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Singapore plans expansion of biometric airport lanes to more travelers, airports

Singapore plans expansion of biometric airport lanes to more travelers, airports
 

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has announced that all foreign visitors arriving at Changi Airport in Singapore can now use automated lanes for biometric immigration clearance, regardless of their nationality or passport. The announcement about the new clearance concept was made during ICA’s annual workplan seminar, which featured associate professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, minister of state for the ministry of home affairs and ministry of national development, as the guest of honor.

Immigration clearance primarily relies on iris and face biometrics for identification. If travelers are unsuccessful with these scans, fingerprints will be used as a secondary biometric identifier, according to the document. The new clearance concept represents a shift from traditional manual processing at counters to automated lanes for passengers, conveyances, and cargo.

Starting May 2024, all foreign visitors arriving at Changi airport can use automated lanes supplied by Idemia for immigration clearance without prior enrollment. By the end of 2024, this automated and contactless clearance will extend to all arriving Singapore residents and all departing travelers at Changi airport, Seletar airport, and Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore. The ICA expects this initiative to reduce immigration clearance time by approximately 40 percent.

To support the NCC, the ICA has replaced existing automated lanes and manual counters with the next-generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS). As of March 2024, around 600 ABCS gates have been installed at Changi airport, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, and land checkpoints, the latter also in collaboration with Idemia. By early 2026, 95 percent of travelers are expected to clear immigration through these automated lanes.

The ICA says it has also improved its pre-arrival risk assessment capabilities. Using pre-arrival data, the ICA now assesses travelers’ risk profiles before they arrive, ensuring that those flagged for security or immigration risks undergo further evaluation.

In addition to passenger clearance, the ICA has worked with the home team science and technology agency to automate the immigration clearance process for car travelers. Trials conducted in 2022 showed a 94 percent success rate for self-clearance. In March 2024, the ICA introduced QR code scanning for immigration clearance at manual car counters, further expediting the process. Full automation at Tuas checkpoint is expected by 2026, and at the redeveloped Woodlands checkpoint by 2028.

The NCC for cargo clearance has also been enhanced, with paperless clearance initiatives in a bid to reduce processing times by 30 percent. Trials of remote customs clearance and AI-driven anomaly detection are underway to further improve efficiency and security, according to the document.

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