Thumbprint scans extended to car travellers at Tuas, Woodlands checkpoints
SINGAPORE – Travellers arriving and departing through the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints by car will be required to scan their thumbprints when they clear immigration from Monday (Sept 25), as part of an expansion of the BioScreen system trials.
SINGAPORE — Travellers passing through Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints by car had to hop off and get their thumbprints scanned to clear immigration checks starting on Monday (Sept 25), becoming the latest group to start using the BioScreen system.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on Monday the scanning of thumbprints applies to both incoming and outgoing travellers who are aged six years and older.
Although fingerprint scanners have been installed at all the car counters, the scanning will only be in force at some counters, for the time being, to let travellers familiarise themselves with the new process.
It added that it might take longer to clear immigration at car counters with the BioScreen clearance, but declined to say when it will be fully in force. Assistant Commissioner Chua Sze How said the ICA will “calibrate the implementation of the BioScreen system according to prevailing security assessments and the ground situation”.
Currently, those travelling by car hand over their passports to an officer at the counter while waiting in the vehicle to clear immigration. Visual checks are carried out as part of the verification of a traveller’s identity.
Now, the driver and passengers will be required to step out of the car and scan both their thumbprints as part of the immigration clearance process.
The ICA said its officers will be ready to assist and guide travellers in the event that they encounter difficulty when using the BioScreen system.
“We will monitor closely the expansion of the trial of the BioScreen system for car travellers and adjust our processes accordingly,” it said.
In a press release, the ICA said the BioScreen system is an “important measure” in beefing up border security at the land checkpoints — where more than 400,000 pass through daily — by making its verification of travellers’ identities “more robust”.
The BioScreen system was first trialled at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in 2015. Since April last year, it was progressively implemented at Changi Airport’s immigration counters as well as at land checkpoints, but only for those travelling by train, bus, lorries and goods vehicles.
From December last year, motorcyclists leaving and entering Singapore through Tuas and Woodlands Checkpoints also clear immigration checks using the Biometric Identification of Motorbikers System II, which similarly entails the scanning of thumbprints.
In an update last year, the ICA said more than 500,000 travellers used the BioScreen system to clear immigration in the one month after it was launched at land and sea checkpoints, and Changi Airport. It added that the system proved to be an effective security measure in detecting people with “adverse records”, such as those trying to enter the country using false identities.
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Entrepreneur Melvin Chong, 28, who visits Johor Baru twice a week, said he may make fewer trips across the Causeway following the implementation of the BioScreen system.
“(It) may create inconvenience, especially for families. The lanes for cars to clear immigration checks are very small and narrow, I can only open the door on one side of my vehicle,” he said. “I can imagine how much inconvenience parents who are travelling with children would have to face, and it would waste a lot of time clearing the checkpoint.”
Ms Tan Yan Rong, 24, a financial consultant who makes frequent trips to Johor Baru, said: “The jam (at the checkpoints) is already quite bad, and I can foresee the thumbprint scanning causing even worse delays.
“The checks will definitely tighten security, but from a consumer point of view, the disadvantages are more apparent; we want to clear customs quickly and go in fast,” she added.
In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said borders, infrastructure and intelligence capabilities will be strengthened, and the Government will work with international partners to identify and pre-empt terror threats.
In November last year, laws were passed to allow the Government to scan the eyes of Singapore citizens and permanent residents and collect their iris images in a bid to strengthen identity verification at immigration checkpoints.
The move to collect iris images as an extra personal identifier, besides photographs and fingerprints, was among four proposed amendments to the National Registration Act tabled by the MHA. The ministry said then that iris-scanning technology at checkpoints will be progressively rolled out over two years.