Guide to applying PR for your spouse

Sam & Nic

Sam & Nic

Co-founders of Sam, Nic + Co, Singapore Immigration Specialists
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This is our definitive guide to apply for your foreign spouse’s permanent residency (PR) in Singapore.

If you’re a Singapore citizen or PR and wish to sponsor your husband or wife in their PR application, then this guide is for you.

In this guide, we address the common concerns and questions about applying for Singapore PR for your foreign national spouse.

You will learn:

  • Eligibility for PR
  • The average success rate of such PR applications
  • Evaluation factors of your application
  • The special consideration when applying for your spouse
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to apply

Eligibility for PR

A foreign national spouse of a Singapore Citizen or PR, is eligible to apply for Singapore permanent residency.

The relevant scheme to apply under would be the sponsor scheme, Form 4SC. The spouse who is either a Singapore Citizen or PR will be the sponsor for the applicant.

For this application scheme, your children can also be included and apply for PR with you. They must be unmarried, below the age of 21, and born within the context of a legal marriage or legally adopted. 

Take note: being eligible to apply as the spouse of a local/PR sponsor – does not mean a definite approval for PR. The applicant’s case will be evaluated based on his/her merits, against other eligible applicants and awarded accordingly.

Average success rate

The average success rate for applicants applying under this scheme is about 49%. We reference the latest published numbers from the government on this matter.

In a written reply to parliamentary questions, Mr K Shanmugam (Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law) clarified that from 2009 to 2018, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) granted an average of about 4,200 PRs out of an average of 8,600 applications from foreign spouses each year.

He also added that 45% of these new PRs were from Southeast Asian countries, another 45% from other Asian countries, and the rest from non-Asian countries.

(Source: Ministry of Home Affairs)

Evaluation criteria of your PR application

In the evaluation of a foreign national spouse’s application, both the sponsor and main applicant are evaluated.

From our studies, the important criteria under evaluation would include:

1. Economic criteria

This relates to factors like whether the applicant is employed and the industry and role they are employed in. Their income level will also be considered, and how it contributes to sustaining the household, or how it contributes to sharing the tax obligations of society.

In a similar way, the sponsor’s economic criteria will come under evaluation.

2. Education criteria

Generally speaking, the more educated the applicant, the more favourable their chances of getting approved.  Contributing factors to this criteria would also include the reputation of the educational institution where the certificates were achieved, and the relevance of the degree or the certified skills to the current and future economy. 

Based on the latest available figures of PR approvals in 2018, the ICA awarded 82.2% of new PRs (above 20 years old) to those that had completed their post-secondary education.

(Source: Population in Brief 2019; page 27)

3. Social criteria

This criteria is difficult to quantify. But nevertheless important to address due to Singapore’s need for social cohesion amongst its diverse communities.

It relates to how well an applicant is integrated into local society.

The factors under consideration would include the extent of family ties (of sponsor and applicant) in Singapore, how long the applicant has lived here, the applicant’s history of activities in Singapore, and whether you and your spouse are raising children in Singapore.

Senior Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo, reiterated the importance of social integration in a recent parliamentary reply in March 2020.

“Many of our new Permanent Residents (PR) and Citizens have family ties with Singaporeans. Most have lived here for many years, formed friendships with locals and are active in the community. From an integration standpoint, these ties are very valuable and we cannot put a number to it easily, we cannot quantify it through any simple metric.”

Josephine Teo, Member of the Parliament of Singapore

(Source: Strategy Group Singapore for the Prime Minister’s Office)

Key takeaway: 

The likelihood of obtaining PR improves with the strength of each criterion. But there have been multiple exceptions to the norm. So, even if you find yourself “lacking” in any of the above criteria, it’s important to understand that PRs are granted on a case-by-case assessment. Your merits are weighed holistically.

In other words, not all new PRs are high-income earners, not all new PRs hold a job, not all new PRs are degree holders, and not all new PRs are active volunteers in the community or have deep family ties to other Singaporeans.

Special consideration under evaluation

Another consideration that is specific to Form 4SC applications – the legitimacy of the marriage.

This is due to the problem of sham marriages that ICA has had to contend with (see recent cases here, and here).

In this context, sham marriages refer to marriages of convenience where two individuals enter into a marriage for the sole purpose of acquiring an immigration advantage (typically monetary transactions are involved).

