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Singapore Budget 2014: ICA to study viability of further re-registration of NRICs

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will study the viability of letting Singapore residents re-register for their identity cards a second time when they are older, so that the information on their NRICs will remain up-to-date.

This is especially relevant as life expectancy increases, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli during the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry.

Mr Masagos was responding to a suggestion by Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) for the Government to require NRIC replacements every 20 years. Currently, Singapore residents have to register for their NRIC at 15, and re-register with an updated photograph when they turn 30.

Mr Baey said mandatory replacements of NRICs at 50 and 70 would help capture the "visible changes" to facial features as people age.

"It is not possible that a person looks the same at ages 30 and 80," he said.

He also contrasted the current practice for NRICs with passports, which remain valid for just five years. "For security reasons, ICs, like passports, should be updated more frequently," said Mr Baey.

The backbencher also noted that most people just rely on the NRIC photo to verify the identity of someone starting a new mobile phone subscription or borrowing money, for instance.

He cited cases of people who lose their cards and fall prey to loanshark harrassment or strange bills because their NRICs were used illegally by others.

"Who am I to challenge someone who insists that he is the person in the IC photo, just that he has put on weight, lost weight, or the photo was taken on a bad hair day?" asked Mr Baey.

And with plastic surgery becoming more common, there will also be greater facial feature changes in more people, said Mr Baey. He emphasised the importance of citizens and permanent residents updating ICA on such changes so that facial identification stays effective.

Mr Baey said the identity card should also be replaced regularly as it can be subject to wear and tear, particularly if card holders work in jobs like delivery and dispatch that require them to present their ICs frequently.

Some may find it difficult to afford the $60 fee for replacing their card, he said.

Responding, Mr Masagos said that since the current type of NRIC was introduced in 1991, the vast majority of cards have remained in good condition after more than 20 years of use. However, ICA will consider waiving NRIC replacement fees for those who face financial difficulties or whose cards were damaged due to situations beyond their control, such as accidents or fires.