Singaporean nationality law is derived from the Constitution of Singapore and is based on jus sanguinis and a modified form of jus soli. There are four ways of acquiring Singaporean citizenship: by birth, by descent, by registration or by naturalisation.[1]

History of Singaporean citizenshipEdit

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Singaporean citizenship was first granted in 1959 when Singapore was a self-governing colony of the United Kingdom. At that time, Singapore had already been granted full internal self-government. Singapore Citizenship Ordinance 1957 provided Singaporean citizenship to all residents who were born in Singapore or the Federation of Malaya, British citizens who had been resident for two years, and others who had been resident for ten years.[2] Singaporeans were still considered British subjects at that time, and their passports had the unusual nationality status of "British subject: citizen of the State of Singapore" instead of the usual "British subject: citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies".[3]

All Singaporean citizens became Malaysian citizens on 16 September 1963 upon Singapore's merger with the Federation of Malaysia on that date. Malaysian citizenship was governed by Malaysian nationality law.

Upon Singapore's secession from the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965, a new Constitution came into effect. With regard to Singaporean citizenship, it repealed the 1957 Ordinance and granted Singaporean citizenship to all persons who were citizens as of 16 September 1963 by virtue of the Ordinance.

The Constitution was amended in 2004 to allow female citizens and citizens by descent to transmit their citizenship to children born overseas. For this to occur, citizens by descent must satisfy certain residency requirements.

Citizenship by birthEdit

A person is a Singaporean citizen by birth if he or she is born in Singapore with at least one parent who is a Singaporean citizen provided both parents are registered officially as legally married.

However, a child whose father is a foreign diplomat who enjoys immunity in Singapore will not be granted Singaporean citizenship even if his or her mother is Singaporean. The gender-specific language of this clause allows an unusual scenario where a child born in Singapore whose mother is a foreign diplomat and whose father is Singaporean will obtain Singaporean citizenship by birth but not if the gender roles are reversed.

Citizenship by descentEdit

A person born outside Singapore on or after 15 May 2004, with at least one parent who is a Singaporean citizen, is a Singaporean citizen by descent. If the parent from whom the child derives citizenship is a Singaporean citizen by descent, the parent must have been resident in Singapore for a total of at least four years before the child's birth or a total of at least one year out of the five years immediately preceding the child's birth.[4]

A person born outside Singapore before 15 May 2004 will be a Singaporean citizen by descent only if his or her father was a Singaporean citizen by birth or by registration at the time of birth.

If the parent from whom the child derives citizenship is a Singaporean citizen by registration, the child will be granted Singaporean citizenship by descent only if they do not acquire citizenship of the country of their birth.

Citizenship by registrationEdit

Registration is the term used in the Constitution to refer to the process commonly known as naturalisation. A person can apply for registration as a Singaporean citizen if he or she has been a Permanent Resident for at least two years and is gainfully employed or married to a Singaporean citizen. A male Permanent Resident may also apply upon satisfactory completion of full-time National Service, as may children of Singaporean citizens resident in Singapore.[5] Each application is considered on its own merits.

Citizenship by naturalisationEdit

Although provided for in the Constitution, citizenship by naturalisation is no longer granted.[6] The government instead uses the constitutional provision for citizenship by registration to grant citizenship to resident aliens.

Dual citizenshipEdit

The position of the Singapore Government is that dual citizenship is not allowed.[7] The laws regarding Singapore citizenship is found in the Constitution of Singapore.

A dual citizen may have acquired citizenship by birth in a foreign country, by descent from a foreign citizen parent, or by naturalisation. Singapore citizens who voluntarily and intentionally acquire citizenship of a foreign country after the age of 18 may be deprived of their Singapore citizenship by the Government.[8] Foreigners who naturalise as Singaporean citizens are required to renounce all foreign citizenships.[9] Persons who are born outside of Singapore and have at least one parent who is a Singapore citizen may register with a Singapore consulate within a year to acquire Singapore citizenship by descent. However,such persons must renounce their foreign citizenship, if any, before reaching22 years old. The Constitution of Singapore is silent on a Singapore citizen who acquired citizenship by birth and is a foreign citizen by descent. So long as such a person refrains from exercising his rights of the foreign citizenship, the Government has no grounds to deprive him of his Singapore citizenship and he may hold on to dual citizenship.[10]

The prohibition of dual citizenship is a contentious issue in Singapore. As the economy becomes more globalized and Singaporeans more mobile, many Singaporeans have acquired foreign citizenships and reluctantly renounced their Singaporean citizenship even though they may feel a strong emotional attachment to Singapore. Immigrants who have been resident in Singapore for long periods and qualify for Singaporean citizenship may be reluctant to become naturalized citizens as it would mean giving up the citizenship of their native countries.

The government argues that authorising its citizens to concurrently hold foreign nationalities would be undesirable since, due to Singapore's geopolitical position, it cannot afford to allow its citizens multiple allegiances which may be compromised in times of national crisis. The government also fears that without a second citizenship may feel aggrieved if dual citizens enjoy the benefits of citizenship during periods of wealth but leave the country in trying times.[11] Nevertheless, the government is open to the possibility of allowing dual citizenship if local and global circumstances demand so.[12]

Renunciation of citizenshipEdit

Citizens of Singapore can only renounce Singaporean citizenship if they have acquired citizenship of another country. At the time of renunciation, renunciants must submit their Singaporean passports and National Registration Identity Cards for cancellation.[13] About 1,200 Singaporean citizens renounce their citizenship every year, a quarter of them naturalised citizens.[14] Male Singaporeans cannot renounce citizenship until completing national service. In 2012, a Hong Kong-born teenager filed a lawsuit regarding this requirement.[15]

Commonwealth citizenshipEdit

All Singaporean citizens are Commonwealth citizens and are entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. For example, they can vote in all elections (including for the European Parliament), hold public office and serve on juries in the UK. However, Singaporean citizens do not receive consular assistance from British embassies in non-Commonwealth countries without a Singapore representative unlike other Commonwealth nations, owing to the Singapore government's option not to afford Singaporeans this privilege.

These rights include:

See alsoEdit


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Further readingEdit

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