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Changi Airport launches automated immigration clearance for all travellers

Changi Airport launches automated immigration clearance for all travellers
A Japanese traveller using the new Automated Border Control System at Changi Airport Terminal 3.
PHOTO: AsiaOne/Claudia Tan

When businessman Atul Sethi landed at Changi Airport after his flight from New York on Thursday (May 16), the Indian national was pleasantly surprised that it took him less than a minute to clear immigration. 

All thanks to the new Automated Border Control System (ABCS), which was launched at Changi Airport in early May. 

Under the new system, all incoming travellers, regardless of nationality, can now use automated clearance lanes, where they insert their passports into a machine for scanning and undergo a biometric scan. 

Previously, the lanes could only be used by Singapore residents and passport holders from 60 jurisdictions.

Sethi, 46, who arrived at Terminal 3 and was laying over in Singapore, told reporters: "It is delightful, coming to Singapore and using the new facilities. After staying in the US immigration line for an hour, it was a pleasure to [clear immigration so quickly here]."

The ABCS, which has been progressively installed, will replace the current automated lanes and manual counters. 

The new lanes are expected to reduce immigration clearance time at the passenger halls by about 40 per cent. 

Cleared immigration in seconds

AsiaOne observed that a passenger takes about 30 to 60 seconds on average to pass the gantry. 

It took only 20 seconds for Greek national Natalie. 

"It's really so much easier, compared to other countries," the 32-year-old told AsiaOne. "I was in Athens and waited about 20 minutes. There was a huge line, so it's good there are many lanes here." 

There are currently 36 automated lanes at Terminal 3, with dedicated lanes for Singaporeans and foreign visitors. 

As of March, about 600 such gates have been installed at Changi Airport, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and the two land checkpoints, said the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in a press release on Friday. 

Singapore is among the first in the world to allow foreign travellers to use automated immigration clearance, ICA added. 

The ABCS is part of ICA's new clearance concept, which aims to streamline border clearance through the use of biometrics and data. 

ICA expects 95 per cent of travellers to be able to clear immigration via automated lanes by 2026. 

The other five per cent are usually young children whose biometrics cannot be detected by the machines. In these cases, special assistance lanes are available. 

ICA is also using pre-arrival data to assess travellers' risk profiles before their arrival. Those who have been flagged for security or immigration risks will then undergo further assessment by ICA officers. 

Automated car clearance at land checkpoints

Besides faster clearance at Changi Airport, ICA also plans to roll out an Automated Passenger Clearance System (APCS) at the land checkpoints. 

It will be implemented at Tuas Checkpoint from 2026, and at the redeveloped Woodlands Checkpoint in 2028. 

"This removes the need for ICA officers to man individual car clearance counters, allowing us to open more lanes around the clock," said ICA. 

This supplements the QR code clearance system launched in March this year, which allows travellers to generate an individual or group QR code via the MyICA mobile app.

They then scan the code at the car counters without having to present their passports to the immigration officer. 

ALSO READ: Travelling by car? You can use QR codes to clear immigration from March 19

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