Back to top

ICA Commemorates 20th Anniversary At Its Workplan Seminar 2023 – ‘Remembering Our Past, Securing Our Future’

            The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) commemorated its 20th anniversary at its annual Workplan Seminar on 5 May 2023. Themed ‘Remembering Our Past, Securing Our Future’, this year’s seminar was held at the MAX Atria @ Singapore Expo, with the Minister for Home Affairs and for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, as the Guest of Honour.

Formation of ICA

2.          The ICA was formed in 2003 from a merger of the Singapore Immigration & Registration and the checkpoint operations of the Customs & Excise Department.

3.          In addition to immigration control, cargo clearance and border security functions, ICA also took on immigration and registration services, such as the issuance of passports and identity cards (IC) to Singapore citizens, and immigration passes and permits to foreigners.

ICA’s Transformation Journey

4.          Over the past 20 years, ICA has continually adapted and innovated, to be able to secure our borders even in the face of rising traveller and cargo volumes, and while facilitating these movements. Striking the right balance and doing both well, is a perennial challenge.

5.          Today, automated immigration clearance is the default at our checkpoints. We have introduced the use of facial and iris features in lieu of fingerprints as the primary identifiers for immigration clearance, to enable more secure and reliable authentication of travellers’ identity.

6.          We have also progressively digitalised our immigration and registration services and consolidated them in a one-stop portal in the MyICA mobile app. The app allows members of the public to access 15 ICA e-Services with a single log-in.[1] It has been downloaded over 2.7 million times since its launch in April 2022.

7.          In 2019, ICA announced our multi-year transformation plans – namely the New Clearance Concept (NCC) and the Services Centre Next Generation (SCNG) to further transform border clearance and our immigration and registration services. We have made significant strides on both fronts. Members of the public can look forward to even greater convenience when these plans are fully implemented.  

New Clearance Concept (NCC)

8.          Under the NCC, ICA aims to provide faster and more secure immigration and customs clearance at our checkpoints by leveraging biometrics, as well as streamlining and digitalising the clearance process. Over the past year, we have laid the foundations to enable to us to achieve this vision.

NCC (Passenger) Clearance

9.          Today, under the Automated Clearance Initiative (ACI) which was implemented in May 2022, passport holders from 51 jurisdictions, even if visiting Singapore for the first time, can use selected automated lanes for immigration clearance, without the need for prior enrolment.[2]

10.          The biometrics of eligible foreign visitors are automatically enrolled during the arrival clearance process at these automated lanes. Information on their enrolment is included in the electronic visit pass (ePass) which is emailed to them after clearance. Enrolled visitors will then be able to use any automated lane during departure and on subsequent visits to Singapore. To date, more than four million foreign visitors have been enrolled, and cleared immigration through ACI.   

11.          In time to come, all the automated lanes will offer enrolment facilities.

12.          In December 2022, ICA introduced the Special Assistance Lanes (SAL) at some passenger halls at Changi Airport, making Singapore the first country in the world to introduce an automated lane that allows multiple travellers to perform self-immigration clearance as a group. The SAL serves travellers using wheelchairs, and also family groups of up to four persons, for example, parents with young children in tow. SAL will be extended to other checkpoints from end-2023.

13.          From the first quarter of 2024, ICA will progressively replace the manual counters at the passenger halls of all our checkpoints with about 800 new automated lanes under the next generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS). These ABCS lanes will allow Singapore residents and departing visitors to enjoy contactless clearance, i.e. they will not need to present their passport. This will provide travellers with an even smoother and speedier clearance experience, while enabling ICA to cope with rising traveller volumes and limited manpower resources.

14.           Our NCC plan includes security enhancements to immigration clearance. We will conduct pre-arrival risk assessment of travellers, based on advance information provided by the airlines. Travellers who pose possible security or immigration risk will be flagged during automated clearance, and ICA officers will step in to conduct further assessment as needed.

NCC (Conveyance) Clearance

15.          ICA has also been exploring with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) on the automation of immigration clearance for those travelling by car. Border agencies around the world have difficulties automating this process as it requires the clearance of multiple travellers in the car. We started live trials in 2022 of the Automated Passenger In-Car Clearance System (APICS). When fully implemented, car travellers will be able to perform self-clearance in the comfort of their vehicle, with minimum intervention by officers.

16.          During the APICS trial at Old Woodlands Checkpoint, about 94 per cent of travellers were able to self-clear without officers’ assistance. The majority found the process to be intuitive, and faster compared to manual clearance. ICA will be working with HTX to further improve the concept of operations, before rolling out APICS in phases at all the land checkpoints:

  •           Phase 1: In early 2024, ICA will introduce QR code scanning in lieu of passport scanning for immigration clearance at manual car counters. Before starting their journey, travellers create a profile and generate an individual or group QR code via the MyICA mobile app, using details retrieved from their Singpass or the machine-readable zone of their passport. On arrival at the checkpoint, they self-scan the QR code at the car counter, and do not need to present their passports to the immigration officer. The officer then conducts facial image checks of the travellers, using the data retrieved through the QR code. This will allow group clearances to be completed much more quickly, and reduce the overall time taken to clear immigration. Furthermore, the created profile can be saved for future trips; the travellers need not key in the details again. Family members travelling together, for example, will not need to re-generate the information for subsequent trips, unless there are updates to their passport details.
  •           Phase 2: From 2026 onwards, APICS lanes will be introduced at Tuas Checkpoint. Travellers will self-scan the QR code generated from the MyICA mobile app, and present their biometrics for identity verification, via APICS’ contactless biometric scanners. This will remove the need to station an officer at every car lane, allowing us to open more lanes.  
  •           Phase 3: From 2028 onwards, we will introduce APICS lanes at the redeveloped Woodlands Checkpoint.

