Today, Singapore moves another step toward a new normal which is COVID-19 Safe. Eateries will be opened for dining-in and I know several of my colleagues will be going out for a meal. “Takeaway food is just not the same,” they tell me and eating out is one thing they have missed since 7 April 2020.
Small group social activities will also be allowed and so, we will gradually be meeting our members face to face once again. However, we hope these meetings will be as efficient and sincere as those which we have been having online. Over the past 11 weeks, we have become accustomed to virtual meetings with colleagues, partners, and our members. When we think about it, this virtual space and physical distance have structured us to listen and respond more carefully to each other. It has also reduced the awkwardness one faces when approaching another for help.
Jim was making a reasonable living in Malaysia, working for a logistics company. He was optimistic about life and about 7 years ago, he decided to return to Singapore with his Indonesian wife and her 12-year-old child from a previous marriage which I will call Jane. Jim felt strongly that his children should be raised and educated in Singapore and he registered Jane in school. As a foreign student, it was costly to attend school, but Jim continued to support Jane’s education.
However, after competing her secondary school education last year, Jane was unable to further her education at the Institute of Technical Education. The fees were beyond what Jim could afford but that also meant that Jane no longer had a student’s pass to remain in the country.
Upon the expiry of her Student’s Pass, Jane was issued a Short-Term Visit pass by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). Jim’s family, which now includes 2 sons from his marriage to Jane’s mother, was deeply worried that Jane could possibly be asked to leave the country given her residency status. Jane too was extremely worried about that scenario as she has no kith and kin in Indonesia and cannot afford to be sent back there.
Over the past 10 years, Jim has been constantly appealing for his wife and Jane to be granted permanent residency status but with no success. Families caught in such a predicament are not uncommon in our membership. They are constantly anxious about how their family unit may be broken up or how they may need to uproot themselves just to remain together. We now advise parents like Jim to adopt their child whose residency status are precarious, and we link them to pro bono legal resources to facilitate the process.
Last week, Jim received a letter entitled In-Principle Approval for Dependant’s Pass Application for Adoption Proceedings in Singapore and yesterday after half a day at ICA, Jim sent us a picture of Jane’s newly minted Dependant’s Pass. 10 years of a family’s collective and constant worry has been put on hold for now. Hopefully, the family can now look to their future together with optimism, just like their father did 10 years ago.
We wish Jim, and all fathers like him who fight to keep their families together, a very Happy Father’s Day Weekend.
Wishing you and your loved ones, health and peace of mind.
Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery