SINGAPORE - Thousands of Singaporeans rushed to renew their passports on Friday (Oct 1), the first day when passports can be renewed for 10 years instead of the current five.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) received some 2,500 passport applications on its online portal on Friday, it said in response to queries from The Straits Times.
This figure is more than four times the average number of passports issued daily since January by the ICA.
Nearly 60 per cent fewer people had applied for passports in the past year amid a drop in international trips as many countries implemented travel restrictions amid Covid-19.
This year, 137,000 passports were issued between January and August, compared to 231,000 issued in the same period in 2020, said ICA.
The surge in applications suggests a renewed interest in international travel, said travel agencies, which added that they had received more enquiries about trips to destinations like the United States, Europe and Australia for the end of the year.
More people have been asking about holidays since the announcement of the Vaccinated Travel Lanes, said Mr Jeremiah Wong, senior marketing communications manager at Chan Brothers Travel.
Quarantine-free travel lanes for vaccinated passengers going to and coming from Germany and Brunei were opened on Sept 8.
Vaccinated travellers under the scheme will take up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests in lieu of quarantine, and have to follow other conditions like taking designated travel lane flights to Singapore.
Klook general manager Sarah Wan said Singaporeans may feel more inclined to travel than before now that more countries are on track to reopening their borders.
She added that hopeful travellers may feel more confident to head overseas as they get used to living in an endemic environment, coupled with the higher vaccination rates.
"The end-of-year period is typically a popular travelling season," said Ms Wan. "The impulse to travel is high and many might crave more joyful experiences to quell the pandemic fatigue."
Digital marketer Zaki Jufri, 41, who intends to visit Germany with his wife, said he plans to renew his passport quickly before it expires in November.
Before the travel lane to Germany was announced, he saw no rush to renew his passport and was even willing to let it run past its expiry date.
He said: "Germany is definitely number one on my travel list because of the Vaccinated Travel Lane, and it's quite hassle-free if certain conditions are met. And we have friends in Berlin whom we have not seen for a while."
Ms Sumathi Rajandran, 32, said the 10-year validity makes it more convenient for Singaporeans and helps to reduce expenses.
The teacher will be renewing her six-year-old son's passport soon, ahead of a cruise trip in December.
For citizens below the age of 16, the passport validity period will remain at five years as children's facial features change as they grow and the photograph on their passport needs to be updated more frequently.
The fee for all passport applications remains unchanged at $70.
The ICA said the Singapore passport is not a mandatory identity document and there is no penalty for not renewing passports that have expired. Citizens need not renew their passports if they do not plan to travel.
Those who do may apply online at this website.
Since Oct 1, Singapore residents who choose to collect their passport or identity card at the 27 designated post offices will not need to pay an additional collection fee.
The ICA will bear the cost to encourage more people to collect their documents from the post offices.