All foreign travellers arriving in S’pore can now use automated lanes at Changi Airport

Foreign travellers can clear immigration using automated lanes after arriving in Singapore

All foreign travellers arriving in Singapore can now use automated lanes to clear immigration without the need for prior enrolments, according to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

From May 2024, foreign visitors regardless of nationality can use the automated lanes at Changi Airport.

In addition, arriving Singapore residents and departing travellers will be able to undergo contactless immigration clearance at Changi Airport, Seletar Airport and Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS) by the end of 2024.

These moves are expected to reduce immigration clearance time by 40%.

All foreign travellers can use automated lanes at Changi Airport

ICA revealed the initiatives at its annual Workplan Seminar on 17 May at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

It stated that Singapore may be the first in the world to allow foreign travellers, including first-time visitors, to use automated lanes without registering for them beforehand.

Source: Immigration & Checkpoints Authority on Facebook

It will also be the first to allow foreigners to depart without presenting passports for immigration clearance.

To enable these initiatives, ICA progressively replaced current automated lanes and manual counters with the next-generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS) at its checkpoints.

In March 2024, Changi Airport, MBCCS and the land checkpoints contained 600 such gates.

ICA states that by early 2026, 95% of travellers will be able to clear immigration via automated lanes at its checkpoints.

ICA to improve risk assessment of arriving passengers

To enhance clearance for passengers, ICA has improved its pre-arrival risk assessment capabilities.

Previously, ICA officers at counters would conduct risk assessment of arriving travellers.

Now, in addition to that, they can assess travellers’ risk profiles before their arrival using pre-arrival data.

Those flagged for security or immigration risks will go through further assessment by ICA officers.

ICA will fully automate car clearance by 2028

ICA has also worked with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) to ensure the automation of immigration clearance of visitors travelling by car.

It will progressively introduce the Automated Passenger Clearance System (APCS) lanes, with full automation of car clearance achieved at Tuas Checkpoint by 2026 and at Woodlands Checkpoint by 2028.

Source: Google Maps

A single-lane live trial of the system in 2022 showed that 94% of travellers were able to self-clear without officers assisting.

“With the Automated Passenger Clearance System (APCS), car travellers will be able to perform self-clearance while remaining in their vehicles,” ICA said.

After the full automation of car clearance, travellers can continue to use QR code scanning in lieu of passport scanning to clear immigration at car clearance counters.

They will also have to present their biometrics for identity verification, through contactless biometric scanners.

Over 3.1 million car travellers, or 64% of total car travellers, had used QR code scanning when passing through Singapore’s land checkpoints as of 30 April.

This allowed much quicker clearance, ICA said, adding, “Members of the public welcomed the initiative and found the process to be faster and more convenient.”

Enhancement of cargo vehicles clearance and setting up of new building

By April, ICA was able to clear 95% of all cargo vehicles through its paperless clearance initiative across air, land and sea checkpoints.

Implemented in March 2023, the initiative saw drivers or traders only submitting vehicle and cargo clearance permit numbers via the ICA website or the MyICA app before arrival.

ICA officers would then retrieve the information before clearing the vehicles without drivers having to produce hard-copy permits.

This has reduced the time taken for clearance by over two minutes per vehicle, from an average of seven minutes to five.

ICA has also been trialling remote customs clearance and analysing cargo images. This will enable the opening of more lanes, quickening the clearance process.

The authority said it is additionally testing using artificial intelligence to detect anomalies in the scanned images of cargo.

“This will strengthen our ability to identify potential threats and prevent them from entering Singapore,” it said.

In addition, there will be a new ICA Services Centre, expected to begin operating in 2025.

Set to be located next to the current ICA building, citizens can self-collect identity cards and passports under a new system, the Integrated Smart Document Management System (iSMART), without booking an appointment.

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Featured image adapted from Immigration & Checkpoints Authority on Facebook and Frontier Enterprise for illustration purposes only.

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