At a Parliamentary sitting on 15 January 2019, Nominated Members of Parliament Anthea Ong and Mohamed Irshad asked the Minister for Social and Family Development questions regarding foreign spouses of citizens and permanent residents.

The Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Sam Tan, answered for the minister. In the latter part of the reply, which touched on employment and continued stay should the marriage end in divorce, he said:

In terms of employment, over the past three years, an average of 14,000 Non-Resident spouses holding Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP/LTVP+) were employed in Singapore each year with a Letter of Consent issued by MOM. This figure includes Non-Resident grooms and brides married to either Singaporeans or Permanent Residents.

Sir, transnational marriages are as resilient as marriages between Singaporeans. The divorce rates for transnational marriages before the fifth and 10th year of their marriage anniversaries are comparable to that for Singaporean marriages from the same cohorts.

For Non-Resident spouses of Singaporeans whose marriages end in divorce, ICA would generally facilitate their continued stay in Singapore through a renewable LTVP, as long as they have custody over young Singaporean children. This is to allow them to care for their Singaporean children here. They can seek support from community agencies for a range of financial assistance and social services, and approach Social Service Offices (SSOs) for an assessment of their needs. SSOs and our Family Service Centres will also provide help and socio-emotional support, if the need arises.

The term used by the minister in his reply “Non-Resident spouses” is actually misleading. These spouses live in Singapore. What he is really referring to are spouses holding foreign citizenship who are not permanent residents and who are in Singapore.

Unfortunately, we cannot find the total number of such spouses living in Singapore. Hence, it is hard to assess the meaning of “14,000 Non-Resident spouses” as stated in the minister’s answer, to see how common it is for foreign spouses to work here.