- United States
The Singapore immigration authorities and lawmakers decided earlier this week to make part of the Immigration Amendment Bill some provisions increasing the punitive consequences of marriages of convenience to curb the number of people trying to get the citizenship in the country through them. The bill, passed by the Singapore parliament this Monday August 13th, 2012, addressed comprehensively to the issue of sham marriages in the country, increasing the penalties in cases where these immigration offenders are caught by the authorities.
The new provisions will criminalize these marriages in order to punish those who use marriages as a mean to get people to Singapore and gain citizenship in the country. Certain criteria for judging the criminal nature of any marriage will be adopted including checking for any possible gratification promised as a result of the marriage, any rewards for entering the marriage and any other factors pointing towards the possibility of fraud or abuse of the immigration policies. Most importantly, the fact that might be used as primary evidence pointing towards the possibility of a fraud will be to check if the couple resides together in Singapore or not, the authorities said.
Prior to the amendments, the individuals suspected by the immigration authorities for sham marriages were charged, under the country’s penal code, up to 4,000 Singapore dollars as fine and up to an year in prison for providing false information to gain access to immigration facilities. Now, under the new laws, persons suspected of the same immigration offense will be fined 10,000 Singapore dollars and might serve up to 3 years in prison.
S. Iswaran, Second Minister for Home Affairs, said that these reforms were necessary as the number of sham marriage cases had risen from 4 to 5 cases a year in last 5 years to 12 cases in the first half of this year alone. Iswaran said that this was a very serious problem and, if not controlled now, might become a larger trend which would be very difficult to curb.
“So, we want to introduce new laws,” Iswaran told the House, “to send a strong deterrent message to individuals who contemplate entering ‘Marriages of Convenience’ for the purpose of obtaining an immigration facility such as Permanent Residency, long term passes and visas.”
Iswaran also said that although this would prove to be a very affective reform, it must be applied very carefully so as to keep the genuine marriages out of its striking range. He assured the parliament members, most of which had shown their concern regarding lack of standards to distinguish fake marriages from genuine, that most cautious initiatives will be adopted while implementing the policy.
“We are creating a criminal offense.” Iswaran said, “We want to be careful about it. So we thought it would be prudent to not just have subjective criteria but also an objective test to ensure that when action is indeed taken, there are good grounds to proceed.”
Other changes in the immigration laws included giving authorities permission to check all the details of people before their arrival to Singapore. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will be taking special measures and also plans to impose a good conduct condition on the re-entry permits issued to permanent residents in Singapore.
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