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Monday January 15th 2018

18-year-old foreign-born citizen reluctant to serve national service

Hi Gilbert,

I’m  18 years old,  recently returned to Singapore and currently  dealing with something way above my league.

I was born in Malaysia,  my mom is of Phillipines’ citizenship and I became a Singaporean through  my father who is of Malay descent.

I resided in Malaysia and went to school in Singapore. The family moved to Ireland when I was 12, after my PSLE, where I grew up till the age of 18.

When I was 15, I came back to visit Singapore for 2 months to attain my IC – which I wasn’t really willing;

When I was 17, I returned for 9 months instead of doing my 4th year, or “transition year” in Ireland –  an in-school hiatus  pertaining towards self-development and  social development.

During this period of time, I continued to reside in my Malaysian home whilst visiting Singapore occasionally. I was also made to register  for National Service due to my father’s ploy.

In all honesty, it’s not that I don’t want to serve National Service – its because  I don’t want  to waste 2 years of my youth serving a country whose infrastructure I detest.

I’d more than gladly serve in  Ireland for 2 years if I would be able to. Just not Singapore.

Singapore wants  citizens to “sacrifice” certain things for the greater good but at the same time, how much must one sacrifice? Here speaking with the naivety of an 18 year old, do I also have to sacrifice people who are close to me?

Anyway, I later returned to Ireland to continue my 5th and 6th year of post-primary education in the hope  of pursuing third-level education in Ireland while working towards getting Irish citizenship.

While in Ireland, I was living with my mother. Her visa expired around that  time and I was sent to Clonakilty, Co. Cork to complete my Leaving Certificate in a more suitable environment, where her friends reside close by, enabling them, to be of assistance to me whenever necessary.

Upon entering my final year, my father retired from his  job, to help with maintaining the household.

He entered Ireland and was given a visa allowing him to stay for a period of 3 months – no longer.

Prior to this, he went to the Law Enforcement officials, Garda, to enquire about his presence in Ireland and prospect of  extending his stay.

In the process of doing so, I was discovered to have  been staying illegally within the state and  for not reporting to the them when I turned 18.

I was then given a document declaring my illegality  and given a month to report back with either 1) a granted appeal to remain within the state by the Minister of Justice, or 2) arrangement  to leave the country.

The ability to appeal was not helped by my dads’ swift re-return to Ireland via exit to London. Authorities have  gave him till November 4th to go, which doesn’t grant me enough time to report with an appeal on the given date; November 21st.

The government  in the mean time, required someone to take responsibility of my presence in Ireland through  a signed form. Taking me into their house is something my friends were prepared to do, but taking responsibility for me on the other hand is a much bigger thing they were not willing to accept.

This ultimately ended in my prematured return from Ireland-  a place I’ve finally called home.

What I find pressing at the moment is my  hindered education and  current holding of absolutely no valid qualifications whatsoever bar my PSLE results.

My Leaving Certificate is due in next June, and I now feel  lost – having done almost 6 years of something that will grant me access to colleges and universities around Europe and possibly the world –  being halted at a mere 6 months away from completion!

What cruel irony life can offer!

I’m now faced with a further dilemma – National Service.  I’m law-bound to serve a country I’ve no allegiance to and have not gained any substantial benefits bar primary school subsidies because I stayed  in Malaysia.

I’m faced with the limited possibility  of either repeating Secondary 3-4, or doing a GCSE crash course in a span of 6 months.

As of late, I’ve made efforts to exclude myself from any benefits a Singaporean might be granted so as  not to put myself at a disadvantage when contesting the National Service enrolment.

Sincere thanks for taking the time to read this, and I’d appreciate any suggestions or your insight on the matter.


Editor’s Note:  Permission was granted by the writer to post this mail on the blog.


Hi Philip.

Thanks for your mail abeit a very long one.

Nevertheless, I can feel the tension and frustration in your tone.

I really can’t comment much on the National Service (NS) part as its a legal issue.

Can I also cc this mail to my volunteer lawyer  for his comment?

I know that if you don’t finish NS for whatever reason in Singapore, you may have to  face a court martial.

I also  understand why you are reluctant to serve NS as you have not live here for a very long time and probably don’t intend to.

You are more attached to Ireland as you have grown up from there and grew to love the country.

I guess  your main  desire is to finish off your studies in Ireland and continue your varsity education over  there.

In a worse-case scenario, you can take up private education here though it can be rather pricy.

I know that  TESOL  can be taken privately and the result is used for varsity education abroad or even in Singapore.

There is always a solution and choice if you look harder.

Sometimes, in life, those second choices  are not really that bad and can prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Many many years down the road, you will see the benefit of performing your NS. You literally grew from being a boy to a man after that!

I have my fair share of sweat and tears while performing  my NS almost three decades ago. I wasn’t really fit, hot-tempered  and almost had a fight with my platoon leader!

Now, while I looked back at those hard years, it wasn’t really that bad after all and I gained alot from my 2 1/2 years there.

I learned to mix with people of all races, personality and classes. More importantly, I learned how to co-operate well with my fellow colleagues  so that my unit functioned  on a tip-top condition.

Those years of mixing around with all kinds of people helped me alot when I needed to supervise a small department in my work.

I hope that I have given you enough to hang on and do go to the relevant authorities for a more accurate version.

