You come to Singapore to study on a scholarship. In return, you have to give three years of your prime back to Singapore when you start work.
And you know what? You’re perfectly willing to do that.
In fact, you’re more than ready to serve your obligations and give back to the country that gave you a chance, except, well, nobody’s hiring you right now.
This is the issue that some foreign students who have to serve their bond in Singapore are struggling with, given how the Covid-19 pandemic has made jobs as rare as Mewtwo in the original Pokemon Go version.
Foreign Students With Bond in S’pore Struggling As They Can’t Secure Jobs But Is Still on Bond
The latest batch of international students who benefited from the Ministry of Education (MOE) tuition grant found themselves unable to get jobs after graduating.
Months into their search for a job, their savings are running out and unlike their foreign talent counterparts, they’re not able to leave Singapore for greener pastures out there because, well, there’s a hefty penalty fee they’ll have to pay if they were to break the bond.
An international student claimed that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been delaying or rejecting their work pass applications even after they’ve secured a job.
MOM, when asked by Today Online, says they work with Institute of Higher Learning (IHLs) as well as MOE when it comes to processing work pass applications for bondholders.
They added that they will “exercise flexibility when necessary”.
MOM also encourages the students to approach the IHL if they have any issues.
Desperate For Help & Answers
According to the report, students who are bonded have a one-year grace period to look for a job with a Singapore entity before they are considered to have “broken” their bond.
If that happens, the students might have to pay liquidity damages, which can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For a Yale-NUS student, that could amount to S$100,000.
Seeing that there is a huge possibility that most would still be jobless by the time the grace period is up, some wondered if the period could be extended, or the bond requirements scrapped.
Recently, MOM has increased the minimum wages for Employment Pass (EP) and Special Pass (SP) holders.
And when that happens, companies in Singapore now find themselves more unwilling to hire foreign talents, a track that these international students fall into.
One student revealed that she was offered a position but had it taken away after the firm suddenly said that they will not sponsor EP.
Create A Separate Track For Bonded Students, Please
The new salary floor reportedly doesn’t apply to students with bond obligations, according to the self-assessment tool the students used at the MOM website.
However, it wasn’t explicitly said and students find it hard trying to convince prospective employers about their exemption status.
They urge the authorities to “codify the exemption” (read: put it down in black and white) so that they would have one less obstacle in their search for a job here.
“(The authorities) should make it very clear and codified so it offers some kind of legitimacy for international students to tell employers that they have the exemption.”
Another found it unfair that students with bond obligations are treated the same as their foreign talent counterparts.
“It is ridiculous that we have to apply for the same visas as other foreigners to begin with. They are people who don’t need to be here… They can theoretically not come. We don’t have the choice but we have to compete with them, essentially.”
Schools Trying To Help Their International Students
On the schools’ (IHLs) part, Yale-NUS College’s Centre for International & Professional Experience is trying to come up with new resources for its students.
These resources, a spokesperson said, will help the students “position themselves as eligible candidates”.
An NUS spokesperson also said that they’ll give the students access to a “wide range of recruitment opportunities across industries”.
Graduates with difficulties getting jobs can also get help from career advisors.
Meanwhile, there are international students who have sent out over 200 applications only to receive no reply.
“Singapore doesn’t want me it seems, but I can’t look for a job in Korea… If I look for a job elsewhere, I have to pay back a crazy sum of money.”
Meanwhile, MOE said that it is monitoring the situation.