I am not sure if I have ever shared this, but I finally bit the bullet and became naturalised as a Singapore Citizen a couple of years back. Since today is Singapore’s 54th National Day, here’s my story.
I became a citizen after having lived here for more than 15 years and it was a decision that I didn’t take lightly. Of course, having the strong red passport which means easy travel was a big draw, but if that was the only consideration, I could have done as soon as I completed my two years as a permanent resident. Given that S is a natural citizen, and having children who are also citizens by birth, my application could not really be rejected unless it raises some serious red flags. But I waited and when the time was right, I decided to take the plunge.
There are many blogs which have the whole process documented, so I won’t document the process, but I would like to say that it really takes time. It took me six months after applying online to get a slot to meet an officer who would check my documentation, including my educational transcripts, marriage certificate and my children’s birth certificates and passports. Then, after a waiting another six months, I got the letter confirming that my application was accepted. I had to go through a three process orientation which included an online quiz, a visit to some Singapore places of interest and lastly a session at my nearest community centre.
I chose the National Museum plus the NeWater Plant for my visit. Here, I realised that for many people, this citizenship is just a means to an end. At the museum, after going through with the guide provided, we were grouped into groups according to age. I was in the second oldest age group and within our group, we were asked to finish a questionnaire which had questions about the history of Singapore, the answers to which were found in the museum. I knew the answers to almost all the questions, but when I started consulting the others in my group, I was met with shrugs. They indicated to me to answer as I see fit as they were not interested. Out of around 4-5 people in the group (excluding me), almost everyone was from a particular ethinicity and from a single country. I don’t want to take names, but most minorities in Singapore would instantly know which ethinicity and country I am referring to. I was really saddened by this as it didn’t seem to me that they are becoming Singaporean because they believe in this country, but because they just want to live in a better country and have a passport which takes them places. No emotion is involved in this decision of theirs at all. Of course this is true for people across the spectrum of ethnicities and old nationalities (including India), but at least those people can converse in English!
Anyway, back to my motivation to get naturalised. I used to tell anyone who asked when I planned on becoming a citizen (including once an immigration officer when I went to get my permanent residency extended) I used to tell it will probably happen when I stayed longer in Singapore than in India. I had been mulling over this for a few years prior to actually clicking on the application form and for me it when I realised that Singapore is now home for me! When the sight of Changi airport’s iconic tower brings relief that I am now home and most important for me is when I no longer have the deep sadness I used to have when the flight takes off in the initial days of shuttling between Mumbai and Singapore, I knew that my definition of home had changed from Mumbai to Singapore and that was when I decided that to formalise what I felt internally. I had already felt Singaporean and even spoke with the lilt associated with the local lingo and could spew Singlish like a local, so it was just natural that I also decided to call myself a Singaporean officially.
After my orientation, I had to renounce my Indian citizenship for which all I needed to do was submit a form to the Indian High Commission and then a week or so later go down and get the letter of renunciation and my old, now invalid passport. I then booked an appointment with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to go and formalise the process and officially become a citizen. This meant going down there and after documents were checked and after fingerprinting for the identity card is done and S signs some documents as my sponsor saying he is doing this of his own free will and not being forced, I had to take my oath of citizenship in front of a Justice of Peace. Then I got a temporary identity card and also dropped off my passport application at the same time. After around 3 months, I got a letter asking me to head down to a community centre in my constituency whose turn it was to host the citizenship ceremony where I got my citizenship certificate and pink identity card.
That was my journey in becoming a Singaporean! I think BB & GG were the most thrilled as now all of us have the same passport. I just think it was the right time to do, since I already feel Singaporean, so it’s nice to have my identity validated in the form of my pink IC and red passport! I also have the Overseas Indian Card which allows me visa-free entry to India for a lifetime (or until the policy changes) so I can travel to India on the drop of a hat!
Happy 54th birthday Singapore! May you prosper and flourish for centuries to come!
To end this post, here’s one of my favourite national day songs and the one which inspired the title of this post and one I actually used as a reference when I applied to become a Singaporean.