On Citizenship and Passports

I’ve been having a fair amount of discussion lately with friends and on Twitter about passports, citizenship and its rights and responsibilities.

The issue first arose in relation to the recent announcement of MediShield Life, a new policy implemented by the government to spread the burden of providing further healthcare subsidies across its entire population.

MediShield Life will apply to all Singapore citizens and PRs, regardless of their country of residence, and premiums start off fairly low but increase rapidly as one ages. A person aged 30 upon implementation can expect to pay about $30k in premiums to MediShield Life till the age of 80.

While I have many reasons for opposing the mandatory contributions to MediShield Life for overseas Singaporeans, my friend’s argument is that paying into MediShield Life is part of the responsibilities of being a Singapore citizen or PR, and is just something that comes with the turf. This argument has been echoed by several others too. When framed in this manner, I suppose there’s no way of arguing against it, never mind that overseas Singaporeans have suddenly found themselves with another financial burden to address and budget for, regardless of their current financial status.

Another discussion started on Twitter today, after I commented that I’d never give up an EU passport to obtain a Singapore one. Some asked why, stating that the Singapore passport is one of the best in the world. Indeed, the Singapore passport grants visa-free travel to 143 countries (less than only 8 other countries), but having a passport means so much more than travel-related benefits.

For example, having rights to a passport means holding all the rights accorded to a citizen of that country. As Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship, obtaining a Singapore passport means giving up all other rights to citizenship that one currently holds. Why would a person give up their rights to work in any EU or EEA country for the rights to work in just Singapore? Perhaps I’m greedy and just happen to enjoy the thought of having the entire EEA as my oyster more than being confined to Singapore.

That said, I’ve been told that giving up one’s citizenship may not be a big deal if it’s easy to get it back. Indeed, one needs to pay less than £1000 to be reinstated as a UK citizen, but Singapore citizenship, once renounced, is lost forever.

Hence, I was surprised to discover that it costs next to nothing to apply for Singapore citizenship. The fees are a mere $100 – less than a tenth of what I’ve had to pay for a 2.5 year visa here – and the application form is short compared to what I’ve had to fill in. Given the number of new citizens and permanent residents in Singapore, I think the government is missing out on a hugely lucrative scheme there!

The Singapore government’s stance on dual citizenship also have to change with the times, I feel. As more Singaporeans live, work and settle overseas, as well as marry non-Singaporeans (I was going to use the word ‘foreigner’ there but apparently it’s a pejorative term), not allowing dual citizenship will, at some point, force Singaporeans to choose between one or the other.

What better way is there to ensure that Singaporeans maintain ties to Singapore, and for the government to show that every Singaporean counts, than to allow dual citizenship? Unfortunately, as DPM Teo Chee Hean said, the government’s view is that holding dual citizenship will only serve to dilute national identity and reduce a person’s commitment to Singapore. I find that argument weak at best and even offensive – it’s akin to saying that having a second child will only reduce the love and commitment that one has for the first child!

So, what do you think about Singapore allowing dual citizenship? If you had one, would you give up your EU/EEA passport for Singapore citizenship? Do you agree with my friend that MediShield Life is just something that comes with being a Singapore citizen? Let me know in the comments below!

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