The Singapore government has never clarified its policy regarding same-sex partners of foreigners working in Singapore. Anecdotal reports suggest a pattern of refusing to recognise such relationships and not granting Dependent’s Passes (which allow residency) to partners. Opposite-sex spouses are automatically granted such Passes if the expatriate’s salary is above a specified threshold. However, other anecdotal reports also indicate the occasional exception for gay partners.
The recent Straits Times story (29 March 2008) about Prof Kerry Sieh (photo, left) taking up a new appointment heading Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory only adds more confusion to the issue. He told the newspaper that “I would not have come here if my partner could not have come with me,” suggesting that the government has cleared his partner for a Dependent’s Pass as well. However, the report did not actually say that that was what in fact the Ministry of Home Affairs (in charge of immigration issues) actually did.
Even if Dr Sieh’s partner has been granted a Dependent’s Pass, comments from various bulletin boards indicate that Singaporeans believe it was more an exception than representative of policy. The university went out of its way to headhunt for a world-renowned geologist to lead its new Earth Observatory, and the Singapore government is eager to push forward research efforts here. For the vast majority of LGBT talent seeking to work in Singapore, there’s no indication that policy has become any less discriminatory.
People Like Us calls on the government to equalise its policies between same-sex and opposite-sex partners and make it clear that registered same-sex spouses and partners should enjoy the same residency rights as opposite-sex spouses.