On Assignment
Sham Marriages: Tie the Knot, Do the Time
Thinking of marrying a complete stranger from another country for money? Not a good idea.

Sham: Bogus, false, fake, something that isn’t what it’s purported to be…

For those who engage in sham marriages, it’s all about love at first payment. Local men who engage in marriages of convenience with foreigners do so to make a quick buck, while foreigners do so to stay in Singapore, for monetary gain (sometimes through vice and other criminal activities). But make no mistake about it, such unions are a lose-lose proposition, with penalties that may include jail terms and fines. 

Not sure what a sham marriage entails? Here are three things you should know about them. 

ICA Sham Marriage 01
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

1. Till Jail Do Us Part 
Fact: Sham marriages involving Singaporeans and foreigners are illegal

Such unions are against the law because those who reside here illegally are abusing our immigration facilities. It should also be noted that marriage to a Singaporean doesn’t automatically qualify a foreigner for long-term stay in Singapore. Those who submit applications under false representations will have their immigration facilities revoked. 

Recent cases have shown that perpetrators are often women from Vietnam or China who travel here as tourists. To get a work permit or long-term visit pass, they'll engage a middleman to arrange a marriage of convenience for them. 

2. Saying “I Do”… to a Web of Lies and Criminal Offences 
Fact: There are strict laws against sham marriages involving Singaporeans and foreigners. 

Over the years, the law has been strengthened to ensure that those who are involved in sham marriages receive due punishment. In 2012, it became a criminal offence to arrange or enter into a sham marriage, with culprits facing jail terms of up to 10 years, or a fine of $10,000, or both. This has had a deterrent effect, with the number of persons convicted for offences related to sham marriages dropping from 124 in 2013 to 53 in 2017. 

ICA Sham Marriage 02
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

3. When the Investigators Come Knocking 
Fact: The law will catch up with you. 

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has taken firm enforcement action against errant “couples” and middlemen involved in sham marriages. This week, news broke that ICA officers had busted a syndicate involved in sham marriages, with 17 persons (including seven “couples”) identified. 

The marriages were orchestrated by Jeremy Tan, 32, who arranged meetings between the men and the foreign women, all of who were from Vietnam. Most of the Singaporean men were young (in their 20s, with one in his 40s) while the foreign women were between 22 and 35 years old. 

The men were promised sums of money ranging from $800 to $4,500, and were required to help their "spouses" prolong their stay in Singapore by sponsoring their Visit Pass applications after the marriages had been solemnised. 

Elaborate arrangements were made to throw off enforcement efforts. Though the couples didn’t stay together, they were coached on each other’s backgrounds, and one of the men even travelled to Vietnam to meet his “spouse’s” family. 

A tip-off from a member of the public in March 2017 brought the whole charade crashing down. Over four months, ICA investigators conducted detailed background assessments and interviews to crack the case. Of the 17 persons who were identified as taking part in sham marriages, 12 received jail sentences ranging from six to 24 months. 

As for syndicate mastermind Jeremy Tan, he received a jail term of 24 months and a fine of $42,000 – the highest sentence meted out for offences related to marriages of convenience since such unions were criminalised in 2012. 

The bottom line is, if you’re thinking of marrying a complete stranger who’s visiting Singapore as a tourist, and then passing off your relationship as legitimate in defiance of our immigration laws, all to make a few bucks? Don’t.  

Reporting Sham Marriages
Members of the public who wish to report suspected cases of marriage of convenience to the ICA may call 1800-391 6150. Any information provided will be treated in strictest confidence.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Mike Tan
  2. 15 June 2018
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