I also seek your permission to post this mail on my blog (I will edit abit or shorten it also). I will leave out your name to protect your identity.

There are many foreign-born citizens  out there who are  concerned about  doing NS and feeling shitty about it due to the non-allegiance part. I don’t blame them  for that.

Let me know  if you need further assistance.

I will forward my volunteer lawyer’s opinion to you once he has furnished it.

Meanwhile, take care and follow your heart.

All the best.

Gilbert Goh


Hi Philip,

As you are a Singapore Citizen, I am afraid that you are required to serve your National Service. If you intend to defer your National Service so that you could pursue and complete your education, I understand that, if your application is approved, your parents would have to sign a bond with the Singapore government.

I am afraid you would not be allowed to be exempted from National Service as long as you are a Singapore Citizen.


James (volunteer lawyer)


Information Taken from Mindef Website:-

Disruption & Exemption from NS
Disruption from NS

Disruption from NS training refers to the postponement of NS for a period of one year or longer. NSmen may apply for disruption from NS if they are overseas for employment or studies for a period of one year or longer.Applications for disruption based on overseas reasons of 1 year or more are to be supported by a valid EP. Applications for EPs can be done at Once the EP has been approved, the disruption will automatically be processed.Applications for local disruption are to be made, with proper documentary proof, directly to:

Human Resource Services Centre (HRSC)
3 Depot Road #03-03
Singapore 109681
Tel: 6373 1048 / 3076
Fax: 6373 1299NSmen pursuing full-time tertiary education are not disrupted from NS. They can be called up for NS activities such as ICT, IPPT and mobilisation manning.Exemption from NSExemption from NS means that an NSman is relieved of all NS liabilities. Exemption from NS is granted only when the SAF Medical Board has certified an NSman to be medically and permanently unfit (PES F) for military service or when one renounces his citizenship.Arrangement with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL)

MINDEF has an existing arrangement with the three local universities (i.e. NUS, NTU and SMU) for undergraduate NSmen who are studying in these universities to be called up for ICT only during specific parts of the university vacations. In turn, the universities will ensure that no academic programmes are scheduled during this period. This arrangement is applicable to undergraduate NSmen in their first three years of studies.Alert !!!

NSmen pursuing full-time tertiary education are NOT disrupted from NS. They can be called up for NS activities such as ICT, IPPT and mobilisation manning.

Last updated on 24 Apr 2010

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Reader Feedback

7 Responses to “18-year-old foreign-born citizen reluctant to serve national service”

  1. grey hippo says:

    Hi Philip

    I can understand your problem. The sad truth is that from the context u are a SG citizen & has no citizenship elsewhere.

    Therefore it is very hard for u to cut & run.

    I dun think the SG GOv will grant u any form of exemption but u may obtain a deferment to complete studies.

    Menawhile try to condition urself for NS. SG is a land of glaring faults, contrasts & gaps. If u have avoided SG citizenship, u can come to SG after 21 yrs old as “Foreign Talent” & obtain residency status without serving a single day of NS.

    U will feel this is very unfair but since the late 1990s, SG has stopped being fair.

  2. Runway says:

    Hi Philip,

    If you really hate to serve the NS. The only way is to run away and stay in Malaysia and NEVER ever return back to SG.

    I understand the feelings that servicing the NS for 2 yrs is a waste of time and youth.
    Not forgetting the 10yrs of ICT and IPPT..etc..seriously if you really don’t want to serve.

    Just go and stay in MY and never return.

  3. kelly says:

    I am not for military training for war, but only for defending the nation. Certainly, your other option is to be an Irish citizen. Wishing you good luck!

  4. walter says:

    My Singaporean NS friend serve for 2.4 years and after that went to hongkong to work. He took up PR and may turn citizenship there. That’s another option.

    In short, serve and fuck off, as most typical NS men will say.

  5. Runway where? says:

    Run away to Malaysia? Philip is not a citizen of Malaysia. Even if, for argument’s sake, he has permanent resident status there, he remains a citizen of Singapore. If eh needs to travel, he can only travel on a Singapore passport so if he absconds from his NS obligations, he can pretty much say goodbye to renewing his Singapore passport which means he will be stuck in Malaysia until and unless he qualifies for another country’s citizenship, his best bet being the Phillipines since his mother is a citizen there. Even then, he will still be classified as a defaulter and will need to be very careful about even transiting in Changi. Not a very enticing prospect if you ask me as Changi is a major transport hub in the region. Conclusion, just suck it up and serve, Philip. If you are in the mood to blame someone, blame your parents for not having thought through the whole migration process and providing you with the opportunity of having another citizenship so that you could have legally avoided NS.

  6. Emeritus says:

    Philip why not join all of us in the NS. Singapore may not be a good place to some but do not forget, we, Singaporeans as citizens, are working towards perfecting this place. Where Singaporeans will be placed first in this land. I encourage you to join us. Come back and help us straighten the system here. Above all you can vote wisely.Many of us have gone through much worse at your age but we stayed on because we know we as citizens have a duty to create our space in our land. Such is not about which government is in place. At the end of the day we still have to built our own home in our own land.

  7. heiko says:

    I have two citenzships even with that i was not able to run away from the unfortumate obligation and liability of holding a singaporean passport albeit holding a german one as well…

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