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Singapore Launches Lanes for Automated Immigration Clearance

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has developed a new automated lane, the Special Assistance Lane (SAL), which will ease travel for passengers using wheelchairs and family groups of up to four persons (parents with young children).

The move is part of ICA’s New Clearance Concept (NCC), and the SAL has been launched at selected passenger halls in Changi Airport. The SAL is currently available to Singapore residents (Singapore citizens, permanent residents, and long-term pass holders). In March 2023, the initiative will be extended to eligible foreign visitors.

According to a press release, 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. Currently, travellers using wheelchairs and family groups need to proceed to the manual counters for immigration clearance. With the SAL, these passengers can now use automated lanes and perform immigration self-clearance with their primary biometric identifiers (iris and facial). Fingerprints will be used as a secondary biometric identifier. Children below 6 years old will need to be assisted by ICA officers at the SAL.

To use the SAL, travellers will have to select the number of passengers, scan their passports and the entry flapper will open. After this, they will be required to present their biometrics. Upon successful verification, a second flapper will open, and the travellers will be able to exit.

ICA officers will be at hand to assist travellers who require assistance while using the SAL. At present, SALs are available at the Terminal 1 Departure Hall as well as the Terminal 2 Arrival and Departure Halls. ICA will progressively install SALs at the other Changi Airport terminals, as well as the passenger halls at the land and sea checkpoints.

The release said that ICA worked with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) to conduct design-thinking workshops and virtual reality simulations. They also organised physical with persons of reduced mobility to identify potential challenges that such travellers may face when using the SAL. This included the width of the lane as well as the placement and angles of the passport and biometric scanners. Feedback from the sessions was factored into the final design of the SAL to ensure that it is user-friendly and intuitive for travellers.

Trials were conducted with HTX to determine the optimal placement of cameras and biometric scanners in the SAL, to accurately detect the number of travellers as well as ensure that the biometrics of each traveller can be clearly captured. The release has said that ICA will continue to refine the SAL and user experience based on travellers’ feedback.

As more travellers clear through automated lanes, ICA officers can be redeployed to take on enhanced job roles and focus more on border security functions such as profiling, assessment, and investigation work. ICA’s Head of New Clearance Concept Office, Tan Kah Wee, said, “The SAL is a new initiative that allows travellers who require wheelchairs and family groups to also enjoy the smooth and seamless convenience of self-clearance using automated lanes. ICA is now one step closer to realising the NCC, where automated clearance will be the norm.”

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