About ICA

History of Singapore Immigration

» Immigration in the 1960s
» Our 1970s Achievements
» Evolving into the 1980s
» The Service-oriented 90s
» A Home for the future

Pre-independence Era

Our Fledging Years
The early 1900s saw little, if any, immigration control. Transient workers came and went according to demand for their services.

Singapore immigration history1

  • Passengers Restriction Ordinance, 1919
    Immigration control was first enforced in 1919. The Passengers Restriction Ordinance was introduced on 11 April 1919 to control the arrival of newcomers. Those born in Singapore and Malaya were not affected.
  • The Aliens Ordinance, 1933
    The Immigration Department was established in January 1933 to administer the Aliens Ordinance. A fixed quota for alien immigrations was introduced. The Head Office was located in the Chinese Protectorate Building at Havelock Road. It moved to the Palmer Road Government Officers in January 1953.

A New Era Begins

Singapore immigration history2

  • The Immigration Ordinance (No. 5), 1952
  • Immigration Regulations, 1953
  • Immigration (Prohibition Entry) Order, 1953
  • The Immigration Ordinance, 1959

More comprehensive immigration provisions came in the 1950s, starting with the Ordinance No. 5 of 1952.

The ordinance was amended when Singapore gained internal self-government on 3 June 1959. With the change, only Singapore citizens had the right to enter the country.

New Immigration Depot, Telok Ayer Basin, February 1961
This time also saw immigration developments rapidly taking place. A new depot replaced the godown-like one at East Wharf. And the Head Office moved to Empress Place.

Round-the-clock clearance for shipping vessels.

24-hour immigration clearance was introduced for vessels on 1 June 1961.

Immigration in the 1960s

From British to Malaysian…
Citizens of the State of Singapore became Malaysians and were issued Malaysian passports

Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Immigration became a Federal Department under the control of Immigration Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

…To Singaporean
But Singapore separated from the Federation and became a sovereign state on 9 August 1965. Despite the separation, free travel existed temporarily between Singapore and West Malaysia.

Within a year, two checkpoints were gazetted in anticipation of travel control between Singapore and Malaysia.

  • Railway Station, Keppel Road
  • Customs Checkpoint, Woodlands

Singapore immigration history3 Singapore immigration history4

By 1 August 1966, West Malaysia residents had to produce their identity cards to enter Singapore.

Immigration Control at Causeway (1 July 1967)
Restricted travel documents issued to facilitate travel to West Malaysia:

  • Singapore Restricted Passport
  • Singapore Restricted Certificate of Identity

Passports and travel documents were not required till 1 July 1967 when both Singaporeans and Malaysians had to produce them to enter Singapore.

The Singapore Restricted Passport Centre was set up in South Quay. It moved to Outram Road in 1976 and closed its doors on 31 December 1994.

Our 1970s Achievements

Improving Immigration Security

Singapore immigration history5

We made rapid progress tightening immigration control measures in the late 1970s and early 80s…

Exit Control
Exit Control was implemented at all checkpoints from 1 January 1978.

Data on foreigners' movements within Singapore were processed by the Immigration Data Processing Centre. And a Task Force was set up in 1974 to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants and overstayers.

Evolving into the 1980s

Towards better service

  • Last Port Clearance
    Last Port Clearance was introduced from 1980 to attract more passenger liners to Singapore.
  • Checkpoint Computerisation
Singapore immigration history6
Computers were used to screen travellers at checkpoints for the first time in June 1981.

To better serve Singaporeans living in the East, a passport office was opened at Joo Chiat Complex on 5 November 1984, issuing both international and restricted passports. The office subsequently closed its doors on Sep 99.

The Immigration Head Office moved to Pidemco Centre in June 1986.
  • Our Overseas Attachments
    Immigration officers were seconded to the following places:
  • Singapore High Commission, New Delhi
  • Singapore Consulate, Chennai
  • Singapore Consulate, Mumbai
  • Visa Issuing Office, Calcutta
  • Singapore Consulate-General, Hong Kong
  • Singapore Embassy, Beijing
  • Singapore Consulate, Dhaka
  • Singapore Embassy, Yangon

Singapore immigration history7

By 1987, two consulates and one visa issuing office were set up in India. Visas were also issued at the Singapore High Commission in New Delhi.

We also seconded officers to our Consulate-General in Hong Kong to process permanent residence applications by Hong Kong residents.

The Service-oriented 90s

Think Security, Act Service
Automation became our key service enhancer by the early 1990s.

  • Entry and Exit Control Integrated System (EECI)
    The EECI was an integrated computerised system, used to speed up processing of arriving and departing travellers at all our immigration checkpoints.

  • IMMILINK (1800 3916 400)
    On 30 March 1992, IMMILINK was introduced. The public had 24-hour toll-free access to information.

