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Contactless immigration clearance for S'poreans from 2022, and a new 24/7 ICA service centre on the way

SINGAPORE — From 2022, Singaporeans returning home or departing the Republic will be able to breeze through immigration lanes without needing to produce their passports.

Contactless immigration clearance for S'poreans from 2022, and a new 24/7 ICA service centre on the way

Demonstration of a prototype of the Automated Border Control System, which will enable contactless immigration clearance from 2022.

SINGAPORE — From 2022, Singaporeans returning home or departing the Republic will be able to breeze through immigration lanes without needing to produce their passports.

This was one of a slew of announcements made by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at its annual Workplan Seminar on Friday (May 10).

“The goal is to provide a seamless, secure and efficient immigration clearance process, as well as delivery of services, for Singaporeans, residents and travellers,” said Assistant Commissioner Chia Hui Keng, who is the director of the ICA corporate communications division. 

CONTACTLESS IMMIGRATION CLEARANCE

A new clearance concept, to be fully operational in three years, will help handle the growing volume of travellers passing through Singapore’s checkpoints every day while keeping the country’s  borders secure, the ICA said.

This will feature a new generation of automated lanes, called the automated border control system (ABCS), enabling Singaporeans to pass through the gates without needing to produce their passports.

Their identity will be automatically verified primarily through iris and/or facial biometrics, making contactless "breeze-through" immigration clearance a reality. Travellers will be able to use their fingerprints if the system is unable to detect their iris and/or facial biometrics.

A trial of the ABCS commenced on April 8 at Tuas Checkpoint. Singaporeans arriving in the Republic at Tuas Checkpoint will be able to use one such automated lane for now, the ICA said.

Eventually, first-time foreign visitors to Singapore will also be able to enrol their entire set of biometrics — fingerprints, facial and iris — and perform ABCS self-clearance. After that, they will be prompted to verify their iris as the primary biometric identifier on subsequent visits.

The ABCS will apply only to travellers on foot, who make up most of the authority’s checkpoint volume, the ICA told TODAY.

The Automated Border Control System will enable contactless immigration clearance from 2022. Photo: Nicholas Khong/TODAY

When asked about a possible similar ABCS for car travellers, the ICA said that it is still exploring possibilities, but no further details are available yet.

But car travellers will also benefit from initiatives such as electronic arrival cards and e-Pass in the new clearance concept, the ICA added.

ELECTRONIC ARRIVAL CARDS

The ICA plans to replace paper-based disembarkation or embarkation cards with electronic arrival cards (EACs) by 2021. Currently, foreigners are required to use the cards.

The system, which has been on trial since October last year, will enable eligible travellers to submit their personal information and trip details electronically prior to arrival.

Foreign visitors who submit an EAC prior to their arrival in Singapore will need to produce only their passports for immigration clearance.

The EAC is expected to be launched in the second half of this year and it will be made available in multiple languages on the authority’s website and mobile application.

ADVANCE SCREENINGS OF PASSENGERS

The ICA will also be conducting advance passenger screening (APS) by requiring airlines to submit advance passenger information to the authority from September.

Data analytics will be used to conduct pre-arrival risk assessments on foreign visitors, using the information on foreign visitors gathered through their EACs and the APS system.

Similar programmes have been implemented in many countries to combat terrorism and transnational crime, the ICA said.

NO MORE ENTRY STAMPS ON PASSPORTS

From 2021, foreign visitors who are granted entry to Singapore will no longer receive traditional  stamps on their passports.

This comes on the heels of an April 22 announcement that foreigners leaving Singapore will no longer have their passports stamped.

The ICA is exploring the idea of providing foreigners with an electronic visit pass (e-Pass) in the form of electronic notifications on the length of stay granted for their visit, via email or SMS.

Some countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom do not have exit controls for departing passengers — a step beyond removing entry and exit passport stamps.

But the ICA told TODAY on May 5 that it currently has no plans to remove exit controls from its immigration clearance regime.

“Exit control at our immigration checkpoints remains an important part of our security regime now and in the foreseeable future,” the ICA said.

It allows the ICA to tally their entry records with the corresponding exit records to detect overstayers, and allows the ICA to detect persons-of-interest if they attempt to leave Singapore, the authority added.

A HANDHELD APP FOR ICA OFFICERS

If foreign visitors need help when using automated lines on arrival, ICA officers will be equipped with a new “mobile clearance system” application on their handheld mobile devices.

The app will allow them to check pertinent information, such as a visitor’s risk assessment for entry eligibility, and help them make swift and informed decisions.

With more automation and use of data analytics, the ICA said its officers will also benefit from being able to take on “higher-value roles and responsibilities” at checkpoints while bringing substantial productivity gains for the authority.

DIGITAL DOCUMENTS

Most hard copy documents — such as entry permits, long-term visit passes and students’ pass cards — issued by the ICA will be converted to digital documents.

The authority will then cease issuing such documents in hard copy form.

NEW INTEGRATED SERVICES CENTRE

The ICA is also getting a new building, next to its existing head office, to better serve customers.

The new Integrated Services Centre, to be ready by 2023, will integrate digital systems with biometric and automation technologies.

The 10-storey building will be located at the current site of the Urban Redevelopment Authority street level carpark, next to the existing ICA building at Kallang Road, which will continue to house the ICA headquarters. Once the new building is up and running, the ICA HQ will be upgraded.

The new centre is “necessary to cater for the projected growth in demand for ICA services,” the ICA said, and it will enable a re-design of the service experience for customers.

From January next year, the carpark next to the existing ICA building will be closed for the construction of the new centre.

Members of the public visiting the ICA are encouraged to take public transport, or to park their vehicles at other carparks nearby if they drive, the ICA said.

About 1.4 million customers visit the ICA building annually, the authority added.

SELF-SERVICE KIOSKS AND AUTOMATED DOCUMENT RETRIEVAL

The new centre will feature a 24/7 operating floor equipped with self-service kiosks to serve customers who submit applications in physical form, collect their documents or enrol their biometrics.

The ICA also announced plans to develop a new system, called iSmart, to store documents securely through the use of robotics and convey documents on-demand to self-service kiosks for issuance.

This will replace the current process, where a customer has to make an appointment, collect a queue ticket, wait for ICA staff to retrieve the document, and wait to get called to the service counter to complete the collection.

Customers will also be able to complete the collection of different ICA documents at a single touch point instead of different sections of the building.

The new system will provide greater flexibility and convenience for customers to collect documents outside of usual office opening hours, while shortening the transaction times for the collection of each document to no more than 15 minutes, the ICA said.

To assist customers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with using the self-service facilities, there will be ICA service ambassadors on-site to assist them.

Real-time information about how busy the centre is at any given time will also be provided on the ICA website to help customers plan their trips.

 

 

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