    NCC (Cargo) Clearance

17.          In 2022, ICA cleared over 9.7 million containers, consignments and parcels. The volume of cargo cleared through our checkpoints is expected to grow further with new infrastructure developments such as Tuas Port and Changi East Industrial Zone. To manage the increasing volumes, ICA has been transforming our cargo clearance process under the NCC (Cargo), to provide a more seamless and efficient cargo clearance experience for our industry partners (i.e. importers and transport companies), through greater use of automation and paperless clearance.

18.          In January 2023, ICA introduced paperless clearance of conventional cargo at Air Cargo and Ports checkpoints, following successful trials in 2021 and 2022. With this initiative, drivers and freight forwarders only need to submit their vehicle licence plate number and Cargo Clearance Permits (CCPs) via the SGAC Cargo Module on ICA’s website, or the MyICA mobile app, before seeking cargo clearance at the checkpoint. ICA officers at the checkpoint will retrieve the relevant information from our system based on the licence plate number of the vehicle which presents itself, and no longer need to manually process the hardcopy CCP. This reduces the clearance time for each vehicle, thus bringing greater efficiency to our cargo supply chain, and time and cost savings for logistics and transport companies. This initiative was extended to the land checkpoints in March 2023.

19.          However, while we have automated the cargo clearance process, the officers are still required to manually analyse radiographic images of every cargo that passes through our checkpoints. To address this, we are trialling the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to detect anomalies in the scanned images of cargo, parcels, and baggage. This will strengthen our ability to detect potential threats in the items, and stop their entry into Singapore. 

Services Centre Next Generation (SCNG)

20.          ICA’s vision for SCNG is to provide a ‘No Fuss; No Visit; No Waiting’ experience for our customers through greater use of digital, robotic, biometric and automation technologies. To this end, ICA has been working with HTX to transform our systems and processes, and to adopt new operating models.

21.          As at end 2022, all of ICA’s core application services such as birth and death registration and passport renewal can be made online. We have also digitised ICA-issued documents: birth and death certificates in May 2022, and long-term passes for non-citizens in February 2023. We will progressively reduce the issuance of physical documents and members of the public can look forward to using MyDocuments (a platform offered on the MyICA mobile app), MyICA e-service on the ICA website, or FileSG by GovTech, to retrieve their digital documents at their convenience.[3]

22.          Our new ICA Services Centre (ISC), which will be located next to the existing ICA Building, is expected to be operationalised in 2024. The ISC will see the re-organisation of ICA’s current three Services Centres into one integrated Services Centre, to provide a seamless, one-stop service for customers. Customers will be served at a single touchpoint even if they require access to different ICA services.  This will be unlike the situation today, where they may have to queue up at different Service Centres for the different services they require. 

23.          At the ISC, we will introduce the Integrated Smart Document Management System (iSMART) for customers to self-collect their IC and passport. iSMART is an end-to-end solution that sorts, tracks, stores and conveys documents, on demand, for issuance to customers through a hybrid of technologies including biometrics and robotics.

Upskilling and Expanding the Roles of ICA Officers

24.          As ICA transforms its operations, our officers will perform more complex and non-routine tasks, and will need to develop deeper expertise in domain areas and broader cross-cutting skills. They will be trained to take on more diverse and higher-value roles to safeguard Singapore’s borders.

25.          With automated immigration clearance at the checkpoints, officers will undertake a wider scope of responsibilities as Assessment & Investigation (A&I) officers. They will conduct real-time ground observations and identify suspicious travellers for interviews and checks. Apart from managing clearance operations, ICA officers now have an additional role in border security, having taken over the protective security functions which the Police used to perform at the land checkpoints. To date, more than 300 ICA officers have undergone protective security training, to acquire skills (e.g. tactical movement, interview and search techniques) that will enable them to intervene decisively during a security incident. They are now the first responders to security incidents at the land checkpoints. This has enhanced command and control, and operational coordination, when there are border security incidents.

26.          At the ISC, frontline officers are being trained to perform functions across the entire scope of citizen, permanent resident, and foreign visitor services. They will be equipped with service delivery and service recovery skills to enhance their competencies in delivering a customer-centric service experience. They are also undergoing training to be able to make holistic case assessments, instead of dealing only with selected aspects of the applications as is the situation today.

27.          ICA will press on with our journey to transform border clearance and immigration and registration services, to bring about a fundamental, positive change in how ICA interacts with the public at all our touchpoints.

5 MAY 2023

[1] MyICA mobile app can be downloaded for free from either the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

[2] The eligibility criteria for foreign visitors can be found on  (

[3] MyICA is a personalised portal where customers can access ICA’s e-Services on a secure electronic platform as well as view their current and past transactions with ICA. FileSG is a secure digital document management platform, developed by GovTech, that allows members of the public to easily access and download documents issued by the Government.