What every American must know about living in Sinagpore
You may want to bring your dependents, such as your wife and children, with you. To do so, you will need to apply for the appropriate passes for them, depending on your eligibility and their relationship to you. The most common type of pass for dependents of work pass holders is the Dependant’s Pass (DP) or Long Term Visitors Pass (LTVP). You can apply for a DP for your legally married spouse and your unmarried children under 21 years old, including those legally adopted. To be eligible for a DP, you need to meet the following requirements:
- Hold an Employment Pass or S Pass.
- Earn a minimum fixed monthly salary of $6,000. This is based on your salary, and not based on your combined household income.
- Be sponsored by an established, Singapore-registered company (usually your employer).
To be eligible for an LTVP, you need to meet the same requirements as a DP, except for the minimum salary requirement. You will also need to provide additional documents to prove your relationship with your dependents, such as a declaration form or a court order. The application fee for each LTVP is $105 and the issuance fee is $225. The validity of the LTVP will vary depending on your work pass validity and other factors. You can renew the LTVP as long as you hold a valid work pass.
If you are a long-term visitor to Singapore from the United States, you may be interested in the education and school options for yourself or your dependents.
“Private Education Institutions (PEIs)” These are private schools that offer a range of courses, such as diploma, degree, or postgraduate programmes, in various fields and disciplines. Some of the PEIs are accredited by local or foreign authorities, such as the Committee for Private Education (CPE) or the EduTrust Certification Scheme. If you want to enrol in a full-time course at a PEI, you will need to apply for a Student’s Pass from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
“International Schools” These are schools that cater to the expatriate community and offer curricula that are based on international standards or foreign education systems. Some of the international schools are affiliated with or accredited by organisations such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or the Council of International Schools (CIS). If you want to enrol yourself or your dependents in an international school, you will need to apply for a Dependant’s Pass or a Long-Term Visit Pass from the ICA, depending on your relationship and eligibility. You will also need to meet the admission requirements and fees of the international school that you have chosen.
“Public Schools” These are schools that are run by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and offer curricula that are based on national standards and objectives. Public schools include primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities. If you want to enrol yourself or your dependents in a public school, you will need to apply for a Student’s Pass from the ICA.
Singapore is widely known to provide exceptional healthcare quality that is affordable at the same time. There are different healthcare options available for foreign visitors, depending on their needs and preferences. Here are some of the main options:
“Private Healthcare” If you prefer to have more choices and flexibility in terms of doctors, facilities, and services, you may opt for private healthcare in Singapore. Private healthcare providers include private hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and pharmacies. They offer a wide range of medical specialities and treatments, such as cardiology, oncology, orthopaedics, dentistry, cosmetic surgery, and more. However, private healthcare can be quite expensive compared to public healthcare, and you may need to pay upfront or use your insurance coverage.
“Public Healthcare” If you are looking for subsidised and affordable healthcare services, you may opt for public healthcare in Singapore. Public healthcare providers include public hospitals, polyclinics, community health centres, and specialist outpatient clinics. They offer basic and essential medical services, such as general practice, emergency care, surgery, maternity care, and chronic disease management.
“Doctors General and Family Practices” can be found almost everywhere in every community, there are no health deserts in Singapore and for non urgent no emergency issuers, they are very affordable. They are “walk-ins’ ‘ without an appointment, accept cash or card and have a pharmacy.
“Telemedicine” If you have minor complaints or need a quick consultation, you may opt for telemedicine in Singapore. Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare services through online platforms or mobile applications. You can access telemedicine services from anywhere and anytime, as long as you have an internet connection and a device. You can chat with a doctor, get a diagnosis, receive a prescription, order medication delivery, or book an appointment through telemedicine.
Warning before travelling you should also have adequate travel insurance that covers your medical expenses in case of any critical illness or hospitalisation.
The Law and Police
If you are a foreigner visiting Singapore, you should be aware of the law and what to do if you get in trouble with the law. Singapore is known for its strict and efficient legal system, which is based on the English common law system. The law covers various aspects of life, such as criminal law, civil law, family law, and administrative law. Some of the laws in Singapore may be different from those in your home country, so you should familiarise yourself with them before you visit. The police are not corrupt, don’t harass and are largely made of national servicemen from the communities they serve.
Some of the laws that you should pay attention to are:
“Drug laws”, Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy towards drug offences. Possession, consumption, trafficking, or manufacturing of any controlled drugs is illegal and punishable by severe penalties, such as imprisonment, caning, or even death. You may also be subjected to random urine tests or searches by the authorities if you are suspected of drug involvement. You should avoid any contact with drugs or drug-related activities while in Singapore.
Warning: Do not bring drugs to Singapore there is an active death penalty for small quantities, that other nations might excuse as “personal use”. If a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident is tested positive for drugs on his or her return to Singapore, he or she could face a jail term. This is how seriously drug abuse is taken in Singapore, drugs are not a subject of polite public conversation.
“Littering laws”, Singapore is famous for its cleanliness and environmental standards. Littering is an offence that carries a fine of up to $2,000 for the first conviction, and up to $10,000 for subsequent convictions. You may also be required to perform corrective work orders, such as picking up litter in public places. You should dispose of your waste properly and use the designated bins provided. A plain-clothed environmental officer may video you smoking a cigarette and discarding the butt end, then approach you with the evidence and fine you on the spot or offer you a court appearance. The same goes for smoking in prescribed areas.
