Iris and facial ID for immigration clearance goes on trial at Tuas Checkpoint

Singaporean travellers at Tuas Checkpoint may no longer need to scan their passports to enter Singapore under a six-month trial. If successful, the facial and iris scanning system is expected to be implemented at other checkpoints.

SINGAPORE - A trial is under way at Tuas Checkpoint to use iris and facial images of Singaporean travellers for immigration clearance at automated lanes.

If it is successful, scanning passports and fingerprints to clear immigration could become a thing of the past.

With this new contactless immigration clearance system, travellers with faded fingerprints also do not need to worry about having difficulty clearing immigration.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) is currently conducting a six-month trial, which began last Monday (April 8) and uses one of the automated arrival lanes in the immigration hall at the checkpoint.

Besides testing the efficiency and accuracy of the facial and iris matching system, the trial is to assess the time taken for immigration clearance, said Superintendent Derrick Soong, 41, who is head of operations development in the ICA.

"This clearance process will definitely be faster and bring convenience to travellers, as there is no need to present and scan passports," he said, adding that based on ground observations, Singaporeans who used the automated lanes will be cleared within a minute.

"But if there's no need to present and scan passports, the timing will be even shorter," Supt Soong told The Straits Times.

 
 

Singaporeans who have previously enrolled their iris images with the ICA will be the first group to participate in this trial, he said.

He noted that the ICA had been collecting iris images from Singaporeans since 2017, and now has a "sizeable database" to conduct a meaningful trial.

Upon entering the automated lane designated for the trial, travellers will be prompted to look at the facial and iris scanning screen.

The system will capture their facial and iris images and subsequently proceed to verify their identity.

A green tick on the screen indicates successful clearance and the exit gate will open. This completes the immigration clearance process.

The trial will also test the robustness of the system and whether environmental factors such as ambient lighting at the checkpoint will affect the facial and iris matching, said Supt Soong.

"Singaporeans who wish to participate in this trial should not wear any coloured patterned contact lenses or have any wearables that will block their facial and iris images, as these will affect the trial results," he added.

The ICA aims to roll out this initiative to the rest of the checkpoints if the trial is successful, he said.

Singapore citizens aged six and above who have passport numbers beginning with the letter K and issued after Jan 1, 2018, will be eligible for the trial. No prior sign-up is required.