With Omicron looming, Singapore pivoted its approach to managing this newer variant of Covid-19 in December of 2021 by tightening measures for the immigration process. Since Feb 1, 2022, vaccination is now mandatory for the “approval of new applications and renewal of existing long-term passes, work passes, as well as permanent residences (PRs).
Why is vaccination mandatory for immigration to Singapore?
In comparison to the original virus and the Delta variant, the Omicron variant spreads more easily. Anyone with an Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, whether they are vaccinated or not, even if they are not showing any symptoms. This is why the Singapore government has moved to enforce mandatory vaccination, both to protect the public and to curb the spread of infections. To be considered fully vaccinated in Singapore, you must have undergone the primary series of vaccination (two doses) plus a booster dose around five months after the last dose in the primary vaccination series.
COVID-19 vaccines are still the best health measure for the public to protect themselves against COVID-19 and to reduce the risk of new variants emerging. While scientists continue to study the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, current vaccines help to protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to infection with the Omicron variant.
Who is exempted from the new rule?
Only three groups are exempt from mandatory vaccination;
- Children below 12 years of age
- Individuals aged 12-18 - those falling into this category are required to take their first vaccination dose in Singapore using a WHO EUL vaccine within 1 month of arrival and then complete the full vaccination regime within 2 months of arrival
- Pass holders who are medically ineligible for vaccination - This falling in this category are required to submit a doctor's memo at the point of application and undergo a medical review upon arrival in Singapore
For those who were vaccinated overseas, vaccination records must be submitted to the National Immunisation Registry (NIR) and they will then be given 30 days upon arrival in Singapore to undergo and show a positive serology test result at a Public Health Preparedness Clinic. Should the test return negative, they will have to complete the full vaccination regimen in Singapore to avoid passes being revoked.
How does this new rule affect applicants and their employers?
New applications for long-term visit passes, student passes, and PRs will involve the verification of the applicant’s vaccination status during the pass issuance process. Their vaccination records will have to be updated in the National Immunisation Registry (NIR).
At the point of application, employers are now required to declare that employees who are work-pass holders, as well as their dependants, are fully vaccinated upon arrival in Singapore. Additionally, pass holders should expect to present or submit their vaccination certificated for verification.
Digitally verifiable certificates will have to be uploaded to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's Vaccination Check Portal system while non-digitally verifiable certificates are to be presented prior to boarding at airlines or ferry operators, or at the checkpoint. Those who cannot produce the necessary documents will not be allowed to board the plane or ferry, or to enter Singapore without prior exemptions.
What other measures are in place to curb the spread of Covid-19?
Since Jan 15, 2022, unvaccinated employees are not permitted to return to the workplace even if they test negative for Covid-19. Additionally, close contacts of Omicron patients will be issued a 7-day health risk warning, instead of being quarantined for 10 days.
The Singapore government has also ended travel restrictions on Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe since Dec 2021. Passengers with a 14-day travel history to these countries will be allowed to enter and transit through Singapore.