3 Norwegian brothers, born in Singapore left Singapore at the age of 5, 3 and 2 and leaved in Norway for 10 years before returning here, presumably to study for their O levels before leaving for Norway again. Mindef had apparently sent them enlistment letters, which were perpetually ignored as they had already decide to stay on in Norway to be citizens there. All 3 served in the Norwegian army with intention not to come back to Singapore (as citizens). In fact, 2 of them are already Norwegian army regulars while the 3rd is a postman. For them to come back to Singapore to serve in the SAF would be treason.

While I am no position to question Mindef’s decisions, what raised my eyebrows is this statement on how Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship and therefore the "able-bodied male Singapore citizens" would then have to serve National Service. It’s almost like… the government closes both eyes shut and shaking the head vigorously and saying "no, no, no, I don’t recognise your dual citizenship so no count!"

The exceptions to this (application for exemption from NS) applies only to those who emigrate at a very young age, which is not specified by Mindef; and that they should not have enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Previous sources have found the magic number to be 11 from the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Consular page. However, the page has since been removed and no mention of the renunciation of the Singapore citizenship has been made.

Searching for any cached copy of that had been tedious, since most sources citing the magic number usually leads back to forums. However, I managed to find a remote link in the US Embassy website that had been updated on 15th May 2008, stating that:

… Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 21, and it strictly enforces universal national service (NS) for all male citizens and permanent residents. Male U.S. citizens who automatically acquired Singaporean citizenship and continue to reside in Singapore are liable for Singapore national service once they reach the age of 18. Travel abroad of Singaporean males may require Singapore Government approval as they approach national service age and may be restricted when they reach sixteen-and-a-half years of age. Under Singaporean law, an individual who acquires Singaporean citizenship at birth retains that status even after acquiring the citizenship of another country, including U.S. citizenship.

Males may renounce Singaporean citizenship only after having completed at least two years of national service. U.S. citizens are subject to this law. Dual nationals, Singapore Permanent Residents, and their parents should contact the Ministry of Defense in Singapore to determine if there will be a national service obligation. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site for our dual nationality flyer, and contact the Ministry of Defense Central Manpower Base (tel. 65-6373-3127), or visit http://www.ns.sg/nsPortal/appmanager/nsp/default?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=nsPortal_NSREG_ABT&nsp_community=ENLIST.

National-service-liable males who migrated from Singapore before age 11 and have not enjoyed significant socio-economic benefits of citizenship (e.g., applied for a Singapore identity card or studied in Singapore beyond the age of 11) are allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenship, but not before they turn 21. Until then, they are required to register for national service with Central Manpower Base and apply for a deferment. After turning 21, they are then eligible to renounce their Singapore citizenship and, if successful will not be required to serve NS and may continue to make short social visits to Singapore.

Forums who have cited similar phrases can be found here, here and from a commenter here. It was certainly tough finding the sources but it was worth it. What completes the picture would be an official government document. Even then, they can still push it aside as being outdated.

Of course, since I am not affected by national service, it would probably not matter much to me. However, the part that troubles me is on how the Singapore government can choose not to accept the renunciation of citizenship (although the context here is for male citizens who have yet to serve their national service). Does it mean that, should I one day decide to take up a citizenship elsewhere and migrate, the Singapore government can choose not to let me renounce my citizenship, and more importantly, not allow me to withdraw my CPF balance? Since my last post about giving up citizenship in Singapore, many have emailed me to tell me that they have had relatives/friends whose CPF money is still stuck.

If this urban legend is anything to go by, then perhaps it is indeed scary on how we will not be able to move to a new place to start life all over. Loosely translated, I can use the CPF to buy houses in Singapore, but there’s no way I can use my CPF here to buy a house over there. In short, unless I am cash-loaded, it’s probably going to be tough for me to move over even after I have gained citizenship in a new country. This does give the phrase "starting a new life from scratch" a whole new meaning.

As for the 3 Norwegians, the mistake they have committed is perhaps to return to Singapore to do their O levels. Unless they entered on Norwegian passports (and either applying some special visa of sorts or going in and out of Singapore every 30 days or so), they would have deemed to have enjoyed socio-economic benefits of citizenship in Singapore should they have used their Singapore passport. There is, however, not enough information in the article on that, although I would presume that their Singapore passports (if any, in the first place) would have expired in the 10 years that they were overseas; unless of course, they renewed their Singapore passports (again, assuming that they still had it) in the Singapore Embassy in Norway; if this was even possible back then.

What’s pressing now though, is the clarification of the government’s stance on this. I figured that this information is hidden on purpose so as to prevent foreigners residing in Singapore to misuse the benefits of the Singapore citizenship; and it will remain as it is for as long as the Singapore government deemed it necessary. The Norwegians’ situation may not be the first, but it will definitely not be the last as more foreigners flood Singapore for work and settling down. What they perhaps do not want, is for their children to go through national service for a country that they are not sure of staying in the long run; since I already have friends (combination of 1 Singaporean parent and a non-Singapore parent) who are planning to ship their children out of Singapore before 11 years of age.

