Singapore is now taking a tougher stance on ‘sham marriages’.
In the Immigration (Amendment) Bill passed in Parliament on Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran noted that most marriages between Singaporeans and foreigners are genuine, but that “stiff penalties will serve as a strong deterrent against marriages of convenience”.
He noted in parliament that there are 12 cases of sham marriages in the first half of this year, compared to four or five annually over the past five years.
Under the amendments to the Immigration Act, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) will be allowed to prosecute errant couples, middlemen, or marriage agencies involved in marriages which are entered into and for the purpose of illegally obtaining an immigration advantage, including grants of visas, passes and permanent residence.
The penalty for this offence is a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.
Iswaran stated that Singapore is not alone in criminalising marriages of convenience, as countries like the United States, Australia have already done so.
Also, another amendment empowers ICA "to impose a good conduct condition on the re-entry permits issued to Permanent Residents”.
With this, ICA now has the option of revoking an individual’s PR status by cancelling his entry and re-entry permits without having to declare him as a prohibited immigrant, as is the current practice.
This is applied in the case that an entry permit holder contravenes any law or is involved in any activity which threatens a breach of peace, or is prejudicial to public order or public welfare.
“The vast majority of Permanent Residents in Singapore do not pose any threat to our law and order. This proposed amendment will send out a clear message that while we welcome Permanent Residents, they must respect and abide by our laws,” Iswaran said in Parliament.
Under other amendments to the bill, ICA will be allowed to collect more detailed information on arriving persons before they reach Singapore, and authorities could require operators of gazette checkpoints in facilities such as privately-owned marines to provide and fund specific security facilities and resources at authorised checkpoints.
Errant operators on security lapses will be fined between $100,000 to not more than $200,000.
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