It was reported in the media yesterday (17 Jun) that many work pass holders and their dependants have been stuck abroad for months because their applications to return to Singapore have been repeatedly rejected by the authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic (‘Stranded overseas, foreigners await return‘).
However, on Monday (15 Jun), the Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a press release saying that more long-term pass holders who are still outside Singapore will be able to return, as the country reopens to international travel. But prior approval will still be required from authorities before these work pass holders and dependants can re-enter Singapore.
“As the global and local health situations improve, we have gradually increased the number of entry approvals given to Long Term Pass holders, especially those with deep roots to Singapore or have exigent circumstances. We expect to be able to facilitate the re-entry of more Long Term Pass holders in the coming weeks,” MOH said.
“We will also study how to facilitate business travels, in particular for professionals based in Singapore who need to travel frequently as part of their work, with the necessary safeguards.”
The media interviewed an Indian national, Ms Isha Chaudhari, who travelled out of Singapore back to India with her 2 children in February.
“My daughter, who is in K2 now, has been missing her pre-school for months,” she said. “My husband is alone in Singapore and he has lost some weight because he has been struggling with eating.”
Her husband, Kapil Saxena, is an Employment Pass holder working as a vice-president at a local bank while she is on a Dependant Pass.
In any case, Ms Chaudhari and her two children have been unable to return without the required approval from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
Another person who desperately wanted to come back to Singapore is Manish, who only gave his first name to the media. His Employment Pass will be cancelled at the end of this month because the IT company he is working for is closing its operations here.
He had flown to India with his wife and child in February and has been stranded there since.
“Since my EP will be cancelled, I won’t be able to come back to find a job or even vacate my HDB flat that I am currently renting,” he told the media from Hyderabad.
“I plan to continue to apply for new jobs in Singapore while I stay overseas and also wait for flights to open up.”
It’s not known if Manish has graduated from a university or college from Hyderabad, the capital and largest city in the Indian state of Telangana.
Hyderabad – the unofficial IT training hub of India
Incidentally, Hyderabad, especially at Ameerpet, a squeezed neighbourhood inside the capital city, is known as the unofficial IT training hub of India.
According to a 2017 news report from the Economist, the neighbourhood has more then 500 IT training institutes catering to over 100,000 students learning IT. Fees at Ameerpet’s informal institutes are typically below 25,000 rupees (US$330) for classes lasting three to six months.
Economist noted that Ameerpet has been successful because it is fulfilling the desire of the needy students who are deprived of the higher cost of computer education.
But more worrying is that not only Ameerpet offers quick classes, it also offers fake certificates to anyone asking for them. An investigative journalist revealed, “When I huskily asked if I could get a job experience certificate to bolster my resume, the counsellor (at Ameerpet) told me that they can put me in touch with the ‘right’ people. ‘But you will have to deal with the financial aspect separately with them,’ she added.”
According to an Indian government report, three-fifths of engineering graduates in India were unemployable and more than 3,300 engineering colleges were not up to the standard. It’s not known if the Singapore’s Manpower Ministry is aware of this.