Passport applicants without appointments turned away as ICA tackles long queues

People queueing outside the ICA building on June 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Queues were visibly shorter compared to the crowds seen last month. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
With the new measures, the staff will now be redeployed to expedite the processing and issuance of passports, the authority said. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
From June 13, only those with appointments or passport collection notifications are allowed to enter the ICA building. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Logistics planner Kevin Ong wanted an update on his passport application when he showed up at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building at around 10am on Monday (June 13).

But the 56-year-old was promptly turned away, under new measures that ICA introduced last Saturday to cut queues at the building in Lavender.

ICA had announced that from June 13, only those with appointments or passport collection notifications are allowed to enter the building. They can check their application status online.

"I was not informed of the new measures. I could not speak to someone inside the building as they were not accepting walk-ins," he said, adding that he took leave from work to be there.

He did not call ahead to check on his application, and although he saw the update from ICA last month that Singaporeans who apply for a new passport will have to wait for at least six weeks, he still turned up.

He also missed news reports on the announcement.

Mr Ong had applied for a new passport a week ago, so he could book his plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur to attend prayers for his late relatives.

He left after an ICA officer showed him a QR code and how to use it to appeal to have his passport renewal application expedited.

When The Straits Times visited the ICA building at 9am, at least 20 out of 150 people were turned away within an hour.

Queues were visibly shorter compared to the crowds seen last month. By 11am, there was no queue to get in.

ICA said last Saturday that crowds formed when many applicants visited to check on their passport applications or to ask for them to be expedited, following the broad reopening of Singapore's borders in April.

Additional officers had to be deployed for crowd management and other services.

With the new measures, the staff will now be redeployed to expedite the processing and issuance of passports, the authority said.

Additional ICA officers had to be deployed for crowd management and other services. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Those who need to travel urgently but do not have appointments have to submit their appeals online.

Those who cannot do so can visit the ICA building to get help in submitting the online appeal.

The measures apply only to passport services and do not affect other ICA services.

Retiree Doh Babah, 74, said he was unable to collect his passport when he visited the ICA building on Monday, despite being informed that he could collect it from June 9 onwards.

He was told by an ICA staff member to arrange to collect his passport at a post office instead.

"I understand the new measures are to control the long queues that formed since March. However, it is harder for us old folks to apply online," he said.

"When you try to make an appointment to collect your passport, you have to key in your NRIC number and then they will ask you for an application reference number which I do not know how to find.

"They should make the online application process easier for older Singaporeans."

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ICA said applicants who are unable to answer their queries online may visit the ICA building for help on submitting their passport-related appeals online.

Sales consultant Wong Liang Fong, 58, and his daughter Claris Wong, 22, were there on Monday morning to check on Ms Wong's application status.

She said she had applied about a month ago to renew her passport so that they could go on a vacation during her school holidays, which is from May to August.

They were turned away, but not before an ICA officer showed them how they could navigate the online portal to check the application status.

Mr Wong said ICA could have sent out e-mails to inform applicants of the new measures, "since they already have our e-mail addresses in their system".

He also suggested including a digital banner on their website or sending them push notifications.

But he understood the need for the measures amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I think too many people showed up to renew their passports and the ICA cannot cope," he said. "Still, the ICA staff stationed outside were very helpful."

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