Red tape, to say the least


I believe many other Singaporean families are in a similar situation, and I’m publishing this story not to name and shame anyone, but to raise awareness and perhaps kickstart an honest-to-goodness conversation about the red tape we’ve encountered thus far.

Email #1

My family wrote in to complain feedback about our inability to select a date – any entry date, for that matter – when applying for our incoming domestic helper to serve her stay home notice.

Here’s an except of the response (from [email protected]), emphasis mine:

We refer to your email on 30 Jun 2021.

  1. In light of the still uncertain global COVID-19 situation remains dynamic, we are as yet unable to advise on the availability of an entry date due to the global COVID-19 situation.

  2. New entry applications under the Work Pass Holder General Lane for pass holders from higher-risk countries/regions (i.e. all countries/regions, except Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China and New Zealand) are no longer accepted.

  3. We seek your understanding and cooperation for such measures to enable pass holders to enter in a safe and calibrated manner, mitigate the risk of COVID-19 importation and avoid overburdening our public health system. You may try and apply for a later date. If you are unable to get a date, please try again the following week.

Similar wordings exists in a public FAQ and elsewhere, so it was disappointing to read a mostly rehashed, standard response. Here’s what we learned, though:

  1. Our new helper, currently residing in Indonesia, is blocked from entering Singapore indefinitely, and
  2. Even if she were currently in Australia, it’s fastest fingers first, rather than a systematic, first-come, first-served basis. How about, say, the date of in-principle approvals?!?

Of course, we’re in the middle of a pandemic here: we’ve struggled to be as patient and understanding as we can. In view of our current context, surely something’s gotta give.

Email #2

And so we responded, and here’s an except of the subsequent response (from [email protected]), emphasis mine:

Thank you for your enquiry on 30 June 2021 to Safe Travel Office (STO) which was redirected to us.

Pass holders’ entry into Singapore are staggered to manage COVID-19 importation risk. If there are no available entry dates, please try applying again one week later.

If the alternative entry dates remain unavailable, you may wish to defer your pass holder’s travel plan until the situation has stabilised.

We regret to inform there are no platforms for appeal in this given situation.

Again the part about “retry a week later”, and it’s final too, wow! We replied, of course, but are pessimistic about any value arising from these emails.


Our incumbent helper, S, has been with us for almost 3 years, overlapping with the awful circuit breaker and the subsequent phases here in Singapore. Our entire family have benefited directly from S’s time and effort, we wouldn’t have managed as well as we did if not for her.

S has expressed her desire to return home, to reunite with her family. [Ed: Hence the new helper.]

She has graciously opted to continue her service in this interim, but her (and her family’s) plans have been stuck in limbo. We share her frustration.