SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of Population Issues, Teo Chee Hean has assured Singaporeans that the Long Term Visit Pass Plus in no way disadvantages a foreign spouse's application for Permanent Residence (PR) or Singapore citizenship (SC).
Replying to various issues raised in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate on the Prime Minister's Office, Mr Teo stressed that the Long Term Visit Pass Plus is meant to provide more certainty and a higher level of social and work benefits for spouses who might otherwise remain on a Long Term Visit Pass as they have not yet met the requirements for PR.
As at 31 December 2012, there were 11,736 foreign spouses of Singapore Citizens on the Long Term Visit Pass including the Long Term Visit Pass Plus scheme.
And, 4,200 have been granted the Long Term Visit Pass Plus since it was introduced in April 2012.
Mr Teo said: "As their marriages and family situations stabilise, and they become increasingly integrated, more of them will qualify to become Permanent Residents, and eventually naturalise as citizens. Over the past five years, 4,100 foreign spouses were granted PR every year, and a further 4,100 took up citizenship each year."
On the criteria for granting PRs and Singapore citizenship, Mr Teo explained that Singapore's immigration framework has been tightened significantly since late 2009.
All PR and SC applications are carefully evaluated on a comprehensive and stringent set of criteria to assess the applicants' ability to contribute and integrate well into Singapore society, as well as their commitment to sinking roots here.
This includes factors such as the individual's length of stay in Singapore, family profile, economic contributions, qualifications and age.
The government also considers the applicants' family ties to Singapore.
Mr Teo also addressed suggestions by some Members of Parliament (MPs) to include having Singaporeans vouch for or support a person who applies for PR or SC.
He believes these are possible ways to encourage integration and indicate how well an applicant has adapted to Singaporean norms, values and lifestyle.
And the government will study these suggestions and is also open to other ideas, as it continues to fine-tune the framework.
"We should continue to adopt a holistic framework for assessing applications, and remain open to diversity even as we do more to encourage and help immigrants integrate better into Singapore, and adapt to our norms and practices," he said.