporean nationality law
|Constitution of the Republic of Singapore|
Part X Citizenship
|Parliament of Singapore|
|Citation||Constitution of the Republic of Singapore|
|Enacted by||1st Parliament of Singapore|
|Commenced||9 August 1965|
|Singapore Citizenship Ordinance 1957|
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.
Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 and soon after merged with Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements in 1826. After their incorporation as Crown dominions in 1858, British nationality law applied to the Straits Settlements, as was the case elsewhere in the British Empire. Singaporeans and all other imperial citizens were British subjects; any person born in Singapore, the United Kingdom, or anywhere else within Crown dominions was a natural-born British subject.
In the rest of British Malaya outside of the Straits Settlements, local Malay rulers were given limited autonomy in exchange for accepting British suzerainty. Subjects of the rulers in the Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States were considered British protected persons. Although Britain held jurisdiction in all of British Malaya, domestic law treated the Malay states as foreign territory. British protected persons were treated as aliens in the United Kingdom, but both British subjects and protected persons could be issued British passports. Protected persons could not travel to the UK without first requesting permission, but were afforded the same consular protection as British subjects when travelling outside of the Empire. A person with connections both to directly governed portions of British Malaya and one of the Malay states could be a British subject and British protected person simultaneously.
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. When Singapore gained internal self-government in 1959, Singapore became an independent Commonwealth country for the purpose of British nationality law. From then on, Singaporean 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". There are treaties signed by the United Kingdom during this period specifically mention this unusual nationality status.
In 1963, Singaporean nationality law was incorporated into the new Constitution of the State 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. 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.
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 and loss of citizenship
Entitlement by birth or descent
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. 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 of their birth. Prior to 15 May 2004, citizenship was transferrable by descent only from fathers who were citizens by birth or registration, and not mothers.
Foreigners over the age of 21 may become Singaporean citizens by naturalisation 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. Foreign women who marry Singaporean men are eligible for a reduced residence requirement of two years; there are no facilitated paths to citizenship for male spouses of citizens.
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.
Relinquishment and deprivation
Singaporean citizenship can be relinquished by making a declaration of renunciation, provided that the declarant is over age 21 and already possesses another nationality. Renunciation may be denied if an applicant actively exercises Singaporean citizenship rights or has outstanding military service obligations. It is also automatically lost when an individual voluntarily acquires a foreign citizenship in any way other than by marriage. Singaporean children with multiple nationalities are required to choose between their Singaporean and foreign statuses before the age of 22. Dual nationals who fail to make this choice are automatically stripped of their Singaporean citizenship. Former citizens cannot reacquire citizenship once it has been renounced or revoked.
Citizenship may be stripped from a person who exercises any rights derived from another nationality. This includes voting in elections or applying for passports in any jurisdiction outside Singapore. It is also lost after continuous residence overseas for more than 10 years if that citizen has not entered Singapore during that time or is not employed in public service.
Naturalised citizens may also be stripped of citizenship for: fraduently acquiring it, committing an act of disloyalty against the state, aiding an enemy nation with which Singapore is at war, serving in any capacity for a foreign government, being sentenced to incarceration for longer than 12 months in any jurisdiction or fined US$5,000 for any offence within five years of acquiring citizenship.
- Immigration and Checkpoints Authority
- Immigrant workers in Singapore
- National Registration Identity Card
- Nationality law
- Singapore passport
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