Singapore entry points to have contactless immigration clearance for all by end-2024

A passenger at Changi Airport passport control
A passenger goes through Changi Airport passport control. Photo courtesy: Instagram/changiairport

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore held its annual Workplan Seminar today at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, with the theme ‘Redefining Border Clearance and Service Delivery’. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development, was the Guest-of-Honour for the event.

According to a media release, one of the salient features of the workplan is that by end-2024, arriving Singapore residents and all departing travellers will be able to undergo contactless immigration clearance at Changi Airport, Seletar Airport, and Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS), i.e., they will not need to present their passports at the automated lanes.

The ICA had first announced its New Clearance Concept (NCC) and the Services Centre Next Generation (SCNG) to transform border clearance and the delivery of its immigration and registration services at the 2019 Workplan Seminar.

This year marks a significant milestone, as the ICA realises its transformation plans:

  • Translate NCC into operational capabilities that will enhance checkpoint operations and improve traveller experience; and
  • Transform service processes and customer experience guided by the 3 “N” vision of SCNG — “No Fuss, No Visit, and No Waiting”.
Boats docked at Singapore Marina Bay Cruise Centre
Boats docked at Singapore Marina Bay Cruise Centre, one of the cross-border entry points. Photo courtesy: Instagram/marinabaycruisecentresg

New Clearance Concept (NCC)

According to the ICA, the NCC is a paradigm shift in border clearance, moving from manual processing at counters to automated lanes for people (NCC Passenger), conveyances (NCC Conveyance), and goods (NCC Cargo).

This has been made possible through the use of biometrics and data, as well as streamlining and digitalising clearance processes.

The ICA has laid the groundwork for this transformation over the years by progressively implementing initiatives, such as adopting facial and iris recognition as primary identifiers; ceasing the use of inked endorsements for foreign visitors; and introducing the electronic Visit Pass (e-Pass) and Automated Clearance Initiative (ACI).

With the realisation of the NCC, Singapore may be the first in the world to allow all foreign travellers, including first-time visitors, to use automated lanes without prior enrolment upon arrival, and to depart without presenting their passports for immigration clearance.

From May 2024, all foreign visitors arriving in Singapore, regardless of nationality, can use automated lanes at Changi Airport, without the need for prior enrolments.

By end-2024, arriving Singapore residents and all departing travellers will be able to undergo contactless immigration clearance.

ICA personnel at Changi Airport
ICA personnel at Changi Airport. Photo courtesy: Instagram/changiairport

Time savings and technology of NCC and SCNG

  • The NCC (Passenger) initiatives, comprising automated clearance for all foreign travellers and contactless clearance for Singapore residents and all departing travellers, are expected to reduce immigration clearance time at the passenger halls by about 40 per cent.
  • To enable the NCC process, the ICA has progressively replaced current automated lanes and manual counters with the next generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS) at its checkpoints. As of March 2024, about 600 such gates have been installed in Changi Airport, MBCCS, and the land checkpoints. By early 2026, about 95 per cent of travellers will be able to clear immigration via automated lanes at ICA checkpoints.
  • As part of the NCC safeguards, the ICA has also enhanced its pre-arrival risk assessment capabilities. Previously, risk assessment of arriving travellers was conducted by ICA officers stationed at counters. Now, in addition, by using pre-arrival data, ICA can also assess travellers’ risk profiles before their arrival. Travellers flagged for security or immigration risks will undergo further assessment by ICA officers.
  • The ICA’s efforts in providing world-class service to travellers have been recognised globally. In the World Airport Survey 2024, Changi Airport was named the best in the world for its immigration services. The award was given by Skytrax, the international air transport rating organisation, on April 17, 2024.
  • The ICA aims to provide a fuss-free experience for its customers by re-designing its processes and leveraging digital, robotic, biometric, and automation technologies.
  • The ICA has made significant strides in digitalising its services and making them easy to use. Today, close to 95 per cent of the ICA’s services have gone digital and 95 per cent of its customers submit their applications through its website or via the MyICA mobile application.
  • It has also digitised ICA-issued documents, such as birth and death certificates in May 2022, and long-term passes for non-citizens in February 2023, and will progressively reduce the issuance of physical documents. Members of the public can retrieve their digital documents from three different sources — MyICA mobile app; MyICA e-service on the ICA website; or FileSG by GovTech.
  • The new ICA Services Centre (ISC), located next to the existing ICA Building, is expected to operationalise in 2025. It will see the ICA’s various service centres reorganised into one integrated Services Centre. The aim is to provide a seamless, one-stop service. Customers will be served at a single touchpoint even if they require multiple services.
  • At the ISC, the authorities will introduce the Integrated Smart Document Management System (iSMART) for customers to self-collect identity cards and passports, without the need for an appointment. iSMART is an end-to-end solution that sorts, tracks, stores and conveys documents. It also automates on-demand issuance of documents to customers by leveraging biometrics and robotics.