The Honeymoon Is Over, And the Marriage Was a Sham

According to the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority Annual Statistics in 2016, 43 persons were convicted for the marriage of convenience offences, a decrease of 21 from 2015. This is primarily due to stricter laws, harsher penalties and increased enforcement helping to deter would-be offenders from entering into fake marriage relationships or unions. 

What is a sham marriage?

A sham marriage is a marriage of convenience contracted for reasons other than genuine love or affection towards each other. It is usually for the purpose of acquiring a benefit or advantage from that immigration status. This can include gaining citizenship rights, permanent residency as well as access to social services and the labour market.

How does a sham marriage work?

A sham marriage can be arranged as a monetary transaction, organised crime syndicate operation or a business enterprise. Foreigners (usually women) pay the middlemen a substantial amount of money up to $26,000 to arrange a marriage of convenience for them in order to secure a work permit or a long-term visit pass. The middlemen will look for men in their 30s to 70s who are cash-strapped or in low-wage jobs. They pay these men between $2,000 and $5,000 for their part in the immigration scam. Some of the Singaporeans even receive a few hundred dollars each time their foreign spouse gets a visa extension.

What are the penalties for arranging or entering into a sham marriage?

In Singapore, it is a crime to arrange or enter into a sham marriage. Under section 57C of the Immigration Act, a person who enters into a marriage, knowing that the purpose is to assist one of the parties to the marriage to obtain an immigration advantage and where any gratification has been exchanged as an inducement or reward for entering into such marriage, will be guilty of an offence. The offender will be liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both. A person who actively arranges a marriage of convenience, with the intention of assisting one of the parties to the marriage to obtain an immigration advantage, will also be guilty of an offence. He or she is liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both.

On 24 April 2017, it was reported that Tran Thi Cam Nhung and her husband, Cheong Mun Siong, arranged for a marriage of convenience between Vietnam national Nguyen Thi Mong Tuyen and Singaporean Lee Poh Chiew in order for Nguyen to obtain the “golden ticket” to remain in Singapore to work.

When the sham marriage came to light, the four were arrested and sentenced to jail. Nguyen and Lee were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment each for entering into a marriage of convenience. For arranging a sham marriage, Cheong was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment and fined $8,000 in default of four weeks’ imprisonment, while Tran was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

What other offences could also be committed?

Apart from the offence of creating a sham marriage, those involved could also be charged with furnishing false information to the police or the authorities. This happens when couples are interviewed separately about the information on their citizenship application or about their relationship and there are multiple discrepancies between their answers. Providing false information may result in imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both, under section 177 of the Penal Code.


How may we help?

Committing immigration marriage fraud is a serious offence. Perpetrators can face prison time, a fine or both.

At I.R.B. Law LLP, we have a team of experienced lawyers who have an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system and criminal law proceedings. They are able to represent and defend you in the case at hand.

Should you wish to speak to us, please contact us at or call us at 6589 8913 so that we can advise you on your matter.