Can I withdraw my CPF if I leave Singapore?

Like it or not, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a key part of Singaporeans’ lives. It ensures Singaporeans contribute steadily towards their own retirement nest egg during their working years and protects their monies against inflation with risk-free guaranteed returns.

But what happens to their CPF monies when Singaporeans or Permanent Residents (PR) decide to leave Singapore and migrate overseas?

If You Plan To Keep Your Singapore Citizenship/Permanent Residency

There are many reasons why some Singaporeans might want to migrate overseas temporarily and then return, such as a job posting, giving their children exposure to another education system, or taking a sabbatical.

In those cases where you intend to keep your Singapore citizenship or PR status, your CPF accounts will still be active, though you or your overseas employer will not be required to make CPF contributions. Your existing CPF funds will continue to earn the prevailing CPF interest rates while you’re overseas.

With the understanding that contributing to your CPF and MediSave accounts help ensure you have enough for your retirement and medical expenses, you might want to consider making periodic voluntary CPF contributions.

While you cannot use your MediSave funds to pay for your medical expenses while you’re overseas, you can still use the money in your MediSave account to pay for hospital bills of your family members residing in Singapore.

What Happens If You’re Leaving Singapore For Good

If you plan to leave Singapore and West Malaysia for good and wish to renounce your citizenship or PR status, you can withdraw all your CPF savings. Malaysians who wish to leave Singapore but still reside in West Malaysia can also make CPF withdrawals.

These constitute special grounds under which your CPF monies can be withdrawn in full, apart from the typical withdrawals from the age of 55.

CPF Funds: Once you renounce your citizenship or PR status and apply to withdraw your CPF savings, you will receive all your CPF funds (Ordinary Account, Special Account and MediSave) either by interbank GIRO to your Singapore bank account, or a telegraphic transfer to your overseas bank account. Any existing tax liabilities you owe to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will be deducted from the CPF monies you’ll receive.

CPF Investment Scheme: If you made any investments under the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS), these investments will need to be transferred to your own Central Depository (CDP) account. CDP will levy a $10.70 transfer fee for every counter transferred from your CPF Investment Account to your CDP account. After this is done, you are free to liquidate your investment holdings or maintain it.

CPF LIFE: If your CPF LIFE plan is already in effect, you can either apply to terminate your CPF LIFE plan and receive the remaining unused premiums, or opt to remain in the CPF LIFE Scheme, and continue to receive monthly payouts to your Singapore bank account for as long as you live.

How To Apply To Withdraw Your CPF Monies

If you’re still in Singapore, you can make the application in person at one of the CPF service centres. If you’re overseas, you can make the application by mail.

For those intending to apply in person, you need to complete the Application to Withdraw CPF on Ground of Leaving Singapore and West Malaysia Permanently with the original supporting documents stipulated on Page 4 of the form.

For those who want to apply by mail, you need to complete the same application form, witnessed by an official at a Singapore Overseas Mission and have your photocopied supporting documents certified by the same official.

Leaving The Safety Of The CPF Umbrella

You probably feel great receiving a lump sum of your CPF monies. However, you should remember that with this great sum of cash comes great responsibility.

First of all, all CPF monies are protected from creditors in the event of bankruptcy or legal claims. Your cash no longer enjoys this protection.

Second, your CPF monies were earning guaranteed, risk-free returns for you, which mitigates the erosion of your retirement funds due to inflation. The mandatory contribution to your CPF also ensures you are steadily growing your retirement nest egg during your working years.

Now that you have left the CPF system, you are fully responsible for your own retirement adequacy. The prudent investment of your retirement funds and disciplined saving is more crucial than ever.

You might want to speak to a professional financial adviser as soon as possible to explore the available solutions that can replicate the features of CPF you have come to rely on.