As an OS Portal Member, you will be connected to a community of Singaporeans all over the world.
Receive Monthly e-Newsletter, OS TouchPoint, for a round-up of updates from home and much more.
Sign up for membership with the Overseas Singaporean Portal and receive monthly updates on Singaporean events happening all around the world. If you are organizing an event for fellow overseas Singaporeans, you can also apply for funding support as a member of the Overseas Singaporean Portal. You can also apply for the OSU-PAssion card to enjoy discounts from local and overseas merchants.
OSU works with many partners to organise and support a suite of programmes that reaches out to a wide demographic of overseas Singaporeans.
Singapore Of Our Time
The OSU plans and co-ordinates multi-agency programmes and initiatives to engage Overseas Singaporeans (OS) and strengthen their connection to home and fellow Singaporeans.
The Overseas Singaporean Funding Programme (OSFP) provides seed funding to encourage and support overseas Singaporeans across different cities to take the lead in organising ground-up initiatives to foster a close-knitted and vibrant Singaporean community. The event(s) organised must meet the following criteria:
- Celebrate Singapore’s culture and heritage;
- Keep Singaporeans abroad abreast with developments in Singapore; and
- Strengthen a sense of community amongst the Singaporeans abroad through meaningful projects and activities.
Applications are open throughout the year and must be submitted through the Online System for OSFP.
Singapore Day is a keynote one-day event that is designed to keep Overseas Singaporeans engaged and connected by bringing them a slice of home. It is a collaborative effort between the private, people and public sectors and attracts thousands of Overseas Singaporeans in each city it is held in.
What is the Singapore Speakers Series?
The Singapore Speakers Series is a high-signature event aimed at fostering greater interaction between eminent Singapore-based leaders and the overseas Singaporean community residing in cities with significant pockets of overseas Singaporeans such as New York, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The series will feature prominent Singapore business leaders from the private sector as well as distinguished public sector luminaries who have made significant contributions to Singapore’s nation-building efforts. Through first-hand accounts of these top leaders, overseas Singaporeans can keep abreast of industry trends, developments in Singapore’s business and economic landscape and gain fresh insights on job and business opportunities back home.
What is SG Buzz?
SG Buzz is a networking event that features personalities from diverse fields like the arts, entertainment, sports and entrepreneurship, though not limited to these. Speakers hail from either niche or non-traditional fields and industries. These informal sessions are excellent events for networking with fellow Overseas Singaporeans and interaction with the speaker.
How is CAMP@HOME organised and how young must my child be?
CAMP@HOME is typically a 3-day non-residential camp that’s ideal for children between 7 and 12 years old who have been living abroad. The camp offers them an opportunity to learn or reacquaint themselves with Singapore’s rich heritage through highly-interactive tours, have a taste of the local education system through a school immersion programme and even befriend children living in Singapore.
Apply for a New Passport
Save yourself the hassle of queues and an extra trip to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority building (ICA). Apply for a new passport online via the Application for Passport On-line Electronic System (APPLES).
If pen and paper is more your style, you can apply for your passport by post, via the Deposit Box at ICA or over the counter at ICA.
Renew Your Passport
Check to ensure that your passport is still valid, else have it renewed early. You will require at least 6 months validity on your passport for travel to most countries.
Apply for SingPass
Wish you could access government services online at a click of the mouse? Yes, it’s now possible. Get your SingPass (Singapore Personal Access) before you leave. SingPass is your very own password that allows you to surf a host of e-services anytime, anywhere.
Click here to apply for your SingPass or if you have forgotten your SingPass.
Apply for OneInBox
Gain access to OneInBox, your secure platform to receive Government e-letters, by signing up with your SingPass today! You can select which e-letters you would like to receive, and access them anytime and anywhere, even when you are overseas.
Citizenship for non-Singaporean spouse
If you marry a foreigner and start a family overseas, you can sponsor your spouse for Singapore citizenship.
Your spouse will have to:
Submit their applications in person
Be interviewed in person
This takes place at the ICA Building in Singapore. It’ll cost you just $100 per application. Give yourself three to six months for the applications to be processed.
Click here to view more details on citizenship application.
