The Student Pass Challenge
This week was the busiest I’ve experienced and I loved it. So busy, that I need multiple posts to share the details. I present Monday below . . .
On Monday I was finally able to rid myself of a stack of documents I brought with me from the U.S. If you wish to visit Singapore as a U.S. citizen, you do not need a visa ahead of time. You will receive a 90-day tourist disembarkation card and stamp in your passport when you land. Simply had it over at the airport when you return and have a nice flight home. If you wish to stay longer than that, it is a complicated matter. Immigration here is tightly controlled. The population is close to 6 million with 40% classified as non-residents. The majority of those are here on renewable and very restrictive work permits.
The easiest route for us to take to extend our stay is to apply for a student visa. That requires quite a dance between the U.S. Fulbright folks who pay for the university course we get to take, the local Ministry of Education (MOE) which coordinates all the paperwork, the National Institute of Education (NIE) who allow us to audit a graduate class, and the Immigration and Customs Authority (ICA) who issue the prized student pass.
The process involved us submitting full transcripts and filling out paperwork to apply for admittance to NIE. We selected a course we wished to take before we arrived here which had to be approved by several parties at NIE. We were each notified of our acceptance, contingent on verifying our documents in person at the campus registrar. Some more paperwork followed, an honor pledge signed, and photo taken for student ID. The three of us and our invaluable guide, Freddy from MOE, took all the required original paperwork, including our original diplomas and official transcripts, to NIE and it was verified by them. Check.
Which brings us to Monday last week. The three of us and Freddy were joined by Johan from MOE. We needed additional support in case we were all called at the same time. We would each need to get our paperwork verified at three different stations. With three separate appointments, we all watched the digital displays for our numbers to be called. Think DMV with 40 counters just before lunch break and you’ll get a sense of the level of angst in the room. We had all of our documents from NIE, including official confirmation of our student status, as well as the required documents ICA needed to see. That batch included the official application, payment receipts, another photo, our tourist disembarkation card, passport, proof of local residence, and detailed recent medical reports that included a TB clearance (via chest x-ray) and an HIV test.
I’m happy to report that I breezed through the process, received rubber stamps of approval at each stage and was issued my student pass from ICA. I no longer need to carry around my passport (I keep a photocopy in my bag just in case) and feel much more official. We still need to get our student ID card from NIE and as soon as ICA notifies them, our last hurdle will be cleared and we can partake of those fabulous student discounts around the country.
We celebrated by visiting a small food court that Freddy the Foodie guided us to and ate an unforgettable molten lava egg bun. When I returned to my apartment at the end of the day, I unpacked the paperwork and dumped it back in my suitcase to be disposed of before I return. Marie Kondo would be proud of me.
I can still taste it. Click on the photo below (not mine, but that is exactly what it looked like) to be taken to a website with the recipe.