During the Committee of Supply debate, the Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo, and the Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh, debated the criteria for selecting new citizens for Singapore.
- Pritam Singh questions Singapore's goals for bringing in new citizens due to the low fertility rate.
- He emphasizes the importance of selecting those who truly know Singapore and want to embrace its way of life with a long-term commitment.
- Singh cites Switzerland's specific selection process for new citizens and asks if Singapore has similar requirements.
- He calls for more transparency in the citizenship selection process and asks if English proficiency is a criterion for citizenship.
- Josephine Teo responds that naturalization tests or interviews are not used as they can be abused.
- She explains that Singapore considers various markers of social integration and applicants must complete the Singapore Citizenship Journey.
- Teo says that Singapore does not reveal detailed criteria or disclose country-specific figures on its PR and SC.
- Teo questions the need for an English proficiency test, stating that most applicants for PR or citizenship would have proficiency in English.
- She highlights that those who do not have a good command of English are likely to be spouses of citizens or other PRs.
- Teo questions whether a test of English can be applied to foreign spouses and whether it is helpful.
Goals for bringing in new citizens
Singh posed questions regarding Singapore's goals for bringing in new citizens, citing the low fertility rate and the need for new citizens as "a critical pillar in the shape of any future Singapore."
Singh emphasized the importance of selecting those who truly know Singapore and want to embrace its way of life, with a long-term commitment to the country.
Switzerland's selection process for new citizens
Singh cited Switzerland's highly specific selection process for new citizens, which includes a deep commitment to the country, successful integration, and knowledge of Swiss customs and ways. Applicants must have lived in Switzerland for 10 years and hold a permanent residence permit to be ordinarily naturalized. The naturalization process requires applicants to go through a personal interview, which focuses on their knowledge of Swiss geography, history, politics, and society. Singh asked if Singapore has similar requirements.
Considerations for granting citizenship
Singh asked if a working proficiency in English is a criterion for citizenship, to facilitate better integration between new citizens and Singaporeans. He called on the government to share more details on how new citizenships are granted, as certain aspects of the process and criteria are currently opaque. He also asked if there was a points system and what the considerations were beyond economic contribution, educational qualification, family profile, and length of stay in Singapore.
English proficiency as a criterion
Singh advocated for an English proficiency test to be conducted before someone can be considered for PR status or citizenship to improve integration, citing a recent census report that shows English is increasingly used in Singapore.
Teo expressed surprise at Singh's stance, pointing out that most applicants for PR status or citizenship would have been in Singapore for years and would have proficiency in English. She said that those who do not have a good command of English are likely to be spouses of citizens or other PRs, and she questioned whether Singapore is implying that it does not welcome these foreign spouses. She also asked rhetorically to what extent a test of English can be applied to foreign spouses and whether it is helpful.
Teo said that while the ability to integrate into Singapore is a consideration, naturalization tests or interviews are not used as they can be abused to inflate an undeserving applicant's chances of success.
Singapore considers various markers of social integration, such as family ties to Singaporeans, length of residency, and completion of National Service or education in national schools. Applicants must complete the Singapore Citizenship Journey before being granted citizenship.
Teo explained that Singapore does not reveal detailed criteria or disclose country-specific figures on its PR and SC, as this information could be misinterpreted or misused by others to stir up bilateral and domestic sensitivities.