Automated Border Control System egates at Singapore Changri Airport

Singapore first : All foreigners can use automated lanes at checkpoints from H2, 2024

All foreign visitors to Singapore, regardless of their nationality, may soon clear immigration here at air, land and sea checkpoints using automated lanes from the second half of 2024. Singapore will be the first in the world to implement this system.

With the introduction of the next generation Automated Border Control System (ABCS), Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) aims to allow all foreign visitors, regardless of nationality, to clear immigration using automated lanes without the need for prior registration. The ABCS lanes will progressively replace the existing automated lanes and manual counters at checkpoints. In addition, these new lanes will provide Singapore residents and departing visitors with contactless clearance without having to present their passports.

Singapore Changi airport automated immigration lanes

Today, more than two-thirds of travellers arriving in Singapore via Changi Airport can now clear immigration via the automated lanes, as compared to only one- third pre-pandemic. To cater to the increasing number of travellers, ICA installed more than 160 additional automated lanes in 2023 and will be installing a further 230 lanes in 2024.

Currently, the automated lanes can only be used by Singapore residents and passport holders from 60 jurisdictions.

The automated lanes are part of ICA’s New Clearance Concept to provide seamless immigration clearance for all travellers by using multi-modal biometrics that capture a person’s iris, facial and fingerprint details.

ICA said over 192 million travellers cleared Singapore’s checkpoints in 2023, an increase of 84% totalling 105 million visitors in 2022. Despite this, the experience of the travellers did not suffer and in fact, generally improved including in clearance times, due to the ICA’s ongoing transformation of border clearance through deploying more automated lanes and allowing more visitors to use these lanes.

The total number cleared for 2023 is still slightly lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 217 million travellers cleared in 2019.

However, ICA said the traveller volume at land checkpoints during the school and public holidays periods had exceeded pre-pandemic levels since the reopening of borders in 2022. It said traffic flow through the two land checkpoints saw nearly 13.6 million travellers cleared, averaging about 440,000 travellers daily. There were about 400,000 travellers at the land checkpoints daily during such periods before the pandemic.

Automated immigration clearance is today also possible for travellers in wheelchairs and family groups of up to four persons. In 2023, ICA installed 42 Special Assistance Lanes (SALs) at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 of Changi Airport.  Singapore is the first country in the world to introduce an automated lane that allows multiple travellers to perform self-immigration clearance as a group with the SALs, which were introduced in December 2022.

Safeguarding Singapore’s borders

Some travellers attempt to enter Singapore using an impersonated identity or an identity different from their previous trips to Singapore. This is to evade detection, often because they had previously committed offences in Singapore, and would thus be considered undesirable persons who are not allowed to enter Singapore.

To counter this, ICA has put in place multi-modal biometric clearance systems at the checkpoints to better detect and deny entry to foreigners with multiple identities or impersonated identities. Since July 2020, all automated immigration lanes and manual counters at Singapore’s land, sea and air checkpoints have been equipped with iris and facial scanners. The concurrent use of these two primary biometric identifiers, in addition to fingerprints as a secondary biometric identifier, provides a highly accurate way of authenticating travellers’ identity.

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