It’s tough to find someone who understands you better than a fellow Singaporean who shares a common heritage and speaks the same lingo. A Singaporean community where you are can provide social support, assistance and lasting friendships while you’re far from home.
Working in Singapore
Are you planning your return to Singapore? Wondering what are the career opportunities back home? Check out the following career sites to find out the job opportunities that are abound in Singapore.
Scholarships & Grants
Would you like to have a head start with Singapore-based agencies while pursuing your studies overseas? Look no further. Check out these mid-term scholarships which are made available to overseas Singaporean students, like yourself.
- Singapore-Industry (SgIS) Mid-Term Overseas Scholarship
- National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS) programme
- Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH) Mid-Term Scholarship (MTS)
Calling out to medical and dentistry students studying overseas! Check out Ministy of Health (MOH)’s Pre-Employment Grant (PEG) which will be offered mid-course and cover up to 60% of the remaining years of tuition fees, capped at $50,000 per year up to a maximum grant of $150,000.
Internships and Attachments
Experience first-hand the work culture in Singapore through an internship or attachment back home. There are various internships and attachments available for you during your summer/winter breaks. Plan ahead and check these out!
- Public Service Division (PSD) Internships
- A*STAR Research Attachment for overseas Singaporeans (RAOS)
Starting a Business in Singapore
SPRING Singapore assists Singapore enterprises and start-ups in their growth and development. If you wish to start a business in Singapore, please visit SPRING Singapore’s website, which contains information on resources for entrepreneurs that you may be eligible for, and that might be of interest to you. For details, please visit SPRING Singapore’s website.
To all NSMen, take note if you are going overseas for 6 months or more, you would need to apply for an Exit Permit. Save yourself a trip to the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) and apply for it online via NS Portal at the Apply for Exit Permit link .
If your trip is more than 14 days and shorter than 6 months, all you have to do is to notify MINDEF of your overseas trips via any of the following ways:
Remember also to update MINDEF of any change in your particulars online via your NS Portal at the e-Self Update link.
For more information visit this MINDEF webpage.
Pre-enlistees between 13 to enlistment age
All male Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents are liable for National Service (NS). They will be enlisted at the earliest opportunity upon reaching 18 years old.
You will have to apply for an Exit Permit for your son if he is 13 years old and above.
NS-liable Persons with Dual Citizenship
If your son has dual citizenship, it is still mandatory for him to register for NS when he reaches 16 1/2 years of age. On turning 18 years of age, he has to serve 2 years of NS.
Singapore does not recognize dual citizenship. If your son decides to retain his Singapore Citizenship upon reaching 21 years of age, he is required to renounce his foreign citizenship.
Reviving the Reading Culture
“I think it is increasingly difficult to adhere to a discipline of reading in our society today. The influx of social media means that people are reading – yes- but they are reading shorter articles, excerpts, summaries, reviews and whatnot.
n this four-part series Turning Pages,�we’ve spoken to authors, publishers and local bookstore owners to find out their take on the literary scene and reading culture in Singapore. In this final piece, we find out more about the different communities in Singapore that are doing their part to keep literature alive.
“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.” – Anthony Trollope
“I think it is increasingly difficult to adhere to a discipline of reading in our society today. The influx of social media means that people are reading – yes- but they are reading shorter articles, excerpts, summaries, reviews and whatnot. I suspect that we have placed a premium on busyness and activeness, at the expense of precious reflection, which reading allows,” says President of National University of Singapore (NUS) Literary Society, Yip Guan Hui.
Admittedly, I’ve found myself reading books less and instead, as mentioned by Guan Hui, turning to social media to ‘read’, be it simple one-sentence status updates or short excerpts of poetry. It’s probably an inevitable transition, given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But, with societies like NUS Literary Society and the likes, more people may just get into the habit of reading books.
Book enthusiasts during a session organised by Books & Beer, a local community that encourages the reading habit.
Established in 1961, the NUS Literary Society’s main aim is to “share the powerful experience of the literary culture with a wider range of young readers and aspiring writers in Singapore”.
Some of the efforts of the society include organising the Evening of Poetry and Music (EPM) and the Creative Writing Competition (CWC) for tertiary students. And the successes of these events have translated into a gradual increase in the number of students joining the society over the years.
