Must Your Report and Register a Birth or Death in Singapore?

Last updated on June 9, 2021

mother carrying her baby

While celebrating births and mourning deaths is part of life, an often overlooked aspect of Singapore’s laws is the legal requirements surrounding the registration of births and deaths. However, the subject was thrown into the spotlight with the introduction of the new Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Bill in Parliament on 10 May 2021.

When the Bill is passed, it will replace the existing RBD Act and introduce a few changes to the existing law that might be important to take note of, and which will be highlighted in this article.

In particular, this article will explain if you should report and register (or re-register):

It will also cover the relevant procedures for reporting and registering as well as the penalties for non-compliance.

Must I Report and Register a Birth in Singapore?

What is the difference between reporting and registering a birth?

Reporting and registering happens sequentially after a birth. After a child is born, the first thing that has to be done is to report the birth. This step is taken to notify or to inform the authorities that a child has been born.

After the birth has been reported, the next step is to register the birth, which involves entering the child’s birth particulars into the register of births in Singapore. Under the current laws, while registering of births is compulsory, reporting of births is not. This will change once the new Bill is passed, as discussed below.

Under the new Bill, in certain special circumstances – like in the case of a child being adopted, or a child born out of a wedlock but is later legitimated by the Legitimacy Act – registration of birth also includes re-registration of birth.

For example, after the court makes an adoption order for the adoption of a child, the Registrar-General of Births and Deaths must register the birth of the child if this has not already been done, or otherwise re-register the birth of the child in accordance with the adoption order.

Who is Responsible for Reporting and Registering a Birth?

Reporting births

The person(s) responsible for reporting a birth depends on where the child is born. The following table contains the details of the situations described in the RBD Bill and the corresponding person(s) who would be responsible for reporting the birth:

If the child is born… The person(s) responsible* for reporting the birth would be…
In a hospital
  • Every medical practitioner who attends to the birth; and
  • The hospital.
Outside a hospital and is brought to a hospital within 24 hours after the child’s birth
  • Every medical practitioner who attends to the child; and
  • The hospital.
In any premises (other than in a hospital)
  • The child’s parents; and
  • Every occupier of the premises who knows of the child’s birth in the premises.
In an aircraft, a vessel or a train while it is in, or bound for, Singapore
  • The child’s parents; and
  • The captain of the aircraft or the person having control or charge of the vessel or train.
In any other place
  • The child’s parents.

* Where more than one person is listed as being responsible for reporting the birth and any of the responsible persons reports the birth, the duty of every other responsible person is discharged.

Registering births

On the other hand, an application for the registration of a child’s birth has to be submitted by the child’s parents, legal guardians or any other legally appointed persons. Failing which, the Registrar-General also has the power to register the child’s birth.

There are certain special rules for registration that apply to adopted children and persons legitimated by the Legitimacy Act. For adopted children, the Registrar-General is responsible for the registration or re-registration of birth.

With regard to persons legitimated by the Legitimacy Act, however, the parent of the person must apply for re-registration if the person is below 21 years old. If the person is 21 years old or older, then either the person him/herself or his/her parents may make the application for re-registration.

What is the Procedure for Reporting and Registering a Birth?

Reporting births

All child births must be reported as soon as is practicable. If the child is born in a hospital, the hospital will report such births to the Registrar-General, as is the current practice.

For births that occur outside of a hospital, the child’s parents must go to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in person to report the birth.

Persons who are not the child’s parents, but are listed as being responsible for reporting the birth of a child in the table above, should report the birth to ICA via email. Such duty to report continues even if the child is subsequently brought to the hospital.

Registering births

For registration of a birth, the child’s parents, legal guardians or any other legally appointed persons must submit an application for the birth to be registered with the birth particulars of the child, including the child’s name, to the Registrar-General within 42 days of the child’s birth.

The Registrar-General must register the child’s birth as soon as practicable afterwards. The only exception to the requirement for registration is where the child dies within 42 days of birth.

In the situation where no application is made, or if the application is incomplete, the Registrar-General may still register the child’s birth and give the child an appropriate name (if no name has been provided).

What are the Penalties for Not Reporting and Registering a Birth?

For not reporting births

When the new Bill is passed, it will be an offence for any person responsible for reporting a child’s birth to not do so without reasonable excuse. Upon conviction, the person shall be liable to a fine of up to $1,500 and/or to a maximum jail term of 1 month.

As mentioned above however, where there is more than one person responsible for reporting the birth, and any of the responsible persons reports the birth, the duty of every other responsible person is discharged.

For example, if a child is born at home, then the child’s parents and every other occupier of the premises who knows of the child’s birth have the duty to report the birth. However, if the child’s parents have reported the birth, then the other occupiers will no longer be under a duty to report the birth of the same child. They will therefore not be penalised for not reporting the birth.

For not registering births

With regard to the registration of a child’s birth, it is an offence for the child’s parents, legal guardians, or any other legally appointed persons to not provide the birth particulars for the child to the Registrar-General within 42 days after the child’s birth.

