SINGAPORE - When Ms Zalina Ibrahim, 42, renewed passports for two of her seven children on Sept 8, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) e-mailed her three days later to say that they were ready.
The housewife and her family will be visiting Malaysia for three days in November. Earlier this year, the expected waiting time for new passports was six weeks.
In May, ICA received more than 7,000 passport applications per day and long queues formed outside the ICA Building in Kallang Road.
Ms Zalina was surprised she could collect the passports so quickly.
Singaporeans who apply for a new passport can now expect a shorter processing time of one to two weeks, ICA told The Sunday Times on Sept 13.
But those with year-end travel plans should apply for a passport now, said ICA.
It added: "Based on pre-Covid-19 trends, passport applications typically peak between October and December.
"Singaporeans who submit their passport (application) late will risk not being able to collect their passport in time for their travel."
ICA reminded Singaporeans that the processing time depends greatly on the volume of applications it receives. Applicants should also factor in additional waiting time for an appointment to collect the passport when it is ready.
To tackle the surge in May, nearly 300 officers from other work units across ICA were deployed to process and produce passports.
ICA noted how it has worked with SingPost to increase the passport issuance capacity and that the combined efforts have greatly improved the situation.
Travel experts urged those who require a passport to apply now, ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
In a survey commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by market research firm Milieu Insight in September, 32 per cent of the 1,000 respondents said they will be travelling overseas in the last four months of the year and have already booked tickets or accommodation.
Ms Lavinia Rajaram, Asia head of public relations for Expedia Group, said that based on Expedia flight search data, Bangkok, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur remain the top travel destinations for Singaporeans.
Reminding Singaporeans who intend to travel to plan ahead, Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said: "There might be a delay in the renewal of passports if there is another surge towards the end of the year."
Mr Aaron Wong, 34, who runs travel website The MileLion, said that with Taiwan and Japan likely to open to tourists by the year end, many Singaporeans are gearing up to visit those places.
Japan is expected to lift a ban on individual tourist visa requirements and remove a limit on daily arrivals in October as it further eases Covid-19 restrictions.
Since Sept 12, Taiwan has resumed visa-free entry for visitors from several countries such as Britain and the United States.
Singaporeans whose passports have expired or who have passports with less than six months' validity can renew them via ICA's website.