The concept of a sham marriage, legally termed as a “marriage of convenience”, is clearly defined in section 57C of the Immigration Act (Cap. 133).
What is a Sham Marriage
The concept of a sham marriage, legally termed as a “marriage of convenience”, is clearly defined in the law since December 2012, courtesy of section 57C of the Immigration Act (Cap. 133) (“IA”).
Section 57C IA defines a marriage of convenience as one where any person contracts or otherwise enters into a marriage knowing or having reason to believe that the purpose of the marriage is to assist one of the parties to the marriage to obtain an immigration advantage, and where any gratification, whether from a party to the marriage or another party, is offered, given or received as an inducement or reward to any party to the marriage for entering into the marriage.
To put it simply, if you are paid in some form or another to marry someone who is not a Singapore citizen, your marriage may be seen as a marriage of convenience. If you are accused of such a marriage, it is on you to prove that when contracting into the marriage you believed on reasonable grounds that the marriage would result in a genuine marital relationship.
The Law on Sham Marriages
Entering into a marriage of convenience comes with serious consequences. Before 19 December 2012, any marriage entered into under such an arrangement was prosecuted pursuant to section 57(1)(k) IA, which states that a person who by making a false statement obtains or attempts to obtain an entry or a re-entry permit, pass, Singapore visa, or certificate for himself or for any other person, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding $4,000 and/or to imprisonment for up to 12 months upon conviction.
Since 19 December 2012, such a marriage arrangement has been selectively specified as a criminal offence and the punishment associated with it has been increased. According to section 57C IA, any person who enters into a sham marriage shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.
Aside from its criminal implications, such a sham marriage further comes with legal complications later when you wish to get out of it.
How Do I Get Out
Section 11A of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) (“WC”) states that a marriage of convenience registered on or after 1 October 2016 is void, unless it is proved that both parties to the marriage believed on reasonable grounds when contracting into the marriage, that the marriage would result in a genuine marital relationship. Accordingly, pursuant to section 105(aa) WC, you may file to nullify the marriage should you wish to end the relationship.
At first glance this may sound like an easy end to the marriage, the problem, however, is that if you file for nullity pursuant to section 105 WC on this ground, you open yourself up to criminal liability pursuant to section 57C IA if you have not already been convicted.
Alternatively, you will have to file for divorce pursuant to section 95 WC in order to get out of the arrangement. Following which you will be legally known as a “divorcee” and you will need to declare this, should you wish to re-marry in the future.
Please note that this choice only applies to marriages registered on or after 1 October 2016. Should you have been married before then, the High Court was very clear in Soon Ah See and another v Diao Yanmei  SGHC 185 that, regardless of your intentions when you got married, your marriage would be recognised as a valid marriage and as such the only way out of it would be to file for divorce pursuant to section 95 WC.)
The sanctity of marriage is taken very seriously in Singapore and anyone who makes light of this faces severe consequences in the eyes of the law.