SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has appointed 12 background check companies to provide employers with services to verify the educational qualifications of foreign employees. This move comes in preparation for the new employment pass application requirements that will be implemented in September this year.
MOM announced in March that employers applying for a new employment pass for foreign employees from September onwards must submit proof of the applicant’s professional diploma and above.
To facilitate this process, employers can engage the services of designated background check companies listed on the Ministry of Manpower website. In addition, certification from the government or educational institution website of the foreign employee’s home country will also be accepted.
The mandatory verification process has been implemented after years of cases involving foreigners using forged or fake degrees to secure jobs or residency in Singapore.
In April this year, American news media Bloomberg reported on how some Indian graduates desperate for jobs are resorting to obtaining multiple degrees, often from questionable institutions operating out of small apartment buildings or shops.
These colleges lack regular classes, employ poorly trained teachers, offer outdated curriculums, and provide no practical experience or job placements. Even some reputable universities were caught engaging in dubious practices, such as using fake patients to meet requirements and distributing fake degrees.
In one of the largest-scale fake degree operations discovered in Singapore in 2021, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that 23 foreign employees had secured jobs here using fake credentials from Manav Bharti University (MBU) in India.
As a result, two Indian nationals were sentenced to imprisonment, and 19 others were permanently prohibited from seeking employment in Singapore due to their use of fraudulent degrees when applying for work passes.
The scandal shocked Singapore, as MOM’s investigation was prompted by earlier reports that MBU had been involved in the sale of 36,000 counterfeit degrees across 17 Indian states over a span of 11 years, with a number of MBU graduates were employed in Singapore.
Foreigners from India are not the only group submitting fraudulent credentials. Last year, a Chinese national was sentenced to seven weeks in jail after being found guilty of purchasing a forged degree certificate worth $14,000, with the intention of using it to obtain permanent residency in Singapore.
A case involving an American that came to light in 2016 is perhaps one of the biggest such cases involving fake credentials.
American Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, who posed as a child psychologist, fooled Temasek Polytechnic, the Singapore Government and the local press for nearly a decade using forged educational certificates and fake claims that he is a child prodigy who is the son of a renowned psychologist.
He also used the blood of his doctor boyfriend in order to cheat the authorities from finding out that he is HIV-positive.
This same American stole and disclosed confidential data from the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) HIV database, which involves the personal information and medical records of 14,200 individuals, including HIV-positive Singaporeans and foreign visitors.
Brochez was jailed and then deported from Singapore in 2018. However, in 2019, it was discovered that he still possessed sensitive data obtained from the MOH. He subsequently released the information online, further compromising the privacy of affected individuals.
The 12 companies that have just been appointed to conduct background checks have a global presence, covering Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and various other countries. These firms have a proven track record in providing authenticity surveys for educational qualification certificates and accreditation surveys for educational institutions.
MOM said that the fees and processing time offered by these 12 selected companies are competitive. Verification fees range from $30 to $60, and most academic background checks can be completed within one to two weeks. These firms will be reviewed regularly to ensure that they meet the authorities’ service quality requirements and standards.
The ministry also revealed that employers will only need to verify the academic qualifications of each employee once during the submission of an employment pass application. There is no requirement to resubmit verification when renewing the pass.
MOM has urged employers to plan early and take into account the time required for background checks when hiring foreign employees and plans to release a guideline on the Employment Pass applications process.