  • End of 1992
    Travel restrictions to China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and North Korea was lifted.

  • Immigration Auto-Clearance System (IACS)
    The Immigration Automated Clearance System introduced on 15 December 1996, uses smart card technology for faster immigration clearance. Frequent traveller's fingerprint data stored in Checkpoint Access Card (CAC).

    Singapore immigration history8

A Home for the future

SIR Building

Singapore immigration history9 In February 1993, work began on a new 10-storey building at Kallang Road for Singapore Immigration and the National Registration Department.

And in May the same year, checkpoint operations began at Changi Ferry Terminal where ferry services operated between Singapore and Johore.

Service, Service, Service
The focus from 1994 was on service quality. A Training Section to improve staff professionalism was set up, along with our first training newsletter. Staff commitment to quality service was increased through SQ Training and Departmental Awards.

Our New Priorities
As part of our new service focus, we introduced innovations that made passport application and collection more convenient for the public.

To help minimise the number of trips a passport applicant need to make, 3 other modes for passport application in addition to providing counter services were introduced. Passport applicants can submit their applications without coming to our office by sending in the application by post, deposit box or via the Internet. Besides reducing the number of trips the applicant need to come, a $10 rebate is given to encourage citizens use these modes of application. We also ensure that the processing time for the passport is the same regardless of the mode of application. These measures helped us to provide efficient service to our citizens.

And realising that it would be more conveniently for some to collect their passports after office hours, we extended collection times from 3 January 1995.

Extended Passport Collection Hours
Mondays to Fridays - 5 pm to 7 pm
Saturdays - 1 pm to 3 pm

A Friendlier Image

Our Vision
Uncompromising service quality through innovation and technology.

A new SI logo was unveiled by Mr Wong Kan Seng, Minister for Home Affairs, at the new Singapore Immigration Building's Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony on 20 May 1995. By October, our uniforms were revamped to reflect our friendlier image.

We Serve With Pride

In June 1995, after 24 years of service to the public, our West Coast Barter Trade Centre ceased operations.

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal

Singapore immigration history11

Opened on 26 August 1995, the ferry terminal served passengers commuting between Singapore and some Riau islands from 7am to 11pm daily.

Pre-printed Passport Renewal Forms
By November 95, Singaporeans were sent pre-printed international passport renewal forms nine months before their passports expires.

Autonomous Agency
We became an Autonomous Agency in April 1996.

SI Website Image
Our first information-oriented website was launched April 1996.

New checkpoint in Tuas
The foundation stone laying of Tuas checkpoint took place in May 1996.

Postline (738 3352)
The Immigration Postline that accepts call in requests for international passports, employment and dependant's pass forms was started in June 1996.

ISO 9002 Certification for Changi Airport Immigration Clearance
Our Changi Airport Checkpoint received the coveted ISO 9002 Certification for its Immigration arrival clearance in October 1996.

SI as a Learning Organisation - enhancing organisational capabilities to create its own future
We held our first Learning Organisation retreat in November that year. Led by the Controller of Immigration, the workshop reinforced proactive vision among staff.

Telephone Enquiry Pool's Automated Call Distribution System
Callers now put on "queue" so that our team of operators can answer their queries on a "first-come-first-served" basis. Tel: 391 6100.

While automation is a boon for many, some people still prefer human interface. For them, we set up a telephone enquiry pool in October 1993. We further improved on it in March 1997 when we introduced a Call Distribution System.

Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) for Employment Pass Section
Application processes were streamlined through BPR, starting with the Employment Pass Section. After redesigning processes and implementing an electronic workflow system, the processing time was reduced from 8 weeks to only 2 weeks in September 1997.

New Head Office

Singapore immigration history12

During the months of June and July 1997, Singapore Immigration relocated its Head Office operations from Pidemco Centre to a new 10-storey superstructure in Kallang. In Sep 1997, the Immigration Field Division moved into the same premises from East Coast.

Opening of Tuas Checkpoint - the second link to Peninsular Malaysia

Singapore immigration history13

The checkpoint was opened on 2 January 1998. A new mode of operations, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) was introduced. Under the JOC, Home Team agencies work hand in hand with the Customs & Excise Department to provide speedy and smooth clearance for travellers at the checkpoint.

Opening of new Woodlands Checkpoint
The New Woodlands Checkpoint was opened to traffic on 18 Jul 1999 at the stroke of midnight. Built at a cost of more than $400 million and spanning a site equivalent to about 31 football fields, the new Checkpoint will cater to the growing human and vehicular traffic coming in and going out of Singapore through the Causeway while helping the authorities achieve better border security.

The New Woodlands Checkpoint is a cluster of five building blocks and includes an Administration Building, an Arrival Complex and a Departure Complex.

Singapore immigration history14

The better infrastructure will enable SIR to continue to maintain tight border security.

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Last updated on 18 Oct 2012