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8 in 10 foreign students who applied for PR in last decade were successful

SINGAPORE — About eight in 10 foreign students who sought permanent residency here in the past decade were successful in their applications, Parliament heard on Tuesday (Feb 6).

Reuters file photo

Reuters file photo

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SINGAPORE — About eight in 10 foreign students who sought permanent residency here in the past decade were successful in their applications, Parliament heard on Tuesday (Feb 6).

By the end of last year, some 18 per cent - or 1,072 - of these permanent residents went on to become Singapore citizens, said Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs.

She was responding to a question from Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who had asked the Ministry for Home Affairs about the success rate among foreign students who applied for Permanent Resident (PR) status in the past decade, and the number of those who subsequently became citizens after living and working in Singapore.

According to Mrs Teo, who is also the Second Minister for Manpower, a total of 7,251 foreign students applied to be PRs “on their own merits” between 2008 and 2017.

Some 82 per cent, or 5,932, were successful. Eighty-five of them renounced their PR status, she added without elaborating.

The minister gave no further details on the overall growth, or decline, of the foreign student population, or whether PR applications among this group is on the rise or decline in recent years.

When asked, an MHA spokesperson said the figures disclosed by Mrs Teo in Parliament covered “foreign students broadly up to tertiary levels”.

In Parliament, Mr Saktiandi followed up with a supplementary question and asked Mrs Teo about the nationalities of the students who were successful in their applications for PR and citizenship.

The minister said she did not have the detailed figures, but noted that the group would reflect the overall profile of the foreign student population in Singapore, where a “good majority” came from Asia.

The issue of Singapore’s foreign workforce and population has returned to the spotlight in recent months. Faced with deepening demographic challenges from an ageing society, senior officials and analysts have suggested that Singaporeans should rethink their mindset and attitudes toward the inflow of foreign workers.

Two academics from the National University of Singapore have also penned a recent commentary in TODAY urging the Republic’s universities to admit more international students, in light of falling numbers.

The proportion of foreign students in NUS, for instance, has fallen from 23.3 per cent in 2013 to 17.3 per cent in 2017, according the commentary’s authors, economics lecturer Kelvin Seah and his colleague Professor Ivan Png.

“Singapore is in an excellent position to present its universities as viable alternatives for the brightest international students looking to acquire tertiary education. It would be a shame if we let this opportunity slip,” the two academics wrote.

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