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Is Singapore Permanent Residency Really Permanent? 

Singapore Permanent Residents

Can They Stay In Singapore Permanently?

Singapore Permanent Residency (“PR”) brings about a myriad of benefits well-known to those who have been residing long-term in Singapore under Employment Passes or have already sought to secure long-term residency rights in the city under other investment schemes. However, unlike the name suggests, obtaining PR does not guarantee long-term residency rights forever.

To travel out of Singapore, a PR will require a Re-Entry Permit (“REP”) to retain their PR status. A PR will lose their status when residing outside Singapore without a valid REP.

REPs with a 5-year validity are granted upon first receiving PR status and will have to be renewed subsequently. Many PRs who expect their REP to be automatically renewed for another 5 years are often surprised when it doesn’t become the case. It is common for a PR who has left Singapore and is no longer working in Singapore to face difficulties in renewing their REP. In such cases, they may either be rejected outright or given only a 1, 2, 3-year renewal.

PR is catered toward foreigners who intend to live and work in Singapore for the long term. Singapore hopes that PRs will bring value to Singapore by being active members of the economy, contributing to the Central Provident Fund, integrating into the local community and for those who are ready, to convert to Singapore citizenship.

Population statistics clearly show that Singapore has only granted up to 30,000 individuals new PR statuses annually since 2010, and the Singapore Population White Paper published in 2013 confirms the position. Even more affirmatively, the Population White Paper states that the PR population is expected to be maintained at 0.5 to 0.6 million.

Accordingly, the REP renewal exercise enables the filtering out of non-resident and non-contributing PRs on one hand, while allowing new PRs in every year on the other hand.

How to Renew Re-Entry Permit?

PRs can renew their REP 3 months before the expiry of their existing REP. They can apply online with their SingPass Account through the e-REP service here: https://www.ica.gov.sg/reside/PR/apply-REP

The Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (“ICA”) is the approving authority for REP applications and will generally process the application within 1 week.

Factors for a Successful Renewal

1. A primary consideration in the renewal of a REP is whether an applicant has been residing in Singapore. A lack of residency in Singapore may indicate a lack of commitment and contribution to Singapore, as well as lesser integration with the local community. Before renewal, we recommend that an applicant try to reside in Singapore for at least 365 days in the 2 years preceding the renewal application.

2. Applicants should also ensure that they continue to contribute to Singapore by paying income tax and CPF during their term as PR. This factor becomes more pertinent where the applicant has not been primarily residing in Singapore. Where the applicant continues to reside in Singapore, ICA often gives leeway to long-standing PRs who have retired and no longer receive income. Additionally, unemployed PRs who also have Singapore as their primary residence may also benefit by tagging their renewal onto their working spouse’s renewal. Where an applicant obtained their PR status through the Global Investor Programme or its preceding investor programmes, the Economic Development Board (“EDB”) may help facilitate their renewal application. In such instances, an applicant would have to demonstrate to EDB that they have continued their promised level of economic contribution to Singapore. More recently, we have seen cases where EDB has imposed certain conditions for the renewal of REPs where a PR will have to fulfill certain economic KPIs during their renewal period in order to qualify for subsequent renewal after (i.e., their company must employ a certain number of Singaporeans and/or incur a certain level of local business expenditure).

3. In some cases, ICA may require a PR to report to the ICA building when renewing their REP before approving the application.

Reinstatement of PR Status

Where PR has lost their PR status due to being outside Singapore without a valid REP, they may have the option to reinstate their PR status if they have not formally renounced their PR. Formal renunciation involves the withdrawal of your CPF monies or avoidance of any NS obligations. For reinstatement applications, an applicant should showcase their commitments, roots and plans for and to Singapore. This would include existing familial ties, properties and business in Singapore. ICA may on a case-to-case basis grant a one-year renewal at the outset of a reinstatement. Thereafter, the applicant will have to travel back to Singapore under a visit pass to complete their reinstatement formalities at the ICA building. 

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