On Assignment
Ever Vigilant: On the Ground at Woodlands Checkpoint
On duty at one of the world’s busiest land checkpoints.

UPDATE (24 JANUARY 2020): This article has been edited to included an advisory issued on 24 January 2020 regarding temperature screenings at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints. The advisory appears at the end of this article. 

It’s three days before Chinese New Year’s Eve and Woodlands Checkpoint is abuzz with activity. As waves of travellers arrive by bus, car, motorcycle and train, a dedicated team of Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers is working hard to ensure that immigration checks and clearances are both secure and efficient.  

Home Team News ICA CNY 9
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

About 415,000 travellers pass through Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints daily, with the number increasing during festive periods and on long weekends. “There’s a gradual build-up of travellers two weeks before Chinese New Year as some companies may give their staff an early break,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Tng Ban Chuan, Deputy Commander Ground Operations at Woodlands Checkpoint. “We also anticipate travellers going to Johor Bahru to buy festive goodies, and Malaysians returning home for the holidays. This leads to a steep increase in traveller volume.”

Home Team News ICA CNY 3
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

During the 2019 year-end festive period, ICA officers cleared 475,000 travellers daily at the land checkpoints – a 14% increase, the highest in recent years. To enhance clearance capacity, ICA monitors the queue situation closely on a real-time basis and adopts a multi-pronged approach to facilitate immigration clearance without compromising on security.

Home Team News ICA CNY 1B
PHOTO: Tiffany Tan

“While we have designated lanes and counters to clear cars, motorcycles and lorries, we can be flexible in the use of these lands according to the traffic situation,” explained DAC Tng. “If we see more cars arriving at the Checkpoint, we’ll divert them to Old Woodlands Checkpoint and the Cargo Clearance Centre for clearance. Likewise, if we see more motorcycles during the departure peak period, we’ll divert them to the car counters. This enables us to increase our clearance throughput in a responsive manner.” 

Home Team News ICA CNY 12
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Similarly, the number of officers on duty also increases during periods of heightened traveller volume. According to Sergeant (SGT) 2 Lee Jia Yang, a Primary Screening Officer at Woodlands Checkpoint, what sees the team through challenging moments is the camaraderie they share. 

“It can be tiring, but then I look around and see my fellow officers and team-mates giving their best,” said SGT2 Lee. “I’m sure they also feel tired, but we work as one team, support one another and push through.”
Home Team News ICA CNY 13C
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

SGT2 Lee will be on duty on Chinese New Year’s Eve, so his family will have their reunion dinner earlier than usual. “I try to strike a balance between work and family,” he said, “and my family knows my responsibilities as an ICA officer.”  

Home Team News ICA CNY 7
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

And here’s a pro-tip – make sure you have the correct travel documents when you travel. In 2019 alone, ICA detected over 700 cases of Singaporeans using wrong passports at the land checkpoints. During this same period, ICA officers detected over 1,665 cases of arriving foreign travellers with expired or invalid travel documents. 

“When this happens, we have to turn travellers back,” explained DAC Tng. “But while their car is at the clearance counter, other cars can't enter until the issue has been resolved. The resources and time taken to resolve such issues could be used to attend to more pressing traffic needs.”
Home Team News ICA CNY 6
PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Thanking DAC Tng and SGT2 Lee for their time, we left them to their duties, secure in the knowledge that our officers on the ground are doing their best to ensure that immigration clearance at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints is secure and efficient.

UPDATE (24 JANUARY 2020): Temperature Screening to be Implemented at the Land Checkpoints
As a response to the current situation involving novel coronavirus pneumonia, temperature screening has been implemented at both Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints from 24 January 2020 onwards. Travellers arriving at the land checkpoints have to undergo temperature screening conducted on-site by healthcare assistants. 

While our ICA officers are working hard to ensure that the immigration clearance process is secure and efficient, the health screenings, coupled with heavy traffic during the festive period, will likely result in delays.

For updates on screenings and immigration-related matters, visit ICA's Facebook page.

For updates on the novel coronavirus pneumonia situation, visit the Ministry of Health website.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 23 January 2020
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