Traveling to Singapore: Things to Know About Immigration
Who Needs a Visa to Enter Singapore?
Most nationals do not require visas to enter Singapore, but if you come from Asian countries other than Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, then you will need a visa. As for the rest, you can check with Singapore's immmigration website.
Below, you'll find:
1. The story of my own immigration nightmare in Singapore, and
2. Tips of what to do (and what not to do) when traveling to Singapore.
How Singapore Immigration Can be a Nightmare
When I first arrived in Singapore to visit my Spanish girlfriend, I didn't have much trouble with the immigration officers except that they called her to verify. I was given a 30 day stay period.
Two days later, I crossed over into Malaysia for an eight day holiday with my lover, after which I went back to Singapore and, again, given a 30 day stay.
I spent the next couple of days trying to get a job in Singapore. I applied and spoke to fellow expats who had come into the country under circumstances similar to mine. One British woman advised me that if I left the country for Malaysia again and returned the same day, I would be given another 30 days. Unfortunately I took this advice and, seven days later, I left Singapore for Malaysia. This time, I was alone.
Upon arrival at the Malaysian border, I was denied entry because apparently, the immigration officers are well aware of this trend of coming for a day and returning. I was sent back to Singapore where suddenly their reception towards me changed. I was now a rogue migrant.
I was taken to an office where I awaited my turn to be interviewed. There were other nationals (mainly from Asian countries) waiting with me. At this point, I was in tears, as I could not phone my lover and tell her what had happened. I knew I was probably going to be detained, driven straight to the airport, and sent home, without her knowing!
After they asked me a couple of questions, I had my fingerprints taken and was given seven days on my passport, during which time I was told to sort out my ticket and leave the country. It was a temporary relief and the moment I walked back into the country, I lit my long-awaited cigarette.
Two days later, I went to the Immigration Head office—this time with my girlfriend—to try to get some form of extension. A woman at the counter told us that I had to leave the country for at least five days before coming back so that evening, I booked a flight to Indonesia, the closet country (since I couldn't go to Malaysia again).
I flew to Jakarta, Indonesia, where I spent nine days before flying back to Singapore. Before taking off from Jakarta, the airline staff spent quite sometime scrutinizing my home-bound air ticket, after which I was allowed to board.
When I arrived in Singapore, my ordeal really began. The officers at terminal three went through my passport twice and referred me to their superintendents. After many questions, I was told that I wouldn't be allowed into Singapore! The officer told me that I would be sent back to Indonesia and it was up to the Indonesian authorities to deal with my case. I pleaded with the senior officer, but he didn't bulge, not even a bit.
I was escorted by airport guards to a detention room where I pleaded to be allowed to at least call my girlfriend. They agreed at the risk of losing their jobs. There was enough time to tell my girl (who had been awake the whole night waiting for me): We sobbed together over the phone, after which I was taken to a facility. I had no appetite to even try the Chinese food they served me.
The following day, I was sent back to Indonesia where, surprisingly, I found my girlfriend waiting for me in the transit area. You can only imagine how we both felt. After hugging and kissing we tried negotiating with the Indonesian authorities to allow me entry for two days before I flew off to my home country. We offered them $300, but they didn't budge.
Since my girlfriend held a Spanish passport, she was allowed into the country, but I was held in the airport's detention room. By then, I had lost all hope for myself and just wanted to be back home with my family who were also worried.
My girlfriend came back the following day after having sorted all my flight arrangements to return home. She kissed me goodbye as she was returning to Singapore and flying off to Spain for her Christmas holiday. It was such an emotional goodbye that even the guards allowed me out temporarily.
Four days later, I left Jakarta to fly back to Singapore. As my flight was departing, I was told not to attempt entering Singapore as it would cause more trouble. A hotel had been booked for me in the transit area and I spent 48 hours there before flying back home. I even had the chance to see the bastard officer who denied me entry even after the CEO from my girlfriend's company called him to plead on my behalf.
Tips to Help You Avoid an Immigration Nightmare in Singapore
Don't Try To Leave and Return. To all those who plan on migrating to Singapore, it's better to use their eExtension facility or visit the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority's headquarters than trying to leave the country and returning. This may work if you hold a US or EU passport, but there is no guarantee that you will be able to enter again.
Get a Job in Singapore. If you have a good command of English, you can easily get yourself a job. Jobs are not really difficult to come by. Singapore is in dire need of foreign manpower, and many immigration problems can be avoided if you are employed there.
I have since sorted my immigration issues and I now live in Singapore.