Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Chairman, new citizens are going to be even more important to the future of Singapore. With our total fertility rate at the historical low of 1.05, it will not be hyperbole to say new citizens are a critical pillar in the shape of any future Singapore.
In line with the Government’s Forward Singapore exercise that promises a renewed social compact with citizens, we need to ask what should Singapore’s goals be when bringing in new citizens?
We want those who truly know Singapore and want to embrace the Singapore way of life. We want those who really want to live here and be here. We want people who have already proven themselves by having integrated into Singapore life after some time as Permanent Residents.
Singaporeans do not want new citizens who do not want to live here but only want the power of the Singapore passport for their convenience and the safe and secure environment for their assets and wealth. We do not want new citizens who are reluctant for their sons to do National Service and, certainly, none of us want people who only want Singapore Citizenship as a stepping-stone to another country but, instead, seek those who have a long-term commitment to Singapore.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong has promised that Forward Singapore will move on to looking at solutions.
The Swiss, for example, have a highly specific selection process for new citizens. People must show deep commitment before granted Swiss citizenship through naturalisation. Applicants must show themselves to be successfully integrated into Switzerland and know Swiss ways and customs.
For ordinary naturalisation, a person must have lived in Switzerland for 10 years and hold a permanent residence permit. The Swiss Naturalisation Authorities summoned applicants for a personal interview which focuses on their knowledge of Switzerland. They must be able to answer questions on Swiss geography, history, politics and society.
Do we have similar requirements? For example, the latest Singapore Census 2020 revealed that 48.3% of the resident population in Singapore spoke English most frequently at home compared to 32.3% a mere 10 years ago. Is the working proficiency in English a criterion for citizenship for better integration between new citizens and Singaporeans of all races and religion, since English is our main language of communication?
Can the Government share more details on how new citizenships are granted as there are aspects of the process and criteria currently that are opaque? How is our system different from that of the Swiss? Is there already a point system in place and what does it consider apart from the publicly revealed criteria, such as economic contribution, educational qualification, family profile and length of stay in Singapore?
Most importantly, how will the citizenship selection process evolve in face of the Forward Singapore exercise and a review of the social compact?
Ministry of Home Affairs
27 February 2023