Monday, 22 December 2008

ICA pushes its online services at the expense of security

This letter (names of boy and school edited) was sent to Minister of Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng on 4th December 2008.

An ICA officer sneered,"You think the Minister so free, read your email?"

Ministers and MPs have to read feedback from Singapore citizens. No matter how badly written the letters are. The ordinary people are not trained to write to Government Departments. If I can write well, the Ministers and many civil servants would be out of their jobs. :P

The civil servants know their bosses don't have time to read feedback from ordinary citizens. Letters sent to the leaders will be hijacked. The leaders will never know what actually happened at the ground level.

My letter was redirected to ICA on 11th December 2008. I'm still waiting for a reply. Let's see how long they need to 'look into the matter'.

************* ooOoo ************

Around 4pm on 5th November 2008, I went to 4th Floor of ICA, Student Pass Unit to get a queue number to apply for a student pass for my Filipino ward. The letter (attached) given by the private school showed the boy was going to take a 2-month Bread and Cake-making course.

The counter staff said ICA does not give 2-month student pass, minimum 6 months. I was referred to an officer. She is in her 40s, has long hair tied up in a pony tail. I can recognise her if I see her again.

She read the letter and said that it cannot be used to apply for student pass. I asked her for advice. She said this course is illegal, the boy cannot take the course without a student pass. I went back to the school. The Principal assured me that her courses are recognised and that she has had students who managed to extend their visit pass with her school's letter. I let the boy attend her course.

On 4th December 2008, I went to ICA around 9am to extend the boy's visit pass. I waited more than an hour to see officer Norizan Sa'ad at counter 45. The boy plans to apply for courses in another private school. I didn't have proof to show that my ward was going to sit for an entrance test, I told her I'll get a letter from the present school where he is learning now. I had left the above letter at home.

So I went to the school to get another letter to prove that he is taking a course there. I asked them to put the word 'training' since ICA staff said their courses are illegal.

I returned at 10.47 am and was given another queue number 7682. I went back to Norizan. When she saw the letter with the word 'training' on it, she told me she cannot extend my ward's visit pass based on that. They have never approved any extension on visit pass for training courses. At my request, she went to ask her senior officer.

The application was rejected. Training is not accepted for visit pass extension. My request to see the senior officer was also turned down. But I could see an officer in the Interview Room.

Norizan told me : visit pass can be extended online, 'there is no need for sponsor, no need to come down to ICA and no physical endorsement in passport needed'.

I was left waiting, not knowing when is my turn. The boy and I didn't have our breakfast, we were hungry but could not go off to have food in case our number was called. I approached Norizan again and asked if I need to exchange for another queue number as many of those entering the Interview Room have queue number starting 9. I didn't have to. And she has no idea how long I have to wait but there were a few people before me. We just sat down to wait.

From 11 am I waited until almost 1pm before I got to see Jane Yew. After listening to my appeal, she rejected it because 'the senior officer has already rejected it'.

Then why let me wait so long to get this same reply?

Jane accused me that I got the school to issue me the letter that day so as to extend the boy's visit pass. We have a letter from the school prior to his starting the first lesson, but one ICA staff said it was illegal. Fees were paid to attend the 2-month course in a Singapore registered, tax-paying company.

She chided me for not extending his visit pass online. ICA is encouraging applicants to do that. ICA approves short term courses. 3 days before the 30 day visa expires, I just need to log online and extend. No questions asked. I wasn't aware of this new online application.

I argued that it is strange that online application can be approved without seeing the applicant or documentary proof but coming down to ICA with documentary proof is rejected.

Jane Yew insisted that the boy has to leave Singapore. By hook or by crook, he must leave the country by 12 midnight on 5th December 2008. As long as he leaves the country, she doesn't care where he goes. Even if he goes on a day trip to Johor or Batam.

I knew it was fruitless to argue with such rigid civil servant, so I went to book his air ticket. It is very difficult to get a seat on a flight at this time of the year. Since leaving ICA at 1 plus, I have been trying to call all the airlines. At 1816h, I just got a seat on SQ for 5th December, after many calls and paying a premium for it.

Thanks very much to ICA's rigid, cold, unfeeling, ill-informed staff.

Please clarify : Can we extend visit pass when taking short term courses like baking and cooking in a registered Singaporean school or company?

In view of the terrorists attack in Mumbai, is it safe to have foreigners extend their visit pass online without having the need to have a sponsor; no need to go down to ICA and no physical endorsement in passport needed? Notice the increasing number of hookers, fake students, fake study mamas around us.

ICA counter staff is pushing their online services too hard, at the expense of security.

My ward is only 18 years old, he has yet to complete his secondary education and he is looking to continue his education here. If it is due to safety reason the extension is rejected, he was not banned from Singapore. He came back after a few days.

ICA staff at the frontline are ill-informed and have varying mentality. Different officers have different ways of understanding or interpreting letters / documents. I have examples to show.

It is necessary to be strict with immigration procedures due to terror threats but to be unreasonable, not understanding and not be in the shoes of applicants, that is very frustrating and unfair for ordinary folks.

************************ ooOoo *************************

Updated 13/1/2009
Foreign visitors who are on Social Visit passes may now take up a short course (30 days or less) during their stay here in Singapore. With effect from 1 June 2004, there is no longer a need to separately apply for a Student's Pass!


Kevin said...

Singaporeans are told and taught to model after their leaders. Civil servants does the same.

Mr Wong Kan Seng himself is NOT exactly warm, non-rigid or well-informed

He didn't even smile when I meet him in the meet-the-people session. He could not answer my questions and his deputy had to do most of the talking.

The deputy draft a letter and Mr Wong just signed it.

EastCoastLife said...

Is there any model Singapore leaders? I'm still doing my research.

I have yet to speak to Minister Wong personally. Don't know about the warm, non-rigid, not as well-informed part.

Yeah, I have never seen him smile in public.

This poor Minister kena played out by his subordinates so often, he cannot find any good reason to smile. :P

Daniel Ling said...

"I argued that it is strange that online application can be approved without seeing the applicant or documentary proof but coming down to ICA with documentary proof is rejected."

This is weird...

"Jane Yew insisted that the boy has to leave Singapore. By hook or by crook, he must leave the country by 12 midnight on 5th December 2008. As long as he leaves the country, she doesn't care where he goes. Even if he goes on a day trip to Johor or Batam."

Did this really happen?
I think your case goes to show that the processes sincerely deserve attention to be reviewed.

EastCoastLife said...

I have sent this letter to Minister Wong, I could be charged for lying to a Minister! :P

There is more of such nonsense from ICA staff which I have not published.... yet.

Daniel Ling said...

I can only wish u all the best!!!

Btw i stumble onto this site.

But at the same time i realise tat the last entry was 3rd Dec...

Wonder if there's any risk involved. lol

EastCoastLife said...

I know about this REACH forum.

I will definitely post some of my entries there for Singaporeans to read.

If I'm telling the truth, they will have to do the right thing, not prosecute me.

Let's see if they will do the right thing. :)

Daniel Ling said...

Actually, i dunno whether is it me or wat. But i tried posting something and it doesn't work even though i already registered.

Haiz... So yea, good luck. And also good luck with ur quest!

mystique said...

Happy New Year to you my dear!

BTW, please collect your meme @


~ Jade ~ said...

Interesting blog! My 1st time here. Am hooked already. =) Be back for more.

Symphony of Love said...

Talking about 1st class service? Singapore needs a lot of catching up. Singapore is rigid in following the system; to the ICA staffs, as long as they follow the procedures, nothing can go wrong. System and procedures must be set for things to run smoothly and yet they cannot be rigidly adhered to. A lot of time there are a lot of things to do to go the 'extra miles' and these people wouldn't want to go through the trouble.

End of the day, they are just 'employed workers.' However, I still believe that there will be staffs in ICA that will walk the extra miles.

EastCoastLife said...

Yah, good luck is important when dealing with our government offices. :D

You see, until now, they still dragging their feet.

If they cannot find that lady officer, they should call me to go down and get their officers to stand in line for me to identify.

EastCoastLife said...

Hi mystique,
Happy New Year!

EastCoastLife said...

It is embarrassing for us Singaporeans to be washing dirty laundry in the public but it is worse for my country if such things have been feedback to the relevant authorities and yet they do not want to do anything about it.

The only way to make them pull up their socks is to shame them.

EastCoastLife said...

Symphony of Love,
Sad, isn't it? 1st class service? Fat hope commoners are going to get that.

Rich and influential people do get 1st class service from public servants in Singapore. Our public servants will even bend over to serve them.

Public servants who are supposed to serve their fellow citizens, end up they abuse and bully Singaporeans.

There are some good civil servants. I have met several whom I should also praise and highlight in my later posts.