Faster clearance at US airports for Singaporeans

Under the US-Singapore Trusted Traveller Programme, eligible Singapore and American citizens can use automated kiosks to clear immigration more swiftly at major checkpoints in both countries.
Under the US-Singapore Trusted Traveller Programme, eligible Singapore and American citizens can use automated kiosks to clear immigration more swiftly at major checkpoints in both countries.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Those eligible can apply to use automated kiosks to clear Customs more quickly

Eligible Singaporeans can now use automated kiosks at 47 airports in the United States to clear immigration and Customs more quickly, under a bilateral initiative launched yesterday.

Under the United States of America-Singapore Trusted Traveller Programme, eligible US passport- holders can also apply for the use of automated immigration clearance facilities in Singapore.

The scheme brings security benefits, said Mr Clarence Yeo, commissioner, Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

"It enables trusted travellers to self-serve through the automated clearance lanes so that we can focus our resources on travellers whose identities are not as clear," he said.

"The US-Singapore Trusted Traveller Programme is the manifestation of a shared interest to facilitate the movement of people between the two countries without compromising security."

A US Embassy Singapore spokesman said the kiosks can save Singaporean travellers 15 minutes to up to a few hours.

To use the kiosks, where processing takes about a minute, Singaporeans must first apply for the US Global Entry Programme (GEP). Successful applicants can queue in lines that clear more quickly when taking domestic US flights.

They can access such lines when they fly on airlines and at US airports participating in a scheme called TSA PreCheck. In such lines, they do not have to take off their shoes or remove laptops during security screening for departure.

Singaporeans applying for the GEP would submit their fingerprints and photographs, said Mr R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of US Customs and border protection, at the launch. Their identities would be checked against data systems here and the US, he said.

They have to be interviewed by a US Customs and border protection officer before their application can be approved. Such interviews can be done at the US embassy here.

Anyone can apply, but those who have been convicted of any criminal offence or have pending criminal charges may not qualify, according to the US Customs and border protection website.

Successful applicants have to reapply every five years and pay US$100 (S$136) for five years.

Singapore is the seventh country - the second in Asia alongside South Korea - whose citizens can apply for the GEP.

In the fiscal year of 2015, nearly 125,000 Singaporeans visited the US, said Mr Kerlikowske. Nearly 7,000 Singaporeans visited four or more times, he added.

Chief executive at Great American Insurance Company Singapore Chee Keng Koon, 53, who flies to the US once or twice a year for business, welcomed the move.

"That will expedite the queuing and make travel easier," said Mr Chee, who spent an hour waiting to clear immigration when he flew into New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in March.

Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said the shorter time spent queuing means a smaller chance of Singaporean business travellers missing domestic connecting flights.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline 'Faster clearance at US airports for S'poreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe