On Dec 2, 2013 Ravi and I did something that we had spent countless hours debating–we applied for PR (Permanent Resident) status.
Our “look-see” visit was almost exactly four years ago. While excited at the prospect of moving to Singapore, it was still an overwhelming and often isolating experience to be here in those early months. I barely recognize the woman who wrote those early entries, who so often go so many things wrong because she lacked understanding or context. Notabilia almost died of laughter when I sent her a link to a post where I talked about how I was most likely going to homeschool Elanor and why, especially given how strongly I feel about Elanor attending local schools today. (I ate crow about the whole homeschool/scared of Singaporean schools post in this post from last year, for the record.)
Over the past four years we’ve grown to think of Singapore as home. After the first year and a half or two years, we first started to contemplate applying for Permanent Residency. However, it didn’t feel urgent, and we had some ambivalence over it. The idea of applying for PR implied a level of—well, permanence–that felt intimidating. It’s one thing to move to a country as an expat, but another to make an commitment that means you’re not moving home any time soon, if ever.
It was the second half of 2013 when we made the decision. Namely, as Elanor was finishing up K1 and after enrolling Rhiannon in school. We realized that if we were serious about the girls’ educational future, and that we did NOT want them at an international school (which we absolutely do not), it was time to fish or cut bait. In other words, time to apply.
There are plenty of other reasons to apply. I look forward to joining Pink Dot this year instead of standing off to the side. My ambivalence has passed, and I want the deeper commitment to Singapore. Singapore feels more like home than the US now. It is time.
List of required documents to apply for PR source for persons who hold Ravi’s type of work pass (source)
So we applied for a date, and to our horror our options were a week later or five months later. Horror because the list of documents was extremely long, and we weren’t sure we had everything. Lesson one from this experience is that there is a far longer wait for a PR application appointment than you might expect. Singapore is preternaturally fast at so many official things that we never dreamed appointments would be full more than a month or so in advance. To be fair, we’ve never done anything like this and just had no idea what we were doing.
“Make the appointment for a week from now. I’ll pull everything together and make it happen,” I told Ravi.
Another lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that you should keep all of your documents of this sort in one place. Obvious, but I never claimed to the one with the degree from MIT. But from (at least) five different places around the house I pulled together nearly everything. Nearly.
We needed an official transcript and degree letter from MIT. We needed Ravi’s birth certificate. The former required Ravi to fill out an online form, send in a fee and then pay a further fee for expedited shipping. To accomplish the latter, my mom went to Framingham (where Ravi was born), got a copy of his birth certificate, and sent it to us via FedEx. Waiting for these documents was nerve-wracking to say the least.
We filled out the form, and had to ask GNB to sign off to provide a document as well. Worth noting that if you elect PR status, you will not only pay your SG taxes, but you will be required to contribute to CPF as well.
We also all had to get SG passport sized photos–easier said than done with the two smaller, requiring the patience of a saint, which I don’t have.
Everything arrived in time, and we and the girls (and their tablets-your kids need to be at the appointment and it will be incredibly boring for them–plan accordingly) went to the ICA building. From there it was a standard wait for your queue number to be called situation. We were called up, and Ravi and I sat down with the ICA representative.
We were expecting an interview, much like the ones people we’ve known who’ve applied for PR in the United States have undergone. A battery of why do you want to do this, and how will you contribute to Singaporean society, and so on. The representative is actually just there to ensure your paperwork is in order. We signed next to things, verified/clarified some data, and had the girls come over to verify their identities (and then return to their tablets in the row of seats behind us). It took about 30-45 minutes to verify everything was there.
From what I understand, there are quotas for certain nationalities, and your response time may vary upon nationality and the sort of PR application you fill out. We were told 4-6 months (so somewhere between early April and June). We’re relieved as this does ensure that we’ll have our answer one way or another before P1 registration begins; P1 registration, of course, being the event driving our timeline. We would have likely gone for PR eventually if we didn’t have kids, but understandably, having a K2 student was a huge factor in our timeline.
We have two daughters, but be aware while male PR applicants are exempted from NS duty, their sons are not. So this wasn’t something that influenced our decision–we’re done having kids. As I understand it, even if you give up your PR status, any sons who have ever held PR will still be legally required to do NS. However, I am not the most knowledgeable person on this topic as, again, I have daughters.
The odds are in our favor, but I’d appreciate it if you keep your fingers crossed with us. I’ll update you when we are notified, and hopefully turn in our current identification cards for PR ones.
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