“Chewing gum laws”, Singapore has a ban on the import, sale, and manufacture of chewing gum, except for therapeutic purposes. This is to prevent the public nuisance and damage caused by discarded gum. If you are caught chewing gum, you may face a fine of up to $2,000. You should refrain from bringing or chewing gum while in Singapore. Warning: Do not head for immigration chewing gum. For an American, chewing a cum is nothing, for an immigration officer it could be grounds for a night in a holding cell waiting for a return flight to the USA.
“Smoking laws”, Singapore has strict regulations on smoking in public places. Smoking is prohibited in most indoor locations, such as shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, and buses. Smoking is also banned in some outdoor areas, such as playgrounds, bus stops, and parks. You can only smoke in designated smoking areas or on your premises. If you are caught smoking in a prohibited place, you may face a fine of up to $1,000. You should check the signs and notices before you light up a cigarette.
“Alcohol laws”, Singapore has restrictions on the consumption and sale of alcohol in public places. You are not allowed to consume alcohol in public places from 10:30 pm to 7:00 am daily. You are also not allowed to buy takeaway alcohol from retail outlets during these hours. If you are caught drinking or buying alcohol in public places during prohibited hours, you may face a fine of up to $1,000. You should limit your alcohol intake and drink responsibly.
“Return your Food Tray”, yes it became law as an act of parliament as Singapore came out of COVID to promote public health in the food courts. I have not seen anyone find it. Police don’t patrol food courts but people clear their tables and cleaning staff not so much.
Whilst the police have lite touch there are plain-clothed inspectors of health and the rules are applied. There is no attempt at a shakedown, no corruption, simply the application of a public health policy more reaching than US states. If you get in trouble with the law in Singapore, you should know your rights and obligations. Depending on the nature and severity of the offence, you may be arrested by the police or summoned to court.
Some of your rights and obligations in Singapore
Right to remain silent”, You have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police or the court. However, this may harm your case if you withhold any facts or evidence that could help your defence. You should consider whether you should say something or keep quiet.
“Right to legal counsel”, you have the right to consult a lawyer while under police custody or before your court hearing. You can also speak with a family member to notify them of your situation and seek their assistance. However, these requests may be denied if they interfere with the investigations.
“Obligation to cooperate”, you should cooperate with the authorities and follow their instructions. You should not resist arrest, lie, or destroy evidence. You should also not contact any witnesses or tamper with their statements. You should comply with the law and respect the officers.
“Obligation to attend court” You should attend court when required. If you fail to do so without a valid reason or permission, you may face further penalties or arrest. You should be punctual and well-prepared for your court appearance.
American social scene
There are many social groups and activities that cater for Americans in Singapore, whether you are looking for friendship, networking, cultural exchange, or fun. You can join online platforms such as Meetup, Facebook, or InterNations to find and connect with other Americans and expats in Singapore. You can also participate in various events and activities organised by these platforms or by other associations and clubs. Here are some examples of social groups and activities that you may be interested in:
- American Women’s Association of Singapore: This is a volunteer-run social organisation that welcomes women of all nationalities.
- Singapore Guide: This is a group for Americans who want to explore Singapore and learn more about its culture, history, and attractions.
- SingaPro: This is a group for professionals who want to network and socialise with other expats in Singapore. It organises monthly events and activities, such as happy hours, networking sessions, workshops, and seminars.
- USAtoSG: This is a group for Americans who have moved or are planning to move to Singapore. It provides support and advice for relocating and settling in Singapore. It also organises social events and activities, such as welcome parties, potlucks, movie nights, and outings.
You don’t need a car in Singapore but if you want one expensive and complicated to own, as there are many factors and costs involved, some of the main factors and costs are:
- “Road Tax”: This is a tax that is based on the engine capacity of your vehicle. The road tax rate is also progressive, meaning that the larger the engine, the higher the road tax. The road tax rate can range from $0.782 per cc to $2.782 per cc per year.
- “Car Insurance”: This is a mandatory requirement for all car owners in Singapore. You need to have at least a third-party liability insurance that covers any damage or injury that you may cause to others in an accident.
- “Parking, and ERP”: These are some of the variable costs that you will incur when using your car in Singapore. Parking fees vary depending on the location and duration of your parking. Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) fees are charges that you have to pay when you drive through certain roads or areas during peak hours.
As you can see, owning a car in Singapore can be a huge financial commitment and hassle for foreigners and citizens. Therefore, you may want to consider alternative transportation options that are more convenient and affordable. Some of the alternative transportation options are:
- “Public Transport”: Singapore has an efficient and extensive public transport system that consists of buses, trains, and taxis. You can use an EZ-Link card or a NETS FlashPay card to pay for your fares electronically.
- “Ride-Hailing” Singapore has several ride-hailing platforms that allow you to book a private car or taxi using your smartphone.
- “Car-Sharing”: Singapore has several car-sharing platforms that allow you to rent a car for short-term use. You can choose from different car models, locations, and durations. You only pay for what you use, such as the time, distance, and fuel.
USA driving licences
USA driving licences are valid in Singapore for not more than 12 months, if you are a foreigner above 18 years of age and holding a work pass, dependent pass, student pass, or social visit pass. However, after 12 months, you will need to convert your USA driving licence to a Singapore driving licence.
Vacation and Public Holidays
Basic Singapore work contracts start from 15 to 20 vacation days a year plus eleven public holidays in 2024. Some companies close for the week of Christmas to New Year. Public holidays are listed on the Ministry of Manpower government website as public holidays for 2024 [0523 Public Holidays for 2024 (mom.gov.sg]. The biggest holiday of the year, bigger than Christmas and New Year, is the Chinese New Year (aka Luna New Year) when the city-state closes down. If you have not pre-booked transport out of Singapore, you are going nowhere at the last minute. For many, it is a quiet long weekend visiting family and friends.