Singapore Immigration

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In the Very Beginning (mid-18th Century to 1940s)


A band of about 100 Malays from Johore – led by the Temengong, an officer of the Sultan of Johore – migrated southwards and settled on the banks of the Singapore River.


The first junk from Amoy arrived in Singapore.


The Quarantine Ordinance, enacted in 1866 to help better prevent and control contagious diseases, was finally approved.


The Government gained complete control over emigration to any place that was not part of the British dominions or under the British Government. The aim was to safeguard immigrants and prohibit emigration to any country deemed undesirable.


The Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance was passed.


The Passengers Restriction Ordinance was introduced, controlling the arrival of newcomers.


The Immigration Restriction Ordinance – introduced in 1928 and implemented in July 1930 – ended the era of free immigration.


A fixed quota for alien immigrants was introduced. It limited the number of male adults of any one race that could be admitted each month.


Kallang Airport was opened on 12 June.


The British Government resumed its position after the Second World War. Separate immigration systems were established in Malaya and Singapore.

Changing with the Times (1950s to 1970s)


A new Immigration Bill primarily aimed at restricting the arrival of Chinese immigrants who might have communist sympathies was passed.


Ordinance No. 5 of 1952 (The Immigration Ordinance) came into force on 1 August, setting out all immigration rules, regulations and policies.


Paya Lebar Airport was opened on 10 August, to cope with the increasing number of passenger arrivals at Kallang Airport.


The Department’s head office moved to Empress Place.


The Federation of Malaysia ended British citizenship for those born in Singapore and Malaya. It also changed how entry was controlled. Immigration became a federal department under the control of the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Provisional Malaysian passports were introduced for both Singapore citizens and Malaysians.


A new Malaysian passport replaced the Malaysian Provisional Passport on 7 September.


Singapore gained independence. The new Singapore Provisional Passport was first issued on 17 August, having been urgently introduced to provide Singapore citizens with a passport that also symbolised the country’s new found independence.


Common immigration clearance for Singapore and Malaysia ended, and immigration control at both ends of the Causeway began on 14 July. Singapore Provisional Passports ceased to be issued on 18 June. The Immigration Ordinance 1959 was modified and amended by the Modification of Laws (Immigration) Order 1966, to better suit the needs of Singapore as a sovereign and independent state.


Full immigration control between West Malaysia and Singapore was implemented on 1 July. A 64-page Singapore Restricted Passport was issued for travel to West Malaysia.


Construction of the Woodlands Checkpoint was completed in December.


Exit controls were implemented at all checkpoints on 1 January. The Disembarkation/Embarkation card was introduced.

Moving into the Millennium (1980s to 2003)


The Immigration Department head office at Empress Place began the process of computerising services. Computers were used to screen travellers at checkpoints for the first time in June.


A new Passport Office at Joo Chiat Complex served residents in the East and helped lighten the workload at head office.


The head office moved again in June, this time to Pidemco Centre. A queue system was introduced to make the waiting experience more efficient. The first batch of 10-year international passports was introduced.


Passports became machine-readable.


IMMILINK was introduced. The toll-free hotline provided 24/7 access to general information about immigration.


In February, work began on a new 10-storey building at Kallang for Immigration Department and the National Registration Department. In May, checkpoint operations began at Changi Ferry Terminal, where ferry services operated between Singapore and Johore.


Singapore citizens could apply for and renew their passports by mail for the first time.


The Immigration Department was renamed as Singapore Immigration. A new logo was unveiled during the stone-laying ceremony for a new Singapore Immigration building on 20 May.


The Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal started operations on 26 August to cater for the increase in regional ferry traffic.


Singapore Immigration became an autonomous agency in April. Singapore Changi Airport received the coveted ISO 9002 certification for its immigration arrival clearance process. Singapore Immigration implemented a fingerprint technology known as the Immigration Automated Clearance System (IACS), enhancing security and accelerating airport immigration clearance for priority passengers.


In June and July, Singapore Immigration relocated its head office from Pidemco Centre to a new 10-storey building in Kallang. In September, the Immigration Field Division moved from East Coast into the same premises.

Formation of Singapore Immigration & Registration


On 1 April, Singapore Immigration and the National Registration Department merged to form Singapore Immigration & Registration. The new Tuas Checkpoint opened on 2 January.


Singapore Restricted Passports were no longer issued after 1 January, and those previously issued were no longer valid for travel after 31 December.


As of 3 January, all births registered in Singapore were issued with birth certificate numbers bearing the prefix ‘T’ instead of ‘S’.

Formation of the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority


Singapore Immigration & Registration and the checkpoint-related enforcement function of the Customs & Excise Department merged to form the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority. The Registry of Societies came under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs.