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Changes to citizenship laws


Parliament had earlier passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill on 19 April 2004. The Articles in the Constitution on the grant of citizenship have remained unchanged since the 1960s. However, the world today is very different compared to then.

Growing numbers of Singaporean men and women are travelling overseas to work, study or pursue their personal goals, and starting their families abroad.

The following changes to the citizenship laws will take effect from 15 May 2004.

Grant of Citizenship by descent

Currently, only male Singaporeans can pass on citizenship by descent to their children born overseas. Children born overseas to female Singaporeans have to acquire citizenship by registration.

With the changes to the Constitution, the grant of citizenship by descent will now be gender neutral. Singapore citizens, be they male or female, will be allowed to pass on citizenship by descent to their foreign-born child.

The transmission of citizenship by descent will also no longer be limited to one generation. From 15 May 2004, a Singapore citizen by descent will be able to pass on citizenship by descent to his or her child born overseas, as long as he or she had stayed in Singapore for a total of:

* At least five years before the child's birth, or

* At least two years out of the five years immediately before the child's birth.

With the new absence period of up to one year (explained below), citizens by descent effectively need to have stayed in Singapore for a total of at least four years before the child's birth, or a total of at least one year out of the five years immediately before the child's birth, to qualify to pass on citizenship by descent to their children.

This residency requirement is imposed so that we will not have generations of absentee Singaporeans with no real links to Singapore.

Amendment to Absence Period

Singapore permanent residents need to meet a residential requirement before they can qualify to be citizens. Currently, the Constitution allows a person to be away from Singapore for up to six months when calculating the period of residence. Recognising that more Singapore citizens and permanent residents have to travel in the course of their work or study, this period of absence will be increased to 12 months.

Value of Singapore Citizenship

The Government values every citizen, regardless of gender or the schemes under which he or she obtained citizenship. However, citizenship comes with privileges and responsibilities. Singaporeans living and working overseas must continue to make the effort to ensure that they and their children remain rooted and committed to Singapore.

Application Procedure

Singaporean parents who wish to obtain Singapore citizenship for their children born overseas may submit citizenship applications to ICA or through any of the Singapore Missions overseas. Each case is assessed on its own merits and in accordance with the law.

Singaporeans who wish to find out more about citizenship application can visit our website at




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15 May 2004