Many people move abroad for various reasons, but oftentimes, it all boils down to the pursuit of a better life.
The same can be said for Kay Cheong. Originally from Kuala Lumpur, the 36-year-old is now a proud Singapore citizen. But the journey to acquire that citizenship wasn’t easy.
The eldest child born to a below average income family, Kay has always been hungry for success, wanting to change not just her own lifestyle, but that of her whole family. A hard worker, she started picking up part-time jobs at the tender age of 14.
Neither of her parents were able to finish their primary school education, but Kay understood the importance of education. Her efforts paid off when she managed to enrol in her top choice for tertiary education, which was Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
There, she got her bachelor’s degree in Economics with a major in International Economics. She went on to be a financial advisor with Great Eastern, receiving rookie agent awards for her work.
Although her career was already very promising, Kay decided to make a pivot. She came to Singapore on an Employment Pass to join the cabin crew of Singapore Airlines (SIA).
That was 12 years ago. Today, Kay is the co-founder and managing director of The Immigration People, an immigration consultancy in Singapore.
Addressing gaps in the immigration industry
Three years into her career in Singapore, Kay applied for permanent residence status on her own. It took her about a year of waiting before being approved.
Recounting her journey, Kay shared, “I remember clearly that there were missing documents and I had to travel back to KL to retrieve those documents and go back to ICA to submit them.”
At that point of time, she didn’t know about the existence of immigration agencies.
But in 2017, after five years of flying, she felt drained and wanted to spend more time with her baby boy, who is now 6 years old. So, she clipped her wings in search of more of a ground-based career.
She went into the immigration industry, working for another immigration firm for a few years. Here, she connected with Elena Kwa.
Together, they noticed aspects of the industries that could do with improvements. There was a gap, they realised, between what the clients of immigration consultancies really want, versus what the industry was offering.
Finding alignment between their visions, they left their previous firm and started The Immigration People (TIP) in 2019.
With a goal of providing more transparency in the industry, they clearly state their pricing on the TIP website and actively run a YouTube channel where they talk about Singapore immigration matters very openly.
“We are the only firm who has an active YouTube channel, uploading videos once a week sharing topics on Singapore immigration matters since 2020,” Kay claimed.
Turning a profit
Currently, TIP has a team of 15, including Kay and Elena as the directors of the company.
Since starting in 2019, they have serviced more than 3,000 clients. Most of their clients are coming from countries such as China, India, France, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, and Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Of course, Kay is working to make TIP the top immigration consultancy firm in not just Singapore, but the entire Asian region.
But beyond that, she also wants TIP to be a one-stop shop for everyone who wish to migrate to Singapore.
That means they want to help migrants set up businesses, provide accounting and tax advisory to companies and individuals, assist families with their children’s enrolment into educational institutions, and offer homestay services for foreign students who wish to study in Singapore.
Bringing fulfilment to others
Today, Kay is a full-fledged citizen of Singapore, having applied for citizenship a few years ago.
At first, she had thought that being a PR was good enough, but after her divorce, she realised citizenship would make more sense, particularly in terms of house ownership.
Naturally, she let her team at The Immigration People handle her application. She trusted them so much that she didn’t even check through the forms before submission.
“I was happy that I got my citizenship approved without further questions asked, unlike my PR application,” she shared.
As to why she decided to formally become a Singaporean, Kay explained, “Singapore feels more like home to me.”
As such, she does not envision herself going back to live in Malaysia. A big part of the reason is because her son is also Singaporean, and her business is pretty stable in Singapore.
“I wanted the best for myself and my dearest family, and I truly believe that becoming a Singapore citizen is the right choice for them and myself, hence I became a Singaporean myself,” Kay expressed.
These questions asked to Kay regarding her move to Singapore are also common ones that they ask their clients. The answers have mainly been career and educational opportunities, as Singapore is known for its robust economy and job market.
“Many individuals, especially from the SEA region, may be attracted to the diverse career opportunities and higher earning potential available in Singapore,” Kay reasoned.
Other common reasons are higher quality of life as Singapore has relatively good healthcare, education, safety, and infrastructure. The multicultural society and cosmopolitan lifestyle are also attractive to those seeking a diverse and dynamic environment.
But regardless of their reasons, Kay believes it’s not for anyone else to judge. Many people may criticise others for being unpatriotic for leaving their motherland, but at the end of the day, it’s up to each individual to make their respective choices.
Having gone through the immigration process herself, Kay said, “When others approach me to become a citizen in Singapore, I do not object to them as I believe they must have done their fair share of thinking before coming to their mind to convert themselves.”
- Learn more about The Immigration People here.
- Read other articles written about startups here.
Featured Image Credit: The Immigration People