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Singapore Citizenship vs. Permanent Residence: What’s the difference and how do you apply?

Are you attracted to the vibrant cosmopolitan of Singapore? Perhaps you are drawn in by Singapore’s high quality of living and its well-deserved status as one of the best cities in Asia. It’s high time you consider staying. You have two options available: permanent residence and Singapore citizenship. What’s the difference and how do you know which one to go for? In this Pacific Prime Singapore article, you’ll see a comparison of benefits between Singapore citizenship and Permanent Residence. In addition, we’ll go through the application process for both so you’ll know what to expect.

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Benefits of Singapore Citizenship

From healthcare and education to employment rewards, Singaporean Citizens (SC) enjoy a wealth of benefits. Here, you’ll find a quick rundown of several major benefits available to a SC.

1. Travel freedom

Singapore passport holders enjoy visa-free or visa on arrival access to a stunning 189 countries and territories. In fact, Singapore is ranked 2nd in travel freedom on the Henley Visa Restrictions Index in 2018.

2. Employment rewards

Most companies in Singapore prefer to hire citizens or PRs over foreigners since there is a lot less paperwork required. Interested in getting a work permit in 2020? Check out our article on the difference between work passes in Singapore and how to get yours.

3. Housing

Singaporean citizens aged 21 or above are eligible to buy and rent apartments from the Housing & Development Board (HDB). These include subsidized 2 to 5-room flats, and even executive flats and studio apartments developed by the HDB. You can also apply for loans at a concessionary interest rate from HDB to fund housing. On top of that, first-time buyers of these flats can enjoy housing subsidies such as the CPF Housing Grant for up to SGD $40,000.

4. Education

All SC students are entitled to an Edusave account through which they’ll receive a yearly contribution from the government. This scheme also awards students who excel in academics and non-academic activities.

5. Healthcare

With the Medifund, the Singaporean government helps finance medical expenses for citizens in need. In addition, the Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS) offers affordable healthcare for those without access to one of Singapore’s 18 polyclinics.

6. Leave benefits

All mothers may enjoy 16 weeks of paid maternity leave if your child is a SC. Also, parents who have worked for their employer for at least 3 months are entitled to 6 days of paid parental leave per year until the child turns 7.

7. Parenthood Incentives

As long as your child is a SC, he/she is eligible for the Baby Bonus Scheme. You can receive up to SGD $8,000 in cash gift for your first and second child, and up to SGD $10,000 for the third and fourth child. To make infant-care and childcare affordable, the government also provides subsidies of SGD $300 to $600. Also available are tax incentives for parenthood, which include Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR), and more.

Disadvantages of Singapore Citizenship

Despite the plethora of benefits, there are a few drawbacks to becoming a SC. First, Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. In other words, to be a citizen here means you must renounce all other citizenships you possess. Moreover, all male Singapore citizens are required to serve in the National Service for two years at the age of 18. Withdrawing all of your CPF savings in a lump sum would also require you to renounce your citizenship status.

Differences between Permanent Residence and Singapore Citizenship

Permanent Residents enjoy only a fraction of the benefits SCs are entitled to. Both PRs and foreigners pay a higher percentage of school and polyclinic consultation fees compared to SCs.

Your paid maternity leave duration is also subjected to the employment contract if your child or you aren’t a SC. Most important, you cannot vote as a PR. In terms of healthcare benefits, PRs are not eligible to access the Medifund for sick and needy Singaporeans. The PCPS is also open to citizens only.

Similarities between Permanent Residence and Singaporean Citizenship

Similarly, second-generation male PRs must serve in the National Service upon reaching 18. PRs can also purchase and rent flats from the HDB. However, when the government is upgrading these flats, PRs have to pay in full for the features they have opted for. SCs only need to pay a fraction of the costs. To buy any private residential property, PRs must seek first approval from the Ministry of Law. Both PRs and SCs are eligible for the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a compulsory social security savings plan.

Applying for Singapore Citizenship

In this section, you can see whether you’re eligible for citizenship in Singapore, and how to apply for one.


