Parliament: Iris imaging technology to be rolled out under changes to national registration law

A view of the immigration clearance counters at Changi Airport.
A view of the immigration clearance counters at Changi Airport. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) plans to start collecting iris images from Singaporeans and permanent residents from next year, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee on Thursday (Nov 10).

This means local travellers will soon be able to use their irises to verify their identity at checkpoints here.

Such technology has been used in countries like the Netherlands and Germany since the early 2000s, said Mr Lee, speaking about amendments to the National Registration Act which Parliament later passed today.

Iris images are more permanent than fingerprints because fingerprints can wear out over time, for example, if someone does a lot of manual work, he said. ICA has received feedback from travellers who found it difficult to use automatic checkpoints because of their fingerprints and had to move to the manual checkpoints, which was a source of frustration to them and those queuing up behind them at the automatic lanes.

The new iris technology provides an additional avenue for persons to verify their identity. "The end result is more efficient and effective immigration clearance," he said.

The changes to the Act allow ICA to collect more forms of personal identification data besides photographs and fingerprints, but not body samples through invasive means, such as blood samples.Iris images will be collected when people register or re-register an identity card or renew their passport.

The changes also set limits on the types of names that people can register with the ICA. Names deemed to be offensive - such as one containing an obscenity; confusing - such as "Professor" or "Sir"; or too long - exceeding 66 characters - can be refused.

ICA officers will also have the powers to investigate offences under the Act, such as when people use forged identity cards. Such cases were previously handled by the police.