Self-service facility for passport collection needs improvement

I was very impressed with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) efficiency five years ago when I collected my passport within 15 minutes of my appointment time.

I had expected that the ICA would face a labour shortage issue moving forward as many people are needed to serve the dozens of busy counters there.

And so, I was glad to see the new iCollect option when it was time to renew my passport again this year.

This facility allowed me to pick a 15-minute time slot to collect my passport from a machine. I thought I could get my passport even faster this way, but I was proven wrong.

My appointment to collect my new passport was scheduled between 8.30am and 8.45am.

When I arrived at 8.30am, there was a queue of about six people at the machine. By the time it was my turn, it was already 8.44am, which almost overshot my time slot.

Why did ICA schedule so many people for that time slot?

When it was finally my turn at the machine, I found that the steps were not very intuitive and that there were no ICA staff there to assist users.

After spending about 10 minutes, I finally managed to complete all the steps. But the machine failed to retrieve my new passport and a slip of paper came out, instructing me to go to the second floor for assistance.

On the second floor, I had to queue for half an hour to get the inquiry counter staff to call someone for help. Then I was asked to wait at another counter for my name to be called.

Even after 45 minutes, no one called my name, and I was already very late for work. I had to make a scene by raising my voice before someone finally attended to my case. I was then made to go through all the steps that I had already completed at the machine one more time.

I spent more than 11/2 hours at ICA that day to collect my passport.

That night, I wrote an e-mail to ICA offering the following suggestions:

 • It should have a contingency plan in the event that the machine fails.

 • There should be auto-notifications sent to related staff whenever there is a failure.

 • The slip of paper telling users of the machine's failure should contain instructions on who to look for, and not require users to join the long queue at the inquiry counter.

 • There should be a specific counter to deal with such failure cases immediately.

I was disappointed to receive only a generic apology e-mail from ICA with no mention of any plans to improve.

Pak Tung Sing

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2018, with the headline 'Self-service facility for passport collection needs improvement'. Subscribe