Passport-free travel in Singapore is here — but only for certain travelers

Wealth

Singapore made global headlines last year when the government announced that biometric processing will replace travel document verifications at Changi Airport in the first half of 2024.

But the city-state is going “passport-free” in another area: its land border with Malaysia.

From Tuesday, people traveling by car between Singapore and Malaysia can show self-generated QR codes rather than handing over their passports at two checkpoints.

The new rule, which applies to those traveling via the country’s Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, will expedite immigration clearance “without compromising on security,” according to Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority.

Who is eligible

Singapore residents and foreign travelers can generate QR codes via the government’s MyICA mobile app. Group codes for up to 10 people can be generated for passengers traveling in the same car too.

Like before, travelers are then subject to a face-to-face check by immigration officers.

However, the QR-code clearance is not available to two groups of travelers: those entering Singapore for the first time and those using a different passport from previous visits.

The new procedure is expected to reduce immigration processing time by more than 30% — saving around 20 seconds for cars traveling with four passengers and up to one minute for cars with 10 people, according to authorities.

One of world’s busiest border crossings

The checkpoint linking the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru to Woodlands in Singapore is one of the busiest international border crossings in the world.

From March 7 to 10, more than 1.8 million travelers crossed Singapore’s two checkpoints that link the island with Malaysia, according to its Immigration & Checkpoints Authority.

Motorists coming from Malaysia wait to cross the immigration checkpoint to enter Singapore on March 31, 2023.
Roslan Rahman | Afp | Getty Images

On March 8 — the Friday preceding a week-long break for Singapore public schools — a record-breaking 495,000 people crossed the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, exceeding the 485,000 travelers recorded on August 2019, it said.

Singapore plans to roll out the QR code clearance to more travelers crossing checkpoints via other modes of transport at a later date.   

Part of a larger push

The QR clearance program is part of a larger push to modernize border control and security procedures in the city-state to manage higher traveler volume amid the crunch of its aging workforce.

Changi Airport’s “passport-free” immigration clearance, which is based on biometric verification, is undergoing trials, a representative of Changi Airport Group told CNBC Travel.

A launch date for this program has not been released.

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