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Long queues for passports at ICA building on first day of new rules restricting walk-ins

Long queues for passports at ICA building on first day of new rules restricting walk-ins

People standing at the entrance of the ICA building, asking officers if they can enter. (Photo: CNA/ Cheryl Lin)

SINGAPORE: There were long queues inside the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building on Monday (Jun 13), the first day of new rules permitting walk-ins from only certain passport applicants. 

Only those who have been notified to collect their passports, submit supporting documents or resubmit their photographs were permitted to enter, following the change in processes announced over the weekend.

The new rules come amid a surge in passport demand that has resulted in snaking queues at the building in recent weeks.

ICA said many individuals previously visited to check on their applications or request that their applications be expedited. This required the authority to deploy additional officers for crowd management and other services.

When CNA visited the ICA building around lunchtime on Monday, there were no lines stretching from the entrance, unlike in the past weeks.

A steady stream of people were seen entering the building, after first being screened by officers who gave them stickers to indicate if they were walk-ins or had appointments.

But there were also several groups of people who remained clustered outside the entrance, speaking to ICA officers to clarify if they could enter.

LONG WAIT TO COLLECT PASSPORT

Though there was not much of a wait to enter the building, applicants said the wait for their passports was a different story.

One walk-in applicant, 28-year-old Muhammad Asyraf, said he had already been waiting for four hours, and was expecting to wait another two hours or so.

“All the seats were taken, everyone was sitting on the floor until the lift lobby and that’s only the second storey," he said of the crowd in the building.

He added that ICA officers had asked some people to head out if their queue number was still far off, so as to alleviate the crowding.

“It’s just exhausting. Singaporeans expect a smooth system, be it at polyclinic or registration, so when it comes to all this, it’s a bit annoying but we have to do it,” he said.

“The post office option is also jammed up. We stay at Jurong and the Jurong one is full every single day, so even if I can collect, it’s already the next few weeks.” 

When CNA spoke to another 42-year-old applicant, she said she had already been waiting for about three hours to collect her passport.

“For the past two hours, only about 100 plus (queue numbers) have moved. I have another 200 plus to wait for, so it is another three or four hours,” said the applicant, who only wanted to be known as Ms Angeline.

She added that she had also tried to book a specific appointment online, but to no avail.

NEW RESTRICTIONS MORE EFFICIENT

But other applicants, such as 34-year-old Mr Chua, said the new arrangement was a vast improvement from before.

“I was here last week ... this is so much better. Last week, the queue was until no end. Even at 2pm or 3pm, you were still queuing (to get in).”

He added that it was less crowded with the new system, with ICA also restricting the number of family members who could enter the building.

On having to endure the long waits, he joked: "When they lifted the restrictions in April, we didn't apply, to save some of the passport duration. So I would say most of these people, including myself, we deserve it.”

Other applicants also had more luck, such as Ms Jovy Goh, 43, and her daughter, who were able to get their passports in half an hour. They had managed to get a last-minute collection appointment at the ICA building.

If not for the appointment, there would have been about 600 people ahead of her, she said.

SEEKING HELP FOR OTHER SERVICES

Despite the new system, others still turned up seeking help for other issues.

This included Mr Kevin Ong, 56, who wanted to request that his passport renewal application be expedited.

When he turned up, he was asked to scan a QR code to submit a form - but said he had not been able to find this information when he first applied for the renewal.

“So why don't you put it during your passport application, knowing that a lot of people are trying to get their passports early? Just have that link.”

Another applicant, a 72-year-old who only wanted to be known as Ms Audrey, came to seek help with renewing her passport.

“It’s crowd control, it can’t be helped," she said of the entry restrictions. But she added that ICA officers on the group had been helpful with her queries.

In the meantime, ICA has reminded applicants that they can check their passport application status online

Those with other passport-related enquiries can also check the ICA website or contact the authority through the website's live chat function. 

"Those who are unable to perform the above themselves and do not have proxies to assist them, may visit ICA building for assistance on submitting their passport-related appeals online," said the authority. 

Applicants who need to travel urgently can submit an appeal online to expedite the processing of their passport.

Source: CNA/cl(zl)
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