Upon conviction, the person shall be liable to a fine of up to $1,500 and/or to a maximum jail term of 1 month. Additionally, after conviction, if the responsible person does not provide the required particulars, the person shall be liable to further fines of up to $50 per day.

Must I Report and Register a Death in Singapore?

What is the difference between reporting and registering a death?

Reporting and registering happens sequentially after somebody passes away. In general, upon the death of a person, the death must be reported to a medical practitioner as soon as practicable.

Under the current laws, the deceased’s relatives then have a duty to register the death. However, when the new Bill is passed, the Registrar-General will automatically register the death of a person after the death is reported.

Who is Responsible for Reporting and Registering a Death?

Reporting deaths

As above, the person(s) responsible for reporting a death depends on where it occurs. The following table contains the details of the situations described in the RBD Bill and the corresponding person(s) who would be responsible:

If the death occurs… The person(s) responsible* for reporting the death would be…
In a hospital
  • The hospital.
In any premises (other than in a hospital)
  • Every relative of the deceased person who is present at the death; and
  • Every occupier of the premises who knows of the death in the premises.
In an aircraft, a vessel or a train while it is in, or bound for, Singapore
  • Every relative of the deceased person who is present at the time and knows of the death; and
  • The captain of the aircraft or the person having control or charge of the vessel or train.
In any other place
  • Every relative of the deceased person who knows of the death;
  • Every person who is present at the death; and
  • Every person who takes charge of the body of the deceased person.

* Where more than one person is listed as being responsible for reporting the death and any of the responsible persons reports the death, the duty of every other responsible person is discharged.

Registering deaths

The registration of a death in Singapore falls squarely on the Registrar-General, who must register the death as soon as practicable upon receiving the death particulars from a medical practitioner, pathologist, forensic pathologist, or upon receiving the Coroner’s certificate where it is issued.

A Coroner’s certificate will be issued upon the completion of a Coroner’s inquiry, which is an inquiry conducted by a Coroner into the circumstances surrounding the death of certain persons. For example, where the death occurred under suspicious circumstances, or the cause of death is unknown.

In the event that a Singapore citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident passes away outside Singapore, and the body of the deceased person is brought to Singapore, a relative of the deceased person may apply to the Registrar-General for the death to be registered.

What is the Procedure for Reporting and Registering a Death?

Reporting deaths

For a person responsible for reporting a death, he/she must report the death by calling a medical practitioner or the police as soon as practicable.

Registering deaths

With regard to registration of a death in Singapore, relatives will no longer have to register the death of the deceased person once the RBD Bill is passed. Instead, after the medical practitioner certifies the death online and issues an electronic Certificate of the Cause of Death (eCCOD), the death will be automatically registered by the Registrar-General. The relative will then be able to download the digital death certificate.

In the event of the death of a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident outside Singapore, or in an aircraft, train or vessel bound for Singapore, the relative must make an application to the Registrar-General for the death to be registered within 3 months after the death. The application must also include:

  • A document issued by a medical practitioner certifying the cause of death
  • The other death particulars for the deceased person.

The medical practitioner must be based in Singapore if the deceased had passed away in an aircraft, train or vessel bound for Singapore. Otherwise, for the reporting of deaths of Singapore citizens or Permanent Residents outside Singapore, the medical practitioner can be based in either Singapore or elsewhere.

What are the Penalties for Not Reporting and Registering a Death?

It is an offence for any person responsible for reporting a deceased person’s death to not report the death as soon as practicable. Upon conviction, the person shall be liable to a fine of up to $1,500 and/or to a maximum jail term of 1 month.

As above, the reporting of one of the responsible persons discharges the others from their duty to report. However, unlike registration of birth, there is no offence for not registering a death as the Registrar-General is solely responsible for this.

Must I Report and Register the Birth of a Stillborn Child in Singapore?

The rules regarding the reporting and registration of birth of a stillborn child in Singapore are identical to the rules for reporting and registration of a death in Singapore, as discussed above.

This includes the persons responsible for reporting/registering the birth of the stillborn child, the procedures involved and the potential penalties for non-compliance with the rules.

The table below summarises what needs to be reported and registered in Singapore after the passing of the Bill:

What needs to be reported
  • Birth of a child in Singapore
  • Death of a person in Singapore
  • Stillbirth of a child in Singapore
What needs to be registered
  • Birth of a child in Singapore
  • Death of a person in Singapore (registration is done automatically upon reporting of the death)
  • Stillbirth of a child in Singapore (registration is done automatically upon reporting of the death)

As the reporting and registration process is relatively straightforward, you should be able to do so even without the assistance of a lawyer. However, if you choose to consult a lawyer, the lawyer may be able to help clarify the rules surrounding the registration of births and deaths in Singapore, and advise you on how to proceed so as to avoid unwittingly committing any offences.

You may get in touch with experienced lawyers here.

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