Immigration Issues for Divorcing Expatriates

An international divorce can be a painful process, especially for expatriates seeking divorce in a foreign country, away from friends and relatives. This post aims to highlight possible immigration issues upon the conclusion of a divorce process.

Scenario 1: Your spouse is not a Singaporean, and you are granted a Dependent pass.

If your spouse decided to move to Singapore to work and you chose to move with him/her, you would most likely have been granted a Dependent’s pass to stay in Singapore. If so, your immigration status is intricately linked to your status as a spouse. In this regard, the divorce would result in a cancellation of your Dependent’s pass. As a result, you will have to leave the country within 14 days.

Alternatively, should you wish to remain in Singapore, you can look for a job locally and apply for an Employment Pass. An employment pass would have been granted if you had a job offer in Singapore as well and met the relevant eligibility criteria. If so, your immigration status will unaffected by the divorce and you can choose to remain in Singapore after the divorce.

As for your child (if any), his/her Dependent’s pass would remain valid if it was tied to your working ex-spouse’s pass. If you do not seek employment locally, this may result in complications. You would be forced to leave the country, leaving your child behind, even if you have been awarded custody and control over your child. Further, you might be restricted from relocating your child overseas to your home country.

Scenario 2: Your spouse is a Singaporean, and you are granted a Long Term Visit Pass.

If your spouse is a Singaporean and you entered Singapore on a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP), it will likely be revoked following the divorce proceeding in Singapore as well. This is because the LTVP requires proof of marriage and sponsorship by your spouse for renewal. Hence should you wish to remain in Singapore, you should similarly seek employment and apply for an employment pass.

Restrictions on relocation of child overseas

Following an expat divorce in Singapore, you may desire to return to your home country to start afresh. If you have been given custody and care and control over your child, you may be considering returning with the child as well. However, there are some restrictions before you can do so.

Under S126(3) and S125(4) of the Women’s Charter, the child may not be taken out of the country for more than one month unless there is written consent from both parents, or leave of the Court. In most cases, it is unusual for a spouse to obtain consent from his/her ex-spouse to take the child out of the country. This is because your ex-spouse would want to maintain contact with your child. Hence it is likely that your child will have to remain in Singapore.

Without consent from your ex-spouse or having applied for leave from the Court, if you bring your child with you back to your homeland, it may constitute international child abduction. Your spouse may then apply to the court which the child was brought to for an order to return the child to the country from which he was removed. This order is likely to be granted if the country, to which the child was brought to, is a signatory to The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Nevertheless, you may make an application for the leave of court to remove your child from the jurisdiction against the wishes of the other parent, in limited circumstances. In such an application, the court is primarily concerned with whether the decision to remove the child from the jurisdiction is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.

Some of the factors that the court would look at before approving or rejecting the application for relocation:

  • The effects on the child if the wishes of the parent with primary care wishing to take them abroad are interfered with
  • Whether the parent with primary care may have resentment against the child if his or her application to remove the child is not granted
  • Whether the application is made in good faith and for good reasons. The aim of relocation must be in the best interests of the child. If the relocation aims to isolate the child from the other parent, it may not be in the best interests of the child.
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