ICA rolls out automated immigration clearance for families and wheelchair users at Changi Airport , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

ICA rolls out automated immigration clearance for families and wheelchair users at Changi Airport

Wheelchair users and families of up to four people can now use new automated lanes at selected passenger halls in Changi Airport, making Singapore the first country to introduce automated immigration clearance for group travellers. 

The Special Assistance Lane, at the departure hall in Terminal 1 and both departure and arrival halls in Terminal 2, is open to all Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.

On Friday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said: “The Special Assistance Lane will enable travellers using wheelchairs and family groups of up to four persons (for example, parents with young children) to enjoy the convenience of automated immigration clearance.”

Prior to the introduction of the lanes in December, travellers using wheelchairs and family groups had to proceed to manned counters and present their passports for immigration clearance.

Cameras and biometric scanners at the new lanes will now allow these travellers to do so by capturing their iris and facial features. Travellers can also scan their passports at the scanners placed there.

The Special Assistance Lane is open to all Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders. PHOTO: ICA


For travellers who are unsuccessful in their iris and facial scans, fingerprints will be used as a secondary biometric identifier. Children below six years old will need to be assisted by ICA officers at the lanes.

ICA said it will progressively install these lanes at the other Changi Airport terminals, as well as passenger halls at land and sea checkpoints. Automated clearance for group travellers will also be extended to eligible foreign visitors from March 2023. 

Before launching the new lanes, ICA worked with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) to conduct design thinking workshops and virtual reality simulation exercises. 

They consulted people with reduced mobility to identify potential challenges they may face, such as the width of the lanes and the placement of passport and biometric scanners.

ICA said feedback was factored into the final design of the Special Assistance Lane. It added that it will continue to refine it based on travellers’ experiences.

Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said: “Changi Airport is the first contact point when travellers arrive in Singapore. If they have a positive experience clearing immigration, it will go a long way in enhancing their experience in Singapore.”

Mr Abhimanyau Pal, chief executive of SPD, an organisation that serves people with disabilities, said: “The addition of wheelchair-friendly automated immigration lanes will help some wheelchair users to be more independent, as well as provide some caregivers with more convenience when assisting their loved ones who use mobility aids.”

With the introduction of this initiative, ICA officers can be redeployed to focus on border security functions such as profiling, assessment and investigation work.

Superintendent Tan Kah Wee, head of ICA’s New Clearance Concept office, said: “The Special Assistance Lane allows travellers who require wheelchairs and family groups to also enjoy the smooth and seamless convenience of self-clearance using automated lanes. ICA is now one step closer to realising the New Clearance Concept, where automated clearance will be the norm.”

Ms Fathima Zohra, 25, a wheelchair user who is paralysed from the neck down, welcomed the introduction of wider automated lanes.

Ms Zohra, who works as an inclusive employment recruiter at a social enterprise, said: “I love to travel, but because of the restrictions I have to adhere to, I previously didn’t feel I had enough space to clear immigration comfortably.

“With these automated lanes, I feel my condition is understood and respected. I feel more assured I can travel smoothly.”