True Cost Of Default NS Liability

Want To Default On Your NS Liability? It’ll Cost You A 3-Room HDB BTO Flat

4 min read

Thinking of defaulting on your National Service (NS) liability? Or know somebody who’s trying to find a way to get out of NS?

Receiving Enlistment Letters Together
Source: @memedef | Instagram


If you’re convicted under the Enlistment Act as an NS defaulter, you will be punished with:

  • A fine not exceeding S$10,000, or face
  • A term of imprisonment not exceeding 36 months 

Or depending on the decision of the Singapore High Court, you might even be smacked with BOTH.

According to a written parliamentary reply by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen back in 2018, there has been an average of about 350 National Service (NS) defaulters each year since 2008.

To be honest, that doesn’t really come as a surprise as every once in a while, we’ll read about certain NS default cases like Kevin Kwan (author of Crazy Rich Asians) and Ben Davis (Fulham footballer) in the news.

However, it does make you wonder… These people siao one issit?

TL;DR: The (Monetary) Cost Of Defaulting On Your NS

Depending on how many years you default on your NS liability, your sentence will range from 2 to a maximum of 36 months imprisonment.

Years Of DefaultSentence
2 to 6 years2 to 4 months of imprisonment
7 to 10 years5 to 8 months of imprisonment
11 to 16 years14 to 22 months of imprisonment
17 to 23 years24 to 36 months of imprisonment
More than 23 years36 months of imprisonment

Assuming you:

Total income lost = (S$4,437 x 36 months) + S$10,000 fine = S$169,732

Which is more than enough to pay for a 3-room HDB BTO flat in Woodlands (from S$165,000 excluding grants) in full.

Naturally, you would have lost an even more important asset by serving time in prison: time (oh, the irony).

NS Obligations

Who Is Required To Serve NS?

Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) are required to serve NS once they turn 18 years old.

NS Enlistment Act Eligibility
Source: Singapore Statutes Online

What Is The Minimum And Maximum Age Of Enlistment?

The minimum age which all male Singaporean citizens and PRs are subjected to the Enlistment Act is 16 years and 6 months or 16.5 years old.

NS Enlistment Act Enlistment Age
Source: Singapore Statutes Online


Those of you that don’t know this… Well… Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse.

For a little context, the legal age to drink or even to drive (see what I did there? I could’ve written “drink and drive” but THAT WOULD BE WRONG. English, people…) in Singapore is 18 years old.

So if you’re a male Singaporean or Singapore PR who just completed your GCE ‘O’ or ‘N’ Levels but have no intention of furthering your studies, you will receive a Further Reporting Order to report for registration and medical screening.

If you’re suitable, you’ll find yourself enlisted within four to six months, and will soon be proficient at handling a SAR-21 assault rifle before you’re even old enough to drive a car.

That’s pretty mental, isn’t it bruv?

For those of you going, “Wah… Maximum enlistment age is ‘not more than 40 years of age’? That means I just need to stay out of Singapore till I’m 41 years old then I can come back lah…”

Unfortunately… NO.

It just means that at that age, you are no longer eligible for enlistment. But you’re still considered an NS defaulter so if you choose to return to Singapore, you’re gonna have to face the consequences.

Exit Permit Regulations

Under the Enlistment Act (Chapter 93), male Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents aged 13 years and above are required to comply with the Exit Permit (EP) regulations.

Once again, if you’re a male Singaporean or Singapore PR who is about to celebrate your 13th birthday, keep a lookout for a congratulatory letter from the government that’ll inform you that you’re bound by these EP regulations.

And if you’re wondering why there’s a need for these EP regulations…

These regulations are in place to ensure that NS liable males who reside overseas at a young age or have gone overseas to pursue their studies will eventually return to Singapore to fulfil their NS obligations.

NS Liability Exit Permit And Bond Requirements
Source: CMPB

So what happens if you do not apply for an EP or fail to return to Singapore before your EP expires?

More on that in a bit.

The Cost Of Defaulting Your NS Obligations – Offences And Punishments

I’ve talked about NS obligations and EP regulations. So what happens if you fail to adhere to any of them? Here’s what:

Offence13 to 16.5 years old>16.5 years old
Failure to apply for an Exit Permit$2,000
  • S$10,000

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment

  • Or Both
  • Failure to return to Singapore before expiry of Exit Permit$2,000
    Failure to comply with NS notices or reporting orders-
    Failure to serve NS-

    And if you’re wondering how they determine the length of your sentence… Don’t worry. This is Singapore leh… Confirm got guideline in place.

    In 2017, the High Court set out a sentencing framework for individuals who default on their National Service obligations. Here’s what your sentence would be like:

    Years Of DefaultSentence
    2 to 6 years2 to 4 months of imprisonment
    7 to 10 years5 to 8 months of imprisonment
    11 to 16 years14 to 22 months of imprisonment
    17 to 23 years24 to 36 months of imprisonment
    More than 23 years36 months of imprisonment

    Assuming you earn a median gross monthly income of S$4,437, and you somehow manage to default your NS liability for more than 23 years. The total amount of income you just lost is S$4,437 x 36 months = S$159,732.

    I’m not even including:

    • Potential bonuses and wage increments over the years
    • Potential earnings to secure your retirement if you invested that amount
    • Time lost which could be spent with friends and family

    Oh, and don’t forget the accompanying S$10,000 fine if the High Court rules against you.

    That’s a whopping S$169,732 loss of income. Which is more than enough to pay for a 3-room HDB BTO flat in Woodlands (from S$165,000 excluding grants) in full.

    My recommendation? JUST SERVE LAH...

    Bonus: Can I Renounce My Citizenship Or PR Status To Avoid Being Liable For NS?

    Renunciation of Singapore Citizenship

    According to Article 128 of the Constitution of Singapore, you can choose to renounce your citizenship if you:

    • Are or are over the age of 21 years;
    • Are of sound mind; and
    • Are about to become a citizen of another country

    But, here’s the catch.

    If you look at Article 128(2)(b) of the Constitution:

    Constitution Of Singapore Renounce Citizenship
    Source: Singapore Statutes Online

    You’ll realise that you must also first discharge your liability under the Enlistment Act.

    In other words, you will need to have:

    • Completed your National Service;
    • Rendered at least 3 years as an Operationally Ready National Serviceman (ORNS); or
    • Complied with any conditions determined by the Government

    In simpler words, it is not possible to renounce your Singapore citizenship without first fulfilling your NS obligation.

    Renunciation of Singapore Permanent Residence

    According to the ICA, if you choose to renounce your PR status without serving or completing full-time NS, this may have an adverse impact on:

    • Applications to work, study or live in Singapore
    • Applications for Singapore citizenship or PR status
    • Applications for the renewal of Re-entry Permits made by one’s family members or sponsors

    In simpler words, unless you have no intention to return to Singapore to live or work, it’s best to fulfil your NS obligation before renouncing your PR status.

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