Nonetheless, Guan Hui suggests that the best way to cultivate the reading habit is perhaps to start early.
“The adult reader is, more often than not, shaped by the pleasure and discipline of reading as a child. In Singapore, we have libraries, which are stocked with books. If parents are willing to make the effort to bring their children to the library, they can help foster a love for reading without spending much,” he says.
At the national level, fostering a vibrant reading culture among young Singaporeans falls in the hands of the National Library Board (NLB). NLB has many initiatives that cater to different segments of society.
From kidsREAD, which caters to children aged between 4 and 8, and established 661 reading clubs reaching out to more than 16,000 children, to Conquest, which targets teenagers, the NLB has consistently initiated many programmes that encourage and cultivate reading habits among young Singaporeans.
But it’s not too late for adult readers to start trading their online social lives for literature, as proven by Melissa and Eileen, founders of independent book community Books and Beer.
Providing participants the opportunity to exchange their used books over beer, Melissa and Eileen have to date organised 10 Books & Beer sessions.
The turnouts average on 35 attendees. Their first anniversary session saw a record of 80 participants gathering.
“Opening Books & Beer to the public was actually spurred by a bunch of single schoolmates bemoaning the lack of opportunities to meet other like-minded individuals. It hit me that something like this would bring people together, and give them the opportunity to engage in conversation. Through this, Mel and I also get to promote causes we believe in – reading and sustainability, and have fun at the same time. It’s a winning scenario really,” explains Eileen.
Recognising the apathy surrounding the habit of reading in Singapore, the duo organised their first session at Melissa’s home. Wanting to “take it to new heights”, they approached local cafes to host their sessions, and eventually managed to organise sessions at The Pigeonhole, the National Geographic Cafe Singapore, Socialhaus and Strangers’ Reunion to name a few.
“We want to bring about a revival in the reading culture amongst busy young working adults, which we feel is lacking today. That isn’t something which can be rolled out in a campaign -– you need an impetus, and Books & Beer manages to provide this social aspect,” says Melissa.
Acknowledging the gradual inclination towards reading on social media platforms as opposed to books, Eileen shares her thoughts on some of the advantages that reading physical books provide: “With the advent of the Internet, we rarely head out these days. There is a lot of preening and posing online, and in the process you lose the authenticity of the self. I’m also of the opinion that our selves are reflected in the books we read, and Books & Beer is a platform for connecting like-minded individuals with books acting as a conduit.”
While the many benefits the new media provides is by far undeniable, the knowledge gained from books and the opportunity for reflection, is irreplaceable. And with the emergence of new book communities in Singapore, the reading culture definitely seems promising here.
Oversea Singaporeans’ Stories
That Phone Call Home
This happened long ago, at a time when there was no internet and long-distance calls were rare and expensive. I was a newly-wed in my first apartment in Germany, and that particular morning, I was ironing to the sound of music. I was not a die-hard fan of Chinese pop but someone had given me Liang Wern Fook’s CD, Go East. There was a song called Ah Zhu De Da Fu Bing.
The English title was a rather prosaic Song for Great Grandma but literally translated, it means Great Grandma’s Big Happy Biscuit. Now I didn’t know what a happy biscuit was and my grandmother was not much of a baker, but the plaintive, rather bluesy guitar strains encapsulating a most poignant longing for teng sua (Chinese mountain) took hold of me and I thought of my granny who was then laying in a coma in a nursing home. I put the iron down and rang Singapore.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said my mum. “Haven’t you got our letter? Granny died. We thought it was just too expensive for you to come home for the funeral. After all, you’re not working yet and she had been unconscious for such a long time.”
“But Mum, that was not a decision for you to make, that was a decision for me to make”, I said in a combination of sudden shock, sadness and anger.
When you live abroad, people often ask you what you miss. It’s easy enough to say we miss the food, the warm and sunny weather (especially when it’s cold and dreary winter where we are), family and friends and the good times we could have had with them – like greeting a new baby, celebrating a favourite aunt’s birthday or a nephew’s school achievement or fake-gambling at Chinese New Year. But deep down, I’m also sorry I can’t be around for the bad times.
