Local laws and customs
The death penalty exists for certain offences, including murder and drug trafficking. There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Singapore. Trafficking is defined by possession of drugs above a certain amount (500g in the case of cannabis).
As of 1 April 2015, it’s illegal to drink alcohol in a public place between 10.30pm and 7am. You can drink alcohol between these hours in restaurants, bars and cafes, the outdoor areas of private condominiums and chalets, and outdoor events that have obtained a permit. Geylang and Little India are designated as ‘Liquor Control Zones’ where drinking in public places is prohibited all weekend, on public holidays and the eve of public holidays. You could be fined up to SG$1,000 (approximately £500). Repeat offenders may be fined up to SG$2,000 (approximately £1,000) or sent to prison for up to 3 months. Drunk and disorderly conduct are treated seriously, and can lead to a fine or being sent to prison.
You can’t bring vaporisers, like e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-cigars, and refills into the country. These items are likely to be confiscated, and you could be fined or sent to prison.
Penalties for overstaying your visa include fines, imprisonment, corporal punishment (the rattan cane) and deportation depending on the length of overstay.
A wide range of offences, including ‘outrage of modesty’ (inappropriate behaviour by men towards women) and vandalism carry corporal punishment (the rattan cane).
You should avoid any action that could be interpreted as molestation. Scams involving false claims of molestation are thought to exist. Usually once the complaint is made by the victim and the accused is arrested the police will not allow the accused person to travel and their passport will be confiscated while investigations are carried out. This can take several months.
A police permit is required for any outdoor public assembly or procession. You should avoid street gatherings and public demonstrations as they might be illegal. Filming an illegal public gathering is also forbidden, as is the wearing or displaying of any ‘cause related’ material without permission.
Approval from the Ministry of Manpower is required for a foreign national to give a talk on ‘racial, communal, religious, caused-related or political topics’.
The public display of national flags or national emblems is illegal except where a specific exemption has been granted.
Male homosexual acts are illegal in Singapore, but in a statement to Parliament in 2007 Singapore’s Prime Minister stated that ‘The Government does not act as moral policemen’ and that ‘we do not proactively enforce’ the law on this issue. Openly gay and lesbian support groups and social venues exist.
Both public and private Jehovah’s Witness meetings are illegal in Singapore. It is also against the law to possess any Jehovah’s Witness publication, including a Jehovah’s Witness bible. Similar measures exist against the Unification Church.
On-the-spot fines are common, and can be given for a wide range of behaviours which are tolerated in the UK. You’ll be fined for littering and smoking in some public places. It’s also illegal to bring chewing gum into the country, except for certain medical chewing gums.
Thorough checks may be carried out on departing travellers’ vehicles and fingerprints may be scanned at border exit points.
The use of false ID is illegal.
There is zero tolerance for bribery. Any attempt to bribe or to otherwise prevent an official from carrying out their duties can result in arrest.
Dual nationals and Permanent Residents
Singapore does not recognise dual nationality beyond the age of 21. All male citizens of Singapore are liable for National Service. All male children granted Permanent Resident status as part of their parent’s Permanent Resident application are also liable for national service. National Service is normally served for a period of 2 years from the age of 18, with additional reservist requirements lasting until the age of 40 (50 in the case of officers).
From the age of 13, male Singapore citizens and permanent residents must apply for an exit permit to travel outside Singapore for 3 months or more. On reaching 16 ½ years of age all male Singapore citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents must register for National Service.
A minor citizen (defined as below the age of 21 years) is allowed to hold dual citizenship until the age of 21 whereupon they are required to relinquish either one of their citizenships. A minor citizen can’t renounce their Singapore citizenship when they are below 21 years of age and their parents cannot renounce their child’s Singapore citizenship on their behalf.
If a male child holds dual citizenship and wishes to renounce his Singaporean citizenship without serving National Service it may be possible for his parents to ask the Singapore government to first defer his National Service until he reaches 21, depending on the specific circumstances. In 2006 the then Minister of Defence told the Singapore parliament that “only those who have emigrated at a young age and have not enjoyed substantial socio-economic benefits are allowed to renounce their citizenship without serving National Service”.
Specific questions regarding National Service issues can be put to Singapore’s Central Manpower base: firstname.lastname@example.org