If you, like me, despise having to fill on those silly arrival cards to gain entry into a country then relief is in sight, at least for foreign visitors to Singapore. The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore is launching a new electronic arrival card for foreign visitors that will eventually replace the paper-based disembarkation/embarkation card that foreign visitors are currently required to submit on arrival.
When you consider just how advanced government IT is in the island state you wonder why this took so long. It is not the first Asian country to streamline entry, but when you consider that it attracted over 17 million visitors last year the new entry process should be well received.
How the electronic arrival card works
Currently, foreign travellers to Singapore have to complete a paper-based disembarkation/embarkation card upon arrival. The card contains information pertinent to the travellers, such as their flight to Singapore, and where they are staying in Singapore. Those details were useful for border control and as part of a suite of safety and security measures. For example, the information provided is critical for contact tracing if a fellow passenger has been diagnosed with a communicable disease.
With the electronic arrival card, travellers can submit their personal information and trip details through the ICA website or via a mobile application before arriving in Singapore. Travellers will then only need to produce their passports for immigration clearance upon arrival. The electronic arrival card which they had filled up in advance, will then be called up by ICA’s immigration system.
The electronic arrival card will be made available in various foreign languages. Foreign visitors travelling with their families or in small groups will have the option of making a one-time group submission. Trip information such as flight details, last port of embarkation, expected date of arrival and departure, as well as address in Singapore will be automatically replicated for all persons in the group. The mobile application will also allow travellers to save the information submitted from previous trips for use for their next trip to Singapore. These traveller-friendly features will make the process of providing the required information much easier and more convenient.
Trial of electronic arrival card
To ensure the smooth implementation of the new electronic arrival card, a trial for foreign visitors to Singapore will be conducted for three months from 4 October 2018. This trial will not affect Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders (e.g. students and workers) who are returning to Singapore, as they do not need to submit any disembarkation/embarkation card.
The trial will be conducted at most of the air, land and sea checkpoints, namely Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, Changi Airport, and the four cruise/ferry terminals (i.e. Singapore Cruise Centre, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Changi Point Ferry Terminal and Changi Ferry Terminal). Foreign visitors who arrive at these checkpoints but have not yet completed the paper-based disembarkation/embarkation card may be approached by ICA officers to participate in the trial, and to provide feedback. ICA will use the feedback to fine-tune the system and processes and achieve a better user experience.
Paperless immigration clearance
The electronic arrival card will enhance operational efficiency and is a significant step towards ICA’s vision of paperless immigration clearance, and save up to 48 million paper-based disembarkation/embarkation cards a year. More details of the implementation of the electronic arrival card will be announced at a later date, after completion of the trial.