You will be eligible for a Singapore citizenship as long as you meet any one of the criteria below:

  • You are 21 years old and above, and have been a Singapore PR for at least 2 years. You can also apply together with your spouse and any unmarried children aged below 21 either born to you or adopted by you.
  • You have been a PR for at least 2 years and have been married to a Singapore Citizen for at least 2 years.
  • You are a child born to Singaporean parents or have been legally adopted by a Singapore Citizen.
  • You are a PR studying in Singapore. Also, you have been residing in Singapore for more than 3 years. On top of that, you’ve passed at least 1 national exam.
  • You are a PR and an aged parent of a Singapore Citizen.

How to apply

To apply for Singapore citizenship, you need to prepare two things: application fees and required documents. Should your application be successful, you’ll also need to pay additional fees for your birth certificate and/or Singapore ID card. This entire process is done online through the Immigration & Checkpoint Authority (ICA) website.

Here’s a quick rundown of the list of requirements:

Required documents

Prepare certified true copies of any original documents. Remember to submit official translations if your documents are in languages other than English. The ICA accepts several types of translations. They must be provided by the embassy or notary public of the country that issued the document, or by the embassy or notary public in Singapore. Alternatively, you can get your documents privately translated as long as they are attested by the embassy or notarized.

Application fees

Below are the costs of the Singapore citizenship application at a glance. Check out the ICA website for more details.

Note: the Singapore Identity Card fee is applicable to new citizens aged 15 and above. 

Types of Applicants Application Fees Certificate/Identity Card Fees (if application is successful)
Adult Permanent Resident (PRs) and Children of PRs SGD $100 SGD $70 for your Singapore Citizenship Certificate


SGD $10 for a Singapore ID*

Children born overseas to Singapore citizen parents SGD $18 SGD $10 for a Singapore ID*
All other children born overseas or locally SGD $100 SGD $70 for your Singapore Citizenship Certificate


SGD $10 for a Singapore ID*

Application process

In a nutshell, here is what you can expect to go through in the application process.

  1. Submit application and all of your required documents through e-Service. You’ll need a SingPass account to submit your application. Don’t have an account? You can apply via your sponsor’s SingPass account.
  2. Citizenship applications usually take 6-12 months to process. However, the application for kids born overseas to Singapore Citizens only takes 2 months to process. You can check your application status update on MyICA.
  3. If your application is successful, you’ll receive an Approval in Principle letter with your appointment date and time to register for your Singapore citizenship.

Applying for Permanent Residence

In this section, you’ll see whether you are eligible for permanent residence in Singapore and the application procedures.


You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence if you fit into one of the following categories:

  • Spouse of a Singapore citizen (SC) or a Singapore permanent resident (PR)
  • Child under 21 years of age born to or adopted by a SC or PR
  • Aged parent of a SC
  • Employment Pass or S Pass Holder
  • Student studying in Singapore
  • Foreign investor in Singapore

How to apply

To apply, you’ll need to prepare your required documents and application fees. Keep in mind that the list of required documents differs for each type of applicant. Please refer to the ICA website for more details.

Application process

Apply online with a valid SingPass account. You may use your sponsor’s SingPass or your own if you are an Employment Pass or S Pass holder. Are you a foreign investor in Singapore? In that case, apply for permanent residence under the Global Investor Programme. If you are a student, access the e-Service using your Foreign Identification Number (FIN) and the issuance date of your immigration pass. The processing time is generally 4 to 6 months.

Application fees

Next, pay a non-refundable application fee of SGD $100. If successful, you’ll need to pay SGD $50 for a 5-year Re-Entry Permit, SGD $50 for an Identity Card, and SGD $30 for an Entry Visa (if you require one).

Secure international health insurance

Whether you’ve decided to apply for permanent residence or Singapore citizenship, you should protect yourself with international health insurance. No matter where you are in the world, you would want access to the best treatments and medical facilities. With expat health insurance, you can travel worry-free.

Backed by 20 years of experience in the brokers industry, our team of insurance advisors are happy to help you compare health plans in Singapore. Contact us today for a free quote and impartial advice!

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