They exchanged their marriage vows in a church and had their marriage registered at Singapore’s Registry of Marriages, vowing that only death should separate them.
But unfortunately, it isn’t death which separates Singaporean Mr Dasan Ebenezer from his wife Ms Leorna Minerva.
Since getting married at the Archbishop’s Private Chapel in Cebu on 19 October 2013, Minerva has only been allowed on a social visit pass whenever she enters Singapore.
The couple had their marriage registered with Singapore’s Registry of Marriages on 14 April 2014.
While the social visit pass is extended upon appeal for another month, and sometimes for an additional month, Ms Minerva will have to leave the country upon expiry of the pass.
That has meant that though married, the couple have had to live apart during the course of their marriage.
What’s worse, their application for a long term visit pass from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has been rejected repeatedly, without any reason.
Said 67-year-old Mr Ebenezer, who runs a music studio in Peninsula Plaza: “We have been applying for the long term visit pass for more than 10 times, but still it has been rejected.”
While it is not known how many Singaporeans and their spouses share the same fate, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) called for changes to immigration regulations in December 2016 that it said discriminated against foreign spouses of Singapore citizens.
In a policy brief, it said: “The right to family life includes the right to freely choose a spouse, regardless of factors such as nationality, income or health. A state that respects this right must not institute policies that put families in constant uncertainty about whether they can remain together. There are reasons to limit overall immigration, but forming a family with a citizen is one of the clearest and most significant signs of belonging. In migration policy, family ties should be prioritised over economic utility.”
For now and until the policy changes, Ms Minerva is resigned to having to leave her husband every few months.
She said: “It is so uncomfortable for us, as I stay here for a few months only. As a married couple, it is very difficult for us. As a couple, we need to stay together, live together, and be happy as well.”
It is unfortunate that it is not death which separates a married couple, and which stops them from the pursuit of their happiness.
Article was first published in The Monitor. Republished with permission.
ALL PHOTOS courtesy of Mr Dasan Ebenezer.