ICA Workplan Seminar - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 10 May 2019

Commissioner Marvin,


Colleagues from ICA and the Home Team,




  1. A very good morning to all of you.


  2. I want to start by congratulating ICA for your achievements last year.


  3. ICA was named the Digital Transformer of the Year by the International Data Corporation. Why the award? It’s for revolutionising the application and collection processes for passports.


  4. ICA was also conferred in the same year, the Radiant Service Award, at the 5th Border Management and Identity Conference, for excellence in technology innovation, and in implementing the automated clearance counters for motorcycles and for its passport application system.


  5. This shows that others are taking note that we are making significant changes.


    Challenges for ICA


    (A)     Growing demands on ICA


  6. As I said yesterday (at the SCDF Workplan Seminar), and at almost every Home Team Workplan Seminar, the demands continue to grow for ICA. Traveller and cargo volumes will continue to grow. If you look at traveller volumes through our checkpoints, in the past ten years, 2008 to 2018, it increased by 42%, from 149 million people in 2008 to 212 million in 2018. A very significant increase. Cargo volumes went up by 25% over the same period – from 8 million inward containers, consignments and parcels in 2008 to 10 million in 2018.


  7. At the same time, there has also been mega infrastructural growth: Changi Airport Terminal 5, Tuas Megaport and Woodlands Checkpoint. Terminal 5 will be completed by 2030, and that alone will handle up to 50 million passengers annually in its initial phase. And with the increase in Changi Airport’s total capacity by about 60%, to 135 million passengers per year. Tuas Megaport will be completed by 2040. It has the capacity of handling up to 65 million containers per year, which is a 30% increase from today. And we are redeveloping and expanding Woodlands Checkpoint, planning is now underway, and it is expected to be completed by the late 2020s.


  8. So you have these new projects, significant investments – a strong statement of confidence in Singapore’s future. The Government has got a plan to do these things, to keep us competitve - it will be a tremendous boost to our economy, and will strengthen our status as one of the world’s most important and connected crossroads. But it means increased challenges for ICA.


    (B)     Aging and shrinking labour force


  9. The second key challenge – a shrinking labour force and ageing population. Attracting Singaporeans to join ICA, a smaller pool, will always be more difficult. As with every other Home Team agency, there is going to be transformation – both in terms of technology and operations.


    Capability Development for Tomorrow


    (C)    Using technology to transform traveller / customer experience


  10. ICA has been on this path for some time now – a future-ready ICA. The theme of this year’s Workplan Seminar is therefore most appropriate - “Achieving operational excellence today” and “Developing new capabilities for tomorrow”.


  11. ICA has done well in both so far, and I am sure, will continue to do well in both areas.


  12. ICA has been testing and deploying technology to increase efficiency and enhance security at our checkpoints. I think, if you look at one group of changes, particularly at the checkpoints - a key, critical and core role for ICA - the changes have been nothing short of phenomenal, exceptional and I think, world-leading.


  13. Let us look at the people coming through, Singaporeans as well as foreigners.

    Since 2016, three years ago, you come in and you are a foreign visitor, you will enroll your fingerprints and then you will use your automated self-clearance lanes for departure. The results have been positive. At the airport, the proportion of foreign travellers using automated lanes has almost doubled from 37 per cent in 2016 to 68 per cent in 2018. ICA will roll out more automated lanes.


  14. The other development, Multi-Modal Biometrics System (BioScreen-MMBS), will be implemented at all checkpoints this year. What can travellers do? They can use their fingerprints, or iris and facial biometrics, for immigration clearance. Those with poor fingerprints, older Singaporeans, will find it much easier to use the automated self-clearance lanes.


    (D)    New Clearance Concept


  15. Even more exciting is the New Clearance Concept. It is the next leap forward. It gives travellers a seamless and efficient experience. There are a number of initiatives to give you a completely seamless experience – Singaporean or foreigner.


  16. First, is the Electronic Arrival Card, announced in October last year. Foreign travellers who come in will no longer have to stand there and fill up the hard copy form or to fill it in in the plane - no Disembarkation and Embarkation Cards, by 2021. Instead, personal information and travel details can be submitted online or through a mobile application, even before arriving in Singapore.