Sham marriages are illegal in Singapore according to Section 57C of the Immigration Act.

Of course, to determine whether a marriage is a sham or not requires objective tests. And it can’t be so easily or accurately identified by verifying information submitted in a PR application. Therefore our opinion is that authorities would likely exercise more caution towards applicants who have not been married for so long.

But exactly how long is long enough?

Well, there is probably no strict ruling on this to retain some flexibility over the decision and in consideration of various marriage practices and traditions. Take for instance the traditional custom of arranged marriages practiced in some cultures. In such cases, spouses typically remain together for a long time even if they have known each other for a relatively short period of time.

It is interesting to note that when ICA introduced the Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus scheme (LTVP+) for foreign spouses to take up employment and access healthcare subsidies and inpatient services at a level similar to PRs, one of the criteria was that a Singaporean and their foreign spouse had to be married for at least three years (or have a Singaporean child together).

So, if we were to base it on similar policies, three years would be a good guide post. 

Key steps of the Singapore PR application process (Form 4SC)

The application process takes place online. You submit your application form and required documents on the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s (ICA) online portal – ePR system.

You will not be interviewed by the ICA, so whatever information you wish to present is solely through the submission of documents online.

Here are the key documents you can download and review first.

1. Explanatory notes – download

2. Application form 4SC – download latest version here (need to log in with Singpass)

Step 1: Complete your application form (Form 4SC)

Fill up your application form offline first before submitting the information online. 

When you’re completing the application form bear in mind the 3 Cs. Be complete, consistent, and correct. 

Complete – Make sure you provide ALL details required fully. For example, when you are asked for your last ten years of residence – include all the residences that you lived in for 6 months or longer. There should not be gaps of more than 6 months in your timeline. 

Consistent – The details you provide throughout your application should be consistent with the details in the documents you are submitting. 

Correct – You have to be as accurate and truthful as possible in your statements declared in the form. And this includes NOT withholding information such as if you have committed an offence in the past or have been under any police investigation.

Step 2: Organise your documents

There is a list of documents to submit in your application for both the sponsor and the applicant(s). These documents are stated in the beginning of the form or you can find them in the explanatory notes.

Take clear scans of your original documents and organise the soft copies into folders on your computer. So that when it comes time to submit them, they will be easy to retrieve. 

Each document should be less than 2MB and saved in jpeg or PDF format.

If your documents are not in English, make sure to get them translated.

ICA accepts the following translations:

  1. Translations provided by the embassy of the country that issued the document
  2. Translations produced by a notary public in Singapore or the country that issued the document
  3. Privately created translations attested by the embassy of the country that issued the document or notarised by a notary public in Singapore or the country that issued the document

Step 3: Submit your application online

Once your form and documents are ready. It’s time to submit your application on the ePR system.

You can log in with the sponsor’s Singpass details. 

Once you do, follow the instructions to submit your application form, review your form details, upload your documents, and pay the administrative fee of $100 per applicant. 

Once you have completed the application submission, you should save a copy of your ICA acknowledgement, final copy of your application form, and the receipt of payment. 

Step 4: Wait for your results

ICA takes an average of 4-6 months to process PR applications. Sometimes, they could take significantly longer or shorter. In our experience, we have seen results in 2 months and up till a year and a half. It is up to their discretion how long a case needs to be assessed.

Your results will be mailed to your residence as stated in the application form. So if you have moved residence, make sure to update the ICA as soon as possible. You can send them an update via email: ICA_PR@ica.gov.sg

You can also check the status of your application online on the ePR system. The status of your application will be shown as either “Pending”, “Approved”, or “Rejected”.

Step 5: What to do with your results when you’re approved or rejected

When your application is approved

You will receive an in-principle approval letter from the ICA.  You will also receive further instructions to complete the formalities to arrange for your blue NRIC (identification) and Re-Entry Permit (REP). 

When your application is rejected

You can wait 6 months to submit a new application. Or, within these 6 months you can submit an appeal against the rejected application. You can read our guide on: “How to appeal when your Singapore PR application is rejected”.

Need 1-on-1 expert help?

If you have any questions about applying for PR for your spouse, do comment below or you can email your personal questions to hello@samandnic.sg

And if you’d like to speak with us one-on-one for an evaluation of your case, you can book a free consultation here.

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