betty July 31, 2022

SINGAPORE – Singaporeans who apply for a new passport can expect a processing time of one week by the year end, similar to before the Covid-19 pandemic, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

This target is based on the number of passport applications the authority receives each day and how many it can process since it introduced stepped-up measures to deal with the surge in applications, said Senior Assistant Commissioner(SAC) Dominic Chua, director of ICA’s citizen services centre.

Currently, the waiting time is at least six weeks for new passports.

Passport applications surged to more than 7,000 a day in May, compared with 2,000 before the pandemic, after Covid-19 border restrictions were significantly eased on April 1. This month, ICA received about 4,500 applications daily.

SAC Chua told The Sunday Times that nearly 300 officers from other work units across ICA have been gradually deployed since May to help about 100 officers from the passport unit process and produce passports.

These officers work 24/7, and many have put their travel plans on hold.

ICA officers have been working in eight-hour shifts to check on the applicants’ eligibility and ensure that all passports printed meet quality and security standards.

The officers also pack the passports, arrange for them to be collected at the 29 SingPost branches islandwide, and man the collection counters at the ICA Building in Kallang Road.

With the additional manpower, ICA is now able to produce 6,500 new passports daily, up from 2,000 in 2019, SAC Chua said.

He added: “Never in the history of ICA have we issued such a huge number of passports at one go.”

Also, more Singaporeans are now collecting their passports at post offices, with SingPost increasing the number of counters and outlets for collection as a result. It has raised the number of collection counters to 46, from 39 in October last year, and added the Novena and Killiney Road branches to the list of outlets for passport collection, bringing the total to 29.

Some 85,000 passports were collected at post offices last month, almost double the 43,500 in May, according to ICA.

The authority had on June 13 accepted walk-ins at the ICA Building only for passport applicants with appointments or passports to be collected.

Eligible applicants were encouraged to collect their passports at post offices to avoid the queues that had formed outside the ICA Building in June.