Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates
Divorce proceedings can be a painful process wrought with emotion for both parties. To make things worse, being alone in a foreign country, away from close friends and relatives, can make divorce an incredibly challenging experience for expatriates in Singapore. One of the many implications of expats choosing to terminate their marriage in Singapore is their immigration status.
Your Immigration Status Following a Divorce
Scenario 1: Both you and your spouse are non-Singaporeans
If your spouse decided to move to Singapore to work and you chose to move with him/her, you would have been granted a pass to stay in Singapore. You would have been a holder of either an Employment Pass or a Dependant’s Pass.
An Employment Pass would have been granted if you had a job offer in Singapore as well and met the relevant eligibility criteria. If so, your immigration status would be unaffected by the divorce and you can choose to remain in Singapore after the divorce.
Conversely, you would have been given a Dependant’s Pass upon entering Singapore if you did not plan on working here. In most cases, this is likely the case. Many expatriate women are home-makers and thus are entirely reliant on their husbands, often the breadwinner of the family. If so, your ability to remain here would depend on your status as a spouse.
Therefore following the divorce, your Dependant’s Pass would be cancelled and you will have to leave the country within 14 days. Should you wish to remain in Singapore, you can look for a job locally and apply for an Employment Pass.
As for your child, his/her Dependant’s Pass may remain valid if it was tied to your working ex-spouse’s pass. As a result if you do not seek employment locally after your Dependant’s Pass has been cancelled, you would be forced to leave the country, leaving your child behind, even if you have custody and care and control over your child.
Scenario 2: Your spouse is a Singaporean
If your spouse is a Singaporean and you entered Singapore on a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP), it will likely be revoked following the divorce as well.
This is because the LTVP requires proof of marriage and sponsorship by your spouse for renewal. Hence should you wish to remain in Singapore, you should similarly seek employment.
Returning to Your Home Country after a Divorce?
Following a divorce in Singapore, you may desire to return to your home country to start afresh. If you have been given custody and care and control over your child, you may be considering returning with the child as well. However, there are some restrictions before you can do so.
Under section 126(3) and (4) of the Women’s Charter, the child may not be taken out of the country for more than one month unless there is written consent from both parents, or permission from the court.
In most cases, it is unusual for a spouse to obtain consent from his/her ex-spouse to take the child out of the country. This is because your ex-spouse would want to maintain contact with your child. Hence it is likely that your child will have to remain in Singapore.
Without consent from your ex-spouse or having applied for permission from the court (previously known as an “application for leave”), if you bring your child with you back to your homeland, it may constitute international child abduction.
To be sure, you should consult a divorce lawyer prior to taking any action. Alternatively, expatriate women may approach AWARE Singapore, which provides practical help for expatriate women experiencing a divorce in Singapore.
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