SINGAPORE: The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will have a new integrated services centre by 2023, where visitors can collect important documents round the clock.
The new 10-storey building will be built on an open-air car park next to ICA’s existing premises along Kallang Road, which will be upgraded when the new building is ready.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam announced the changes during ICA’s annual workplan seminar on Friday (May 10).
ICA said the new “one-stop” service centre aims to meet growing demand and manage crowds. It will also be more convenient for customers.
They will be able to collect different documents from a single place, at any time, thanks to high-tech self-service kiosks on a dedicated floor.
A new system, iSMART, will store the documents safely and send them to the kiosks using robotics. Visitors can retrieve their identity cards or passports within two minutes after their identities are verified and the entire process can be completed in 15 minutes.
ICA said this would be faster than the current process, where visitors are required to make appointments to collect their documents.
The new centre is also designed to be barrier-free for the elderly and people with disabilities and staff members will be on hand to guide them.
The ICA building, now more than 20 years old, is not the only thing set to change.
From 2022, Singapore’s checkpoints will roll out the New Clearance Concept, which is meant to make immigration crossings quicker and easier.
One of the initiatives under this concept is “breeze-through” clearance for Singaporeans. Biometric technology will help identify travellers using facial or iris biometrics, which means they will no longer have to produce their passports at immigration gates. This initiative is currently on trial at Tuas Checkpoint.
Meanwhile, foreigners visiting Singapore will receive the Electronic Visit Pass. This means they will no longer need their passports stamped, and instead receive an e-mail or SMS telling them how long they are allowed to stay in Singapore.
In a bid to speed up the process even more and go paperless, ICA will also introduce electronic arrival cards.
Mr Shanmugam said all the changes are being made as demand grows for ICA. Citing figures from the last 10 years, he said traveller volumes through Singapore checkpoints increased by 42 per cent, from 149 million people in 2008, to 212 million in 2018.
Cargo volumes have gone up by 25 per cent over the same period.
The changes also come amid what Mr Shanmugam called “mega infrastructural growth”. He cited “significant investments” such as Changi Airport Terminal 5, Tuas Megaport and Woodlands Checkpoint – projects that will be completed between the late 2020s and 2040.
“You have these new projects, significant investments – a strong statement of confidence in Singapore’s future,” Mr Shanmugam said. “It will be a tremendous boost to our economy and will strengthen our status as one of the world’s most important and connected crossroads. But it means increased challenges for ICA."
Mr Shanmugam said a second key challenge for ICA is a shrinking labour force and ageing population.
“As with every other Home Team Agency, there is going to be transformation – both in terms of technology and operations,” he said.