Press Releases

Amendments to the Immigration Act to Support ICA’s Digitalisation Initiatives and to Enhance Border Security

Published: 02 August 2023

1. The Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2023 (“the Bill”) was introduced for first reading in Parliament today. 

2. The Bill proposes amendments to the Immigration Act (“IA”) to better enable the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (“ICA”) to: 

(a) Digitalise and automate immigration processes; 

(b) More effectively respond to new and evolving challenges such as pandemics; 

(c) Strengthen border controls against undesirable persons; and 

(d) Allow more efficient administration of immigration passes and permits issued to foreigners and Permanent Residents (“PRs”). 

Key Amendments

Digitalising and Automating Processes

3. The Bill will introduce provisions to support ICA’s New Clearance Concept (“NCC”) (refer to Annex A) where automated clearance will be the norm. ICA will progressively introduce NCC to the various checkpoints to provide an even more seamless, secure, and efficient immigration clearance experience for all travellers, from 2024 onwards. 

4. To enhance the traveller experience at Changi Airport, a new end-to-end biometric-enabled departure journey will be introduced. Today, a departing passenger has to produce his passport and boarding pass at various touchpoints: during bag-drop, immigration clearance, and boarding. The new departure journey will leverage biometrics for secured identification and a seamless travel experience. The passenger’s digital identity and flight information will be processed backend to produce a unique token. The information is then retrieved using his biometrics to verify his identity and travel details at various automated touchpoints, from bag-drop, to immigration, and boarding. To facilitate this initiative, the Bill empowers the Minister for Home Affairs to authorise the disclosure of passenger/crew information to the airport operator for specific uses. This data will be retained for a short time and purged thereafter, and with appropriate safeguards in place to ensure data security. 

5. The Bill will allow for use of digital versions of permits and passes to verify immigration status. (Previously, the law only allowed physical copies to be used.) This supports the National Digital Identity initiative and the move for all government processes to accept digital passes issued by the Government for identity verification.

Future-proofing Against New and Evolving Challenges

6. The Bill introduces provisions to enhance ICA’s ability to manage potential safety and security threats and situations such as pandemics. ICA’s powers to obtain information on travellers upstream, screen and assess travellers prior to arrival, and prohibit travellers from arriving in or transiting through Singapore, will be enhanced.  

7. The Bill will provide ICA the powers to (i) collect advance passenger/crew information across all modes of entry; and (ii) require all travellers to furnish particulars about themselves upon arrival if the need arises. The Bill will also clarify that it is an offence to give false or misleading information to ICA even when the information was given when the person was outside Singapore. 

8. To complement pre-arrival screening, the Bill will empower ICA to issue No-Boarding Directives (“NBDs”) to direct transport operators to deny the boarding of undesirable individuals, particularly those who pose a threat to our safety and security. This prevents them from travelling to Singapore in the first place, instead of only being turned back at our checkpoints on arrival. The Bill also introduces penalties against transport operators who fail to submit accurate, complete, and timely advance passenger/crew information, or comply with an NBD.

9. Currently, the IA allows the Minister for Home Affairs to prohibit the entry of foreigners on security grounds, but it is not explicit that such powers can be applied on public health grounds. The Bill will allow the Minister to prohibit the entry or transit by foreigners on public security or public health grounds, without having to cancel their PR status or immigration pass.

Strengthening Border Controls

10. Currently, ICA officers only have powers of arrest for persons involved in immigration offences, or non-immigration offences committed within or in the vicinity of an authorised area (e.g., a checkpoint); and powers of detention for vehicles involved in immigration offences. When a person or vehicle involved in a non-immigration offence outside an authorised area is detected at the checkpoints, ICA relies on police officers to carry out arrests/detention. The Bill provides ICA officers the powers to detain persons or vehicles involved in non-immigration offences, no matter where they took place, pending the arrival of the respective law enforcement agency (or their appointed auxiliary police officers). These powers for ICA are particularly relevant at the land checkpoints, as ICA has taken over protective security functions there from the Singapore Police Force since January 2023.

11. The Bill also empowers the Minister to make regulations for custodial management measures at immigration depots, where persons detained by ICA are held.  

Administration of Immigration Passes and Permits 

12. The Bill seeks to enhance the administration of immigration passes and permits for foreigners and PRs.  

13. First, the Bill seeks to make clear when a PR is deemed to have lost PR status if he is overseas without a valid Re-Entry Permit (“REP”). PRs hold two permits: (i) the Entry Permit which is issued when PR status is first granted to enter or remain in Singapore; and (ii) the REP which is issued for a fixed validity period and allows a PR to re-enter Singapore during that period. 

14. A PR who is overseas without a valid REP would be deemed as having lost his PR status. Currently, the IA provides a PR with a grace period of one month after the REP has expired to apply for reinstatement of his PR status. Notwithstanding, ICA has been exercising flexibility and allowing some of those who miss this deadline to have their PR status reinstated if they have legitimate reasons (e.g., overseas hospitalisation). However, this means that the PR had effectively lost his PR status during the period between the REP expiry and PR reinstatement. 

15. The Bill seeks to amend the IA as follows:

(a) If a PR is outside Singapore without a valid REP, he is given a prescribed period to apply for an REP before PR status is lost (as opposed to the current practice in which PR status is lost at the point at which a PR is overseas without a valid REP). MHA intends to set this period at six months, in subsidiary legislation. This is intended to give PRs sufficient time to remedy the situation. 

(b) If said PR applies for an REP before the end of the prescribed period, and is successful, he remains a PR. 

(c) If he fails to apply for an REP before the end of the prescribed period, or has applied for an REP but is unsuccessful, his Entry Permit will be cancelled, and PR status lost.

(d) If a person who has lost PR status wishes to be a PR again, he will need to make a fresh application for PR. 

16. We encourage all PRs to apply to renew their REP in a timely manner, before it expires. [1]

17. Second, the Bill will remove the right to make statutory appeals to the Minister for decisions made by ICA on the grant and revocation of PR status and the variation of conditions attached to PRs’ permits. This will align the treatment of such PR-related decisions with decisions on other immigration passes (e.g., Long-Term Visit Passes) and citizenship, for which there is no statutory right of appeal. Foreigners have no right to demand to enter or stay in Singapore; this must be the prerogative of the Government.  

18. Even with the removal of statutory appeal, PR applicants and PRs may continue to seek ICA’s reconsideration of its decisions, particularly if there are new facts that were not previously submitted to ICA. 

19. Third, the Bill will simplify the process for imposing or varying conditions on permits, by allowing ICA to simply notify permit holders of the change. This is in contrast to the current process where ICA must first allow representations by permit holders before the changes are introduced. Similar provisions for imposing or varying conditions on passes will also be introduced. 

20. The aim of imposing such conditions is to ensure that PRs and pass holders comply with our laws and do not engage in undesirable behaviour. Where such conditions are breached, permits or passes can be cancelled.


21. This Bill seeks to ensure that ICA has the legal powers to implement new border security measures and streamline administration of immigration facilities, so that it can continue to keep our borders safe and secure. 

[1] Note that PRs are not automatically entitled to REP renewal.  Each REP application is reviewed holistically, taking into account factors such as the PR’s residency in Singapore, contributions to Singapore, family ties, and conduct.


1. Annex A – New Clearance Concept (NCC)