Desmond Lee Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Home Affairs has assured Singaporeans that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will assess each case of replacement of NRIC based on the person’s circumstances and the circumstances under which the identity card was lost.
Mr Lee was responding to opposition politician Leon Perera’s question in parliament, if the ICA will consider charging a lower replacement fee for replacing identity cards lost by Singaporeans with lower incomes. Mr Perera pointed out the penalties of destroying or losing the identity card in raising the question.
The punishment for destruction of an identity card is $3,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 2 years. Replacing a lost NRIC costs $100 for the first loss and $300 for the second loss.
Mr Perera said that many MPs would have encountered low-income residents who sought their help to appeal for a reduction or waiver of NRIC replacement costs on compassionate grounds. Mr Perera added that during his stint as a volunteer in a Family Service Centre, he himself had met a number of low-income Singaporeans who had long lost their NRICs and were deterred from seeking help from social work agencies and government agencies because of the fear of having to pay for replacing their NRICs, or worse, get charged with an offence.
He said that the NRIC is crucial to interact with government agencies to exercise the rights and responsibilities of a citizen and asked ICA to consider adopting a similar approach to that taken by public healthcare institutions – that no one would be denied medical help because they cannot pay.
In a similar manner, ICA could prescribe that while certain penalties may apply, no one will be denied an NRIC replacement because they cannot pay. This he said would help at-risk individuals to come forward to seek help rather than be deterred from coming forward.