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New iris and facial imaging system being tested at Tuas Checkpoint

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Immigration clearance expected to be much faster as there is no need to present and scan passports at checkpoints

The use of passports or fingerprints to clear immigration could become a thing of the past for Singaporean travellers, with a trial under way at the Tuