Friday, May 04, 2012


His Personalised Employment Pass lasted for 5 years. It gave E@L, well, 5 years of hassle-free residence in The Little Red Dot (TLRD {aka: DWTDP}). It was not Permanent Residence (PR) but, hey, no need to pay 15% of his salary into a lame-arse, opaque investment, Gov't superannuation scheme, viz: the Community Provident Fund (CPF). But he does pay about $50 more for a game of golf (GOG) than a PR would.

No, with this PEP E@L could stay in TLRD for an extra six months after any termination of employment (as if they'd let him go!) in order to seek an equivalent fat package from one of the other big players in the field (not including Philips, burned his bridges there). Otherwise it would be only a month before a visa run would be required, and an apartment in Surat Thani secured.

OK, it's cool, E@L is in a BigCompany(tm) these days, his preferred employer swallowed yet again Jonah-like into the belly of some fresh corporate beast. And that size company means an efficient human resources (HR) department that will sort it all out, right? *wobbles hand*~~~ish...

Ah, no-no-no! An eight storey building, all one company, right? Right? Wrong. Each division is a separate entity with its own HR. Only 45 people in our sub-company. One lady doing it all. Sigh. Corporations these days, what can you do?

Yet E@L's PEP was on the cusp of expiring. He had until Friday.

Our lone HR lady had faxed the paperwork to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) three weeks ago. We all figured it was going through the internal machinery; chuffa-luffeling through those pipes behind the walls; turning under the power of springs and cogs; sucked up by singing vacuums; whirring dizzily through the typewriters; faxes and teletext machines, concentrated on by bespectacled men in suits in Dickensian offices; with cowering amanuenses scribbling down the wisdom of great men's opinions on the suitability of foreign talent (FT) these days; photocopied here and there; stamped by officials with their square Chinese name stamps and their round Chinese company stamps; initialed by execs; digitalisised [sic] and whisked as fast as electrons into databases and random access memories (RAM) (And then, one day, I got in!); glowing on tri-colored crystal displays; duly filed and uploaded; dutifully backed-up; emailed and copied to all; archived; printed; stored; checked and sorted; all done and approved.

Just waiting for the call.



On Wednesday, still no news. E@L was at the ANZAC dawn service (no, shamefully, he was fast asleep) and hence late for work. The HR lady and E@L's office manager (OM) had been checking online for his application's progress through the MOM and thought it rather ... strange ... disconcerting ... that there was no record of E@L's application at the MOM's on-line, check your status, don't bother us we're busy, information site.

"We can't get in, to check the progress. There is no record of your application having been filed," they (HR lady and OM) told him as he placed his kopi (upsize, still warm, carried all the way from Tampines Central Mall) on his office desk. He stood erect, his fists on the desk in front of him, looking sternly over his still-slightly fogged (aircon -> 100% humidity -> air-con) sunglasses. He tried to look like a bigwig who was going to say something serious. HR lady was fidgety. She was apologetic and looking awkward. Perhaps she was worried than E@L would be upset. Mmmm, thought E@L, and HR lady waited, turning her head slightly side to side, (she's not from the sub-continent), dancing from foot to foot...

"Mmmm", said E@L. "Without that employment pass (EP) I'm grounded, work-wise, right?" She nodded. Thinks: OK, that's it, down tools, work finished, no visa, no more slaving over a hot tablet playing Words With Friends in the office. He'd have to do that all that tuff stuff by the pool at E@LGHQ instead.

"Whatever," shrugged E@L. It sounded a good deal to him, as he repacked his man-bag with Samsung 7.7 Tab (new toy, not really happy, font-size too small), his Kindle, reading glasses and a fifth of bourbon. "Let me know."

"Ah, no, you can still work, at least until Friday. I am sure we can get a 30 day extension. But you will have to go online to cancel your current PEP." That might, she said, sort out the some issues, like with overstaying his visa. But he needed a SingPass.

A what?

He needed to register and obtain a password (forgotten it already) that will allow him to access the government's many sites that are interactive, where official things can be, um, interacted with. Like cancelling PEPs for example. He took an hour off and wandered to the CPF building where he could check in with a little old lady (LOL) at the SingPass desk to obtain this on-line avatar. FIN (no idea) number of his PEP, passport sighted and a new password (he has so many different passwords - not, he has two and no idea which this one is) was on its way. She looked up, smiled, and said he could now log-in and bring down the structure of the entire electronic edifice of Singapore should he so desire. Or just cancel his PEP.

Back to the office and puts fresh kopi, upsize, on the desk. Log-ins. Follow instructions, as printed out by HR lady.

"There is no record of an application for a replacement EP. Please enter a valid reason for PEP cancellation," said the computer screen. Valid reasons? E@L has not finished his contract of employment and leaving the country. He has not lost his PEP. He is not pregnant. WTF?

Mmm. Back to paragraph one.

What to do? If nothing came through by Friday, E@L would become an "overstayer" and essentially a criminal in the eyes of Singapore's notoriously forgiving uncompromising judiciary. The fine? The cane? The noose? Even worse, his BigCompany(tm) could get fined, and they don't want that says HR lady. And E@L would have a black mark on his passport for sure. Overstaying is not an option. Must get an extension or do that visa run on Friday.

Travel-wise, (for work) even with an extension, temporarily, he is screwed. He'd have to hand over the current (expired) PEP at outmigration and come back in on the white entry form for a maximum of 3 months of doing nothing - on a tourist visa - as no work is allowed (unless you are run by a snake-head in orchard Towers or Geylang). Work-wise, maybe some gardening coming up.

PR lady and OM were on the phone all day (well, three or four calls) and kept getting no help at all from the MOM Help Center. Eventually someone twigged that the PEP work visa renewals are done manually - there was none of the above-spoofed electronic complexity. Further investigations showed that the file was sitting in someone's in-tray. Had been for weeks. And today was that person's day off. IKYN.


E@L was on the web almost instantly seeking a solution to this devastating dilemma. It was a terrible situation, the world was falling down around his ears, and all other senses and body-parts related to his head. OMG! E@L was in a frantic panic!

He had to make an urgent decision! Book a flight for Phuket or Hua Hin? Maybe Koh Samui. Bali? Cebu? How could he decide at short notice? Either that or skip to the Malaysian border at the causeway, hand in his PEP card, as mentioned, play a GOG (so much cheaper than as a non-PR in Singapore), fill in a white tourist form, as mentioned, and all would cool. Except work.


Eventually, early Thursday, HR lady got through to the hyper-efficient doofus at the MOM (in this country which is a paragon and bench-mark of efficiency world-wide) who had overlooked the urgency of E@L's PEP application. He, for only a man could fuck things up as grandly and as casually as this, banged a few contact points on his keyboard and the required information was officially in progress.

This meant E@L could go in to MOM (in person) on Friday and pick up the Temporary 30 Day Extension for both his work visa and something for the immigration people.

(Sigh. E@L had been planning to work from "home" on Friday. He had organized with some friends to head to Marina Bay Gold Club (MBGC) for an expensive GOG first thing in the morning! Cancelled now!)

OM went with him. Appointment was in the afternoon. He could have played the GOG after all!

Look at all fancy chairs for the staff, said OM. E@L thought they looked like Aerons, certainly something Hermann Millerish. OM tells E@L that the enormous amount of money (from PR and citzens' CPF no doubt) spent last year on seats for bums was quite controversial at the time. They are Hermann Millers. E@L paid more for a non-Miller. Damn.

Temporary visa notes handed over quite quickly by another LOL, no smile this time, but E@L wondered if those comfy chairs were not part of the problem. He knows that lazing back on them is immensely, emotionally soothing (he had lazed, emotionally soothed, amazed, on Aeron chairs in the Philips office in Hong Kong all those years ago). Had Mr Paperwork-In-In-tray been asleep? Maybe, like E@L, he was internally retired.


Notification of approval of his work pass came through this Thursday, 6 days after the PEP period ended, a month after the application was submitted. The PEP was, as E@L mentioned in para one, a 5 year pass. It turns out that this can only be given once. It has to be replaced (if the application is accepted) by a conventional EP.

This time E@L was only granted a 1 year EP? WTF? He will have to go through this again in 12 months. It's almost like Singapore doesn't want E@L to stay!


Perhaps he should apply for PR to avoid this threatened annual thing?

While one of E@L's buddies, who is essentially a pauper, was denied, several of E@L's better paid buddies have been granted PR easily. A few years ago this was. They walked into PR-hood as if MOM was giving away quasi-citizenship with MacDonald's Happy Meals at that time.

But he it is getting harder and harder to obtain PR these days, despite the Gahmen's own recommendations that more and more FT and PR are required up for a declining population (or to make more kids?). And not unsurprisingly there continues to be quite a controversy (nicely understated by mrbrown) about dilution of the Singaporean population and its (Chinese?) identity.

(This is not a Singapore-only debate. World-wide, easing of immigration laws thanks to the need of corporations [those who truly run the world, not governments] in globalization campaigns for easy flow of workers, has led to increasing conflicts, calls for isolationism and a sometimes vicious backlash against those who support immigration. These attitudes are prevalent in Australia too [a nation of genocidal immigrants], where refugees on leaky boats are hassled and turned back, and where Pauline Hanson gets elected to State Parliament?)

Anyway, EP or PR, it gets complicated.



Skippy-san said...

At least you got to stay-my visions of ever having a PEP or PR go fleeting with every passing month. My reward for not having the foresight you did to choose a career with potential.

DanPloy said...

We applied for PR because our intention was to stay in Singapore. PR in Singapore is permanent-ish, i.e. only 5 years, and relies a lot on your continued employment so no real advantage.

As I don't believe you are planning on staying in Singapore beyond work I wouldn't bother, especially if it is getting more difficult, which is what I have been told. It took 4 months for us I think, probably 7 years ago now. (We got our CPF contributions back though, no hassle). A better investment than an Aussie retirement home.

Just get your arse into gear earlier and get the EP yourself next time instead on relying on HR departments to do it for you.

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