Just for the sake of completeness, the 3 brothers could have gotten Norwegian citizenship by birth, citing from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration:

Norwegian citizenship by birth

A child does not become a Norwegian citizen automatically, even if he/she is born in Norway. Different rules apply for the citizenship for children, depending on when the child was born.

Children born after August 31st 2006

According to the current law, a child with a Norwegian mother or father acquires Norwegian citizenship by birth. This applies no matter if the child is born in Norway or abroad, and no matter if the parents were married or not.

Children born before September 1st 2006

Children born before September 1st 2006, acquired Norwegian citizenship by birth if:

  • The mother was Norwegian
  • The father was Norwegian and the parents were married, or
  • The father was dead, but he was a Norwegian citizen and married with the mother of the child at the time he died.

Dual nationality

Whether a child whose father or mother is a foreign national also acquires his or her nationality at birth depends on the legislation of the country in question. Queries in this connection must be addressed to the relevant authorities of the country or its diplomatic mission (Embassy, High Commissioner,  Consulate General) in Norway or abroad.

Norwegian law accepts dual nationality where it is the consequence of a child’s acquisition at birth of its parent’s nationality. See also "Dual nationality"

Last updated: 11.06.2007
Published: 11.06.2007

This information, however, would not have been of much use since the Singapore government seems to tolerate dual citizenship before the person reaches the age of 21, at which, he or she would have to decide which country he or she would like to be a citizen of.


NS regulations


  • All able-bodied male Singapore citizens.
  • Those holding concurrent citizenship in Singapore and one other country, because Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship.


  • Those who emigrate at a very young age – the exact age is not specified by Mindef – with their families and have thus not enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Such persons can apply to renounce their Singapore citizenship without serving NS.


  • On conviction, NS defaulters are liable to be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000. The exact sentence will be determined by the courts.
  • Defaulters will also have to serve NS if they are still liable for it.


Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first Norwegian trio’s bids rejected.

Only those who haven’t enjoyed privileges of citizenship exempted, says Mindef

By Amelia Tan

THREE brothers, born to a Norwegian father and Singaporean mother, want to give up their Singapore citizenship.

But the Ministry of Defence has said no. Not until they do their national service.

The Bugge brothers – Thorbjoern, 33; Ingvar, 31; and Frode, 30 – left Singapore when each turned 18 and have tried and failed several times for over a decade to renounce their Singapore citizenships.

They want to renounce their citizenship so they will be free to visit their parents – Mr O.M. Bugge, 65, and his wife Margaret, 55 – who still live here.

They cannot return here because they have been classified as NS defaulters and risk arrest on arrival.

They were all born here and are considered Singapore citizens. But they also hold Norwegian citizenships, like their father.

They first left Singapore when they were five, three and two years old respectively, and lived in Norway for 10 years before returning here.

But each left Singapore after their O levels, and just before they could be called up for national service.

Mindef sent them NS enlistment letters, but in turn, each brother ignored the call-up. Instead, they enlisted in the Norwegian armed forces for a 19-month national service term.

All three decided to renounce their Singapore citizenship when they turned 21, but Mindef rejected their initial bids to do so.

They tried several more times over the years, writing to the ministry, then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong and the late former president Ong Teng Cheong to explain their case.

Their parents have also met staff from Mindef.

But all their attempts have failed.

When contacted, Mindef’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said: ‘Only persons who have emigrated at a very young age together with their families, and who have not enjoyed the privileges of Singapore citizenship, will be allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenships without serving national service.’

He said the three men are Singapore citizens and are required to fulfil their NS obligations. Their requests to renounce their Singapore citizenships can be considered only upon completion of full-time NS.

The brothers said they were disappointed by Mindef’s position.

When asked, they maintained that they did not leave Singapore to avoid NS. They preferred to be in Norway, they said, and their enlistment there showed they were not shirkers of NS, they said.

Mr Frode Bugge is a career soldier with the Norwegian army and has seen action in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Brother Thorbjoern is also a career soldier, while Ingvar is a postman.

For now, they will have to continue meeting their parents in Malaysia. Their mother spends six months in Norway each year.

Their father, a marine consultant, said he cannot afford to spend extended periods in Norway because his business is based in Singapore. He tries to visit his sons once a year.

He said: ‘My sons’ cases are about a choice of citizenship, and not a case of national service…They would like to get this matter cleared up and be able to travel to Singapore for a visit like any other Norwegian.’

He is hoping that the law will be changed.

‘My sons’ situations may seem unique now. But as more foreigners marry Singaporeans, there will be more of these cases,’ he added.

NS defaulters can be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000 if convicted.


Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_271584.html

Article extracted on 26th August 2008

Reader's Comments

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: