Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Why you like that one, lah?!?!

I had to chronicle my ridiculous adventure to obtain a Singaporean re-entry permit. It all began with the usual powerful propaganda machine that is government of Singapore convincing me that the way to go with extending my re-entry permit (hereby known as REP to ease the stress on my fingers) is online. "Try the new online service", they tell me, "All you need is a Singpass and you will be advised of the result of your application within 5 working days". "Convenient for those overseas...". So apply for the Singpass, renew my REP and have it ready for when I visit Singpore on May 6 (one day after my REP expires). Piece of cake!

The website appeared simple enough. It advised applicants not to apply until 3 months to the expiry of the REP. All I had to do was to enter a few details. Then I was advised that they will send the Singpass to the address that is held with the government within 4 working days. Unfortunately, nowhere during the process did it confirm with the applicant which address the Singpass was being sent to! And pity those who didn't have a Singaporean address as their main residence...Hmmm lets see now, it should make it easier for those overseas who can first come back to Singapore before they can start the application overseas. Yep, that makes sense.

When I contacted them to ask where it was being sent to, I was directed to sites that would tell me how to change my address. So contact them again I did, only to be told...

"In order to receive the SingPass, the address have to be the most updated one. The address is maintained with the relevant Government Agency. Please contact the relevant Government Agency up to enquire the current updated address maintained with them."

Another email later, I was finally offered some help.

"Alternatively, you may provide the following information for us to assist you further.
  1. SingPass ID
  2. Current Address
  3. Previous Address"

After 11 working days with no sight of the blasted Singpass, I emailed again sounding perhaps a tad too desperate. The response...

"We verified that your request submitted on .... was processed successfully by the system and mailed to your official local address maintained with the Government.

Please kindly update ICA with your updated address before submitting another request online for it to be sent to your Australia address.

Please refer to the following websites for more information on change of address.

· For Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents residing in overseas, http:...."

I had to specifically ask if they were sending the Singpass out again. To which I was basically informed that because they have verified that the address that I gave them was the one they sent it to, that it must have been someone else's fault that I didn't receive it. So to get a Singpass, I had to do another application online. ARGHHH!!!!

I thought I'd give the Singapore High Commission in Canberra a go, figuring the diplomats surely would be more responsive and competent. Boy was I wrong.

The conversation started off pleasantly enough. I explained my predicament with the abysmal Singpass application attempt and then asked about options for renewing my REP. I was told that they could help me. Mail them all my paperwork and they will forward it to Singapore for processing which would take between 6-8 weeks. They only send mail back to Singapore once a week. I explained again that that would not be quick enough as it would then take me past the expiry date. I requested if she could perhaps inquire directly with the department responsible for REP if other options are available, such as directly mailing it to them via express post which would cut down on the mailing time considerable. After all, seeing as it could be processed in one day if I were in Singapore in person and in 5 days if I used the online approach, surely if I could get it here quickly then it would be processed faster?!?! I was told that I would have to call them myself.

From here the conversation degenerated considerably. To cut a long story short, she essentially told me that couldn't possible call on my behalf. If she did, then she would spend the whole day on the phone because everyone has problems. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked her if they were here to represent Singapore and to assist the residents of Singapore to which she replied "NO"!!! I asked her again if there was an emergency, would Singaporeans be able to go to the High Commission for help to which she replied "NO" again!! I was seething.

So naturally, I made a formal complaint to the 1st Secretary. After looking into it, he advised to persist with the Singpass until Monday as that would appear to be fastest way. If nothing happens by Monday, he requested that I send the documents to him with a covering letter stating my case, and he would help argue for expedited processing of my REP renewal application.

Aiyah! Why cannot be like that from the start lah?

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