  17. So what happens when they come in? They will need to produce their passport for immigration clearance. They would have already submitted their Electronic Arrival Card - that will be automatically retrieved based on the passport information. The Electronic Arrival Card will be available in several languages. So that’s one aspect.


  18. Next is the Automated Border Control System or ABCS. Once the ABCS is up, even first time foreign visitors can clear themselves using automated immigration gates on their arrival. Their biometrics will be captured and enrolled as part of the arrival clearance process. So they come in, and if they have submitted their card, they just walk through the automated clearance system. No need to go to a manned counter.


  19. The third initiative - putting Singaporeans at the core of it - is to give them seamless “breeze-through” clearance at our checkpoints. They will be cleared on-the-move, without needing to stop. They will not need to produce their passports. Their identities will be automatically verified through facial and/or iris biometrics, as they walk through the gates.


  20. ICA has commenced a trial for the “breeze-through” clearance concept at Tuas Checkpoint. Just think how revolutionary that is. You go through the entire system, you just walk through, the biometrics are captured, your passport details are in the system, no production of passports, no stopping even at automated lanes, you just walk through. It is completely revolutionary. I hope the trial moves on to succeed. It would be a very big step.


  21. The Electronic Visit Pass is also a new announcement. After the implementation of the Electronic Visit Pass, ICA will no longer have to stamp the passports of foreign visitors. So what will happen? They will receive an email or SMS, which will tell them how long they can stay.


  22. So what this means is that all foreign visitors will soon be able to enjoy automated immigration clearance on arrival and departure, even first-time visitors. And all Singaporeans and long-term pass holders can just walk through, even without having to stop.


  23. It is a powerful transformation, an exciting vision. I assume it is the first in the world -if not, it must be among the first - and it will fundamentally transform the traveller’s experience, and it will also transform the ICA officer’s job very significantly.


    (E)     Next Generation Services Centre


  24. Beyond the checkpoints, ICA will also be transforming, or continue to transform the way it delivers its services.


  25. Last year, it launched MyICA, which is an integrated self-service e-portal, that offers greater convenience through a single sign-on and payment cart. All of ICA’s eServices are available on MyICA. There are 15 of them.


  26. In tandem, ICA is on track to achieving 100% online submission of applications for ICA services. That would be by next year.


  27. ICA will also be converting most of the hard copy documents it issues today into digital documents, including the Entry Permit, as well as the Long-Term Visit Pass and the Student’s Pass card. It will then no longer issue these documents in hard copy.


  28. By 2023, ICA will have a new Integrated Services Centre to complement the revamped eServices. This will be in a new, 10-storey building, adjacent to the existing ICA Building. It will provide a convenient, one-stop service for members of the public. If they want to come in or talk to ICA, I think this new additional space is going to be very helpful.


  29. They will have a 24/7 self-service floor. People can come in; they can apply for ICA services or collect their documents through kiosks which will be self-help. Digital systems with biometrics and automated technologies will help in this. The entire process, from production to delivery of documents, will be fully automated, and it will facilitate on-demand collection of ICA documents, at their own time, at their own speed. Members of the public will be able to collect different documents and conduct multiple transactions through a single service point.


  30. For those who are not so comfortable with technology, ICA will have ambassadors to assist them. They will be walking around. The public will also be able to obtain real-time information on the crowd situation online, so that they can plan their visits to make them more efficient.


    Refreshing the ICA Vision and Mission


  31. What I have said to you - you can see that the transformation has been exciting. The vision for the next few years is also exciting, very promising, to transform travellers’ experiences and the roles and responsibilities of ICA officers.


  32. I think the new Vision, Mission, Crest goes hand in hand with that change.




  33. We commend ICA‘s bold plans to transform operations and rebrand itself.


  34. It can only succeed if it is implemented well. There has got to be robust implementation, and commitment from the officers.I am confident that ICA will get there. The track record is very good - not just for ICA but all the Home Team agencies. At the same time, also for the very important function of keeping our borders secure.


  35. Thank you very much.


Immigration and Checkpoints Security