Headquarters of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority

The 2018 Annual Report of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority reported that there were 940 arrests of overstayers that year. It was a decline of five percent from 2017 when 990 overstayers were arrested.

In the September 2019 session of Parliament, Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong placed a question to the Home Affairs Minister on this topic.

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Home Affairs of the 940 overstayers arrested in 2018, what is (i) the number of Social Visit Pass overstayers and Work Pass overstayers respectively and (ii) the duration of overstaying for the 20th percentile, 50th percentile and the 80th percentile.

Mr K Shanmugam: The number of overstayers arrested in Singapore has decreased from 1,690 in 2013 to 940 in 2018.

Of these 940 overstayers, 510 were Short-Term Visit Pass holders, and 107 were Work Pass holders. Another 283 were holders of Special Passes, which were issued to them for specific purposes such as assisting in an investigation or attending court. The remaining overstayers held other passes, for example, Long-Term Visit Pass and Student’s Pass.

The median overstay duration is about two months.

ICA will continue to maintain its enforcement efforts to ensure that the overstayers situation is kept under control.

The figures are represented by a pie chart below.

The term “Short-term Visit Pass” is bureaucratese for “tourists”.

The median overstay duration of two months concurs with TWC2’s observations. We observe that the rare worker who attempts to overstay does not get away with it for long before being caught. TWC2 dissuades workers from even planning to do so.

Singapore law on overstaying is very strict. Sections 15 (3)(a) and (b) of the Immigration Act say:

(a) in the case where he remains unlawfully for a period not exceeding 90 days, shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $4,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both;

(b) in the case where he remains unlawfully for a period exceeding 90 days, shall on conviction be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months and shall also… be punished with caning with not less than 3 strokes …

The ICA’s Annual Report had case snippets of offenders arrested. One, with arrests in Toa Payoh Lorong 2 and dated 2 April 2018, was this:

ICA officers conducted an enforcement operation in a public housing unit and discovered two illegally partitioned bedrooms in the living room. The three-bedroom unit was found to be rented out by a 35-year-old male Chinese national to 15 occupants. These consisted of 13 valid pass holders, a Singaporean, and
an overstayer. ICA officers arrested the overstayer.

For providing the overstayer with a place to stay, the male Chinese national was also arrested for suspected harbouring offences.

The overstayer was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane. The harbourer was fined $7,000 in default of 22 days’ imprisonment.

Another case from multiple raids in 2018 nabbed 21 men for various immigration and customs offences:

Men suspected to be immigration offenders were observed loitering in the vicinity of Yew Tee Industrial estate, sustaining their livelihood in Singapore by peddling contraband cigarettes. In a multi-agency joint enforcement blitz, four operations were conducted on 20 March, 19 July, 24 October and 30 November 2018 to apprehend the offenders.

These operations resulted in the arrest of 21 male Indonesian immigration offenders and the seizure of more than 102 cartons and 4,561 packets of duty unpaid cigarettes.

All 21 men received sentences ranging between one and three months’ imprisonment, and between three and six strokes of the cane.

An Indian national was convicted on 5 December 2018 for arranging employment of overstayers:

With information gathered from the arrests of several immigration offenders, ICA officers managed to identify the ‘boss’ who arranged for their employment at various restaurants. After extensive checks, ICA officers arrested the suspect. He was a 46-year-old Indian national and Singapore Permanent Resident (PR).

The man was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for providing employment to four male Sri Lankan immigration offenders.