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Redefining Border Clearance and Service Delivery

            The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) held its annual Workplan Seminar on 17 May 2024 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.

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

3.          This year marks a significant milestone as 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”.

The New Clearance Concept (NCC)  

4.          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 was made possible through the use of biometrics and data, as well as streamlining and digitalising clearance processes. 

5.          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). [1]

NCC (Passenger) Clearance

6.          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.

7.          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.

8.          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%.

9.          To enable the NCC, ICA has progressively replaced current automated lanes and manual counters with the next generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS) at our checkpoints. As of March 2024, about 600 such gates have been installed in Changi Airport, MBCCS and the land checkpoints. By early 2026, 95% of travellers will be able to clear immigration via automated lanes at our checkpoints.[2]

10.          As part of the NCC, 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.

11.          Our 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 17 April 2024. [3]

NCC (Conveyance) Clearance

12.          To cope with rising traveller volume and limited manpower resources, ICA worked with the HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency) to automate immigration clearance of car travellers, with a single-lane live trial conducted in 2022. In this trial, 94% of travellers were able to self-clear without officers’ assistance. With the Automated Passenger Clearance System (APCS), car travellers will be able to perform self-clearance while remaining in their vehicles. 

13.          On 19 March 2024, ICA introduced QR code scanning in lieu of passport scanning for immigration clearance at manual car clearance counters, as a prelude to APCS. Before starting their journey, travellers can create an individual or group QR code via the MyICA mobile application. On arrival at the checkpoint, they can self-scan the QR code at the car counter via contactless scanners without having to present their passports to the immigration officer.

14.          As of 30 April 2024, more than 3.1 million car travellers (about 64% of total car travellers) have used QR codes for immigration clearance when passing through our land checkpoints. The majority of them had generated their individual or group QR code prior to arriving at the checkpoint, which allowed much quicker clearance. 
Members of the public welcomed the initiative and found the process to be faster and more convenient.

15.          APCS lanes will be introduced progressively at the land checkpoints – full automation of car clearance will be achieved at Tuas Checkpoint from 2026, and at the redeveloped Woodlands Checkpoint from 2028. Travellers will continue to use QR codes generated from the MyICA mobile app, and present their biometrics for identity verification, via contactless biometric scanners. This removes the need for ICA officers to man individual car clearance counters, allowing us to open more lanes around the clock.

NCC (Cargo) Clearance

16.          In 2023, ICA cleared over 8.9 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. 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 the greater use of automation and paperless clearance.

17.          In March 2023, ICA implemented the paperless clearance initiative for conventional cargo at the air, land, and sea checkpoints. Under this initiative, drivers/traders only need to submit their vehicle number and Cargo Clearance Permits number via the ICA website or the MyICA mobile application before arriving at the checkpoint. ICA officers can retrieve the information back-end and clear the cargo vehicle, without the need for the driver/trader to produce the hardcopy permits. This enhances efficiency for both ICA and the drivers/traders. The clearance time has been reduced by more than two minutes per vehicle, from an average of seven minutes previously to five minutes, which represents time savings of about 30% per vehicle. As of April 2024, 95% of all the cargo vehicles are now cleared through this paperless clearance initiative across the checkpoints. 

18.          To improve cargo clearance at our air cargo checkpoints, ICA has been trialling remote customs clearance and analysis of cargo images. This allows more lanes to be open, speeding up clearance.

19.          ICA is also trialling the use of 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. 

Services Centre Next Generation (SCNG)

20.          ICA aims to provide fuss-free experience for our customers by re-designing our processes and leveraging digital, robotic, biometric and automation technologies.

21.          ICA has made significant strides in digitalising our services and making them easy to use. Today, close to 95% of ICA’s services have gone digital and 95% of our customers submit their applications through our website or via the MyICA mobile
application. We have 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.[4]

22.          Our new ICA Services Centre (ISC), located next to the existing ICA Building, is expected to operationalise in 2025. It will see ICA’s various services 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.

23.          At the ISC, we 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.

Embracing ICA’s Enhanced Roles

24.          As ICA transforms its operations, our officers’ roles will similarly be enhanced. ICA officers will perform more complex tasks and develop deeper expertise in domain areas such as interview and profiling, and broader cross-cutting skills at the services centre. They will be trained to take on more diverse and higher-value roles to safeguard Singapore’s borders.

25.          To prepare our frontline officers to undertake a wider scope of responsibilities under the NCC, we have rolled out training in profiling, investigative interviews, and NCC-related systems in phases since October 2020. ICA has also incorporated service-related training through role-play exercises and scenarios, to better equip our officers to engage travellers under the NCC. We plan to put 4,000 frontline officers through these trainings by end-2024.

26.          Apart from managing clearance operations, ICA officers are the first responders to security incidents at the land and sea checkpoints, having taken over the protective security functions from the Police. This has enhanced command and control, and operational coordination, when there are border security incidents.

27.          At the ISC, officers are being trained to provide an entire scope of citizen, permanent resident, and foreign visitor services, instead of handling only a single product.  This also enables case officers to make holistic assessments and decisions on applications received.

28.          Our commitment to deliver better customer experiences through game-changing initiatives is validated by our customers. In ICA’s Customer Perception Survey 2023, 99.5% of respondents believed that ICA secures our borders and enforces laws and regulations relating to immigration and registration effectively. ICA also achieved a satisfaction rating of 85% and above, exceeding the national average Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) 2022 score of 74.6%. 

29.           As we realise our transformation plans from 2024, ICA will continue to adapt and improve on our plans to make Singapore a safer home and enable us to stay connected to the world.

17 MAY 2024

[1] All foreign visitors arriving in Singapore will receive an e-Pass via email. It contains details of the visit pass granted, including the maximum number of day(s) of stay and the last day of stay allowed in Singapore. Under the ACI, eligible foreign visitors, from 60 jurisdictions, including those visiting Singapore for the first time, can use automated lanes for immigration clearance without the need for prior enrolment. 

[2] The remaining 5% comprise those who are not eligible for the use of automated lanes for immigration clearance, such as children below the age of six. 

[3] The award looks at various aspects such as immigration and border control services, waiting times, priority lanes, efficiency, and courtesy of immigration staff.

[4] 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.