I regret not being home ten years ago when a beloved brother-in-law became seriously ill. We could not have helped medically but we could have provided support for my sister or a distraction or two from the pain. When we eventually visited from Germany, he decided spontaneously to take the afternoon off work to go ice-skating with my boy. That afternoon became a lasting memory for my son who says he cannot go ice-skating now without thinking of his uncle.
Not a bad association for a guy who lived in tropical Singapore – I have a feeling my brother-in-law would have been amused.
Back in Germany, I called their place and heard old Tamil songs in the background. “I don’t know why but these days I somehow miss the music of my childhood,” he shared. My brother-in-law was Indian. For a minute, we listened to the music together in silence.
When the doctor in the hospital finally told the family to gather, I was alerted by a text message on my BlackBerry. The words were brief and simple but there was no mistaking the grief for my sister and family. It was Christmas Day in Germany and thus a public holiday. But we didn’t need a travel agent to buy an air ticket because there was this thing called the Internet.
It’s now been a quarter of a century since I’ve left Singapore. My parents, youthful-looking when they waved me off, are now in different stages of decline. Mum is beset with all sorts of aches and pains and seems to sustain on an assortment of pills. Dad is so frail and advanced in his dementia he cannot do without round-the-clock care. The health care system in Singapore is good and comprehensive but it takes a lot of time and energy sifting through copious information and opinions in order to make the right decisions. The bulk of the burden falls on the shoulders of my two sisters. When you accompany a parent to a hospital, you queue to see the doctor even if you have an appointment, you queue for the laboratory technicians who do the various tests, you queue at the hospital pharmacy, you queue to pay, you queue for lunch in the canteen and then you queue some more for the bus or taxi home. This is physically and mentally exhausting. For my sisters, this has become routine.
I’m the one on my mum’s lap. My parents were so cute-looking then.
When I am in town, my husband and I like to push my father about in his wheelchair, when we can still get him to eat a little treat or point out an object of interest. We’ve explored the neighbourhood of his nursing home, been fed by temple attendants and shared ice-cream. It’s a role-reversal – I feel more like a mum than a daughter. It has added nuances to our relationship and for the first time in decades, I am spending one-to-one time with a parent.
When I am back in Germany, instant photography and videoing, Skype and WhatsApp keep me in the loop. But the family health saga reduced to my iPhone screen can sometimes be frustrating – Why is Dad so wan? Are the nurses feeding him properly? Oh, mum looks tired. Too much is left to the imagination, giving rise to more questions than answers. But I bite my tongue (sometimes) less what I say is deemed as criticism or worse, as an angmoh know-it-all.
Those of us living abroad probably recognise the guilt and sense of damnation I’m talking about – we’re damned if we say too much and we’re damned if we don’t show enough interest. I shall always be grateful that my sisters seem to appreciate my efforts and understand that for me, Out of Sight is not Out of Mind. My sentiments and worries about our ageing parents are as genuine as theirs, even at a distance of 10,000km.
Moving to Singapore is not (yet) an option. When you have ties and roots in two countries, when you have people you care about in extreme corners of the world, you will always be torn in your loyalties and duties and obligations.
Recently, my German father-in-law took a turn for the worse. My mother-in-law, already in her late 80s, could no longer look after him. I went to see him in his German nursing home. We held hands, hummed some music together, then I left for Singapore two days later. When I arrived, I received a WhatsApp message saying that Opa had passed away in his sleep. How I wished that a teleporting machine really existed! I rang Germany.
“A funeral is really for the living, my dear,” said my sister-in-law, a woman of tremendous generosity and understanding. “Don’t rush back. My dad is gone but yours isn’t. So stay in Singapore and spend time with the parents you still have.” It was a good phone call for the both of us.
Way Back When
Life evolved but some things will never change, like my memories of those happy childhood days
Some things never changed in my old neighbourhood: mimosas still grew wild and their thorny stems still pricked with a stinging itch. Alongside them, grass blades flourished.
Up above the playground slides, ZK squinted his eyes against the late afternoon sunshine and scrutinised our surroundings. Earlier on, he had scrambled up the structure from the slide; gripping onto its curved edges while emitting squeaky noises with his Nike as their soles rubbed against the static metal.
Pausing every now then with an intense stare, sometimes coupling that with a nod or two of apprehension as if registering some crucial details, ZK looked down at where my husband and I were sitting: on a bench in the shade where we had taken refuge from the overbearing heat, and said,
“So this was your hang out.”
“Yes, my favourite haunt,” I told my ten-year-old boy, “where my buddies and I met to play. It’s not exactly here at this playground; this never existed back then. Over there, see that frangipani tree? That’s the area.” The spot was now largely given over to grass. ZK fixed his gaze over it.
“Can’t imagine how it was like” he said, giving the greenery a thoughtful search and continued, “I don’t see anything extraordinary about it now.”
“There wasn’t anything special about that spot even back then. There were just two swings: two wooden planks suspended by iron chains and fastened to metal poles and bars. What was marvellous were the times we spent at the swings plotting pranks and trading sweets and gadgets, invented games to test each other’s guts and finding different ways to entertain ourselves,” I paused for that childhood moment to drift back into focus.
My husband, our son, and I were at the vicinity of Commonwealth Crescent, one of the early housing estates in Singapore; built in the 60s, consisting of simple one or two bedroom flats. This was where I grew up and spent my childhood years.
We were back in Singapore to visit my family, and after two weeks of playing tourists, I had a sudden urge to check out my old neighbourhood. So that day out, was the first time my husband and ZK saw ‘sup loke lao’ (which means16 storey in Cantonese, as the vicinity was known then), and more than 30 years since I last set foot in the area.
And what a major redevelopment it had undergone.
The entire block of the one bedroom HDB flat where I used to stay was no more – razed. In its place stood a car mall: an edifice housing car showrooms and garages. Even the once formidable Flame of the Forest Tree behind my block had fallen victim to this new construction. Gone, uprooted, perished.
Only three previous HDB blocks escaped the demolition. They were now outfitted with coats of new paints, new window frames and covered pathways linking each block. Trees and bushes were also planted to provide for more foliage.
The late afternoon sunshine lavishing the trees with its golden hues.
The playground where we stopped off to rest was brand new, with modern features boosting maximized security like the smooth rounded corners, sturdy structures and padded ground to soften falls and prevent injuries. So unlike the corroded metal frame that supported our two old swings.
And our dear old swings; they were plonked right into the ground with no protective landing – just over mud and soil, and no grass patch. The constant movement of digging our heels and toes to propel the swing had not only rid the soil of grass, but also resulted in two carved hollows in the earth. When it rained, those hollows turned into muddy puddles and we would find tadpoles thriving in them.
Our favourite dare was to see who could leap the highest and furthest off the swing while it was in motion. All of us could leap, but not all the impact of our landings came away unscathed. Luckily there were no cases of broken bones or concussions; the most serious injury was a twisted ankle and a sprained elbow. Mostly it was just scrapped knees or chafed palms. I once suffered a chipped front tooth and bloodied lips when I lost my grip on the iron chains before I was poised for my ‘leap off’. I found myself free-falling before smashing my face right into the ground.
Where have all the recklessness gone.
As if reading my mind, ZK leaped off the slide and landed on the padded ground with a soft thud. He strode towards us and sat himself down.
“Do you miss this place,” he asked me.
“Yes”. Nostalgia evoked a sense of kindred homeliness. Yet at the same time, I felt distant, like a stranger in her own country. I was both in a neighbourhood I knew well and in an unfamiliar one entirely. I have been away for too long.
Life evolved but some things will never change, like my memories of those happy childhood days; they would continue to haunt me long after I’d walked away.
There was one last thing to do. I announced to my husband and son that we were having an early dinner, for the way to warm a longing heart is with soul (hawker) food. I doubted if my favourite kambing soup store still existed, but I knew the kambing uncle would no longer be there. I remember him fondly.
As I steered my husband and son towards the refurbished hawker centre and left the trail of my childhood souvenirs behind, I told myself if I reminisced hard enough, I could revive the whiff of the spicy kambing soup; that pungent brew that used to warm and fill the little tummy of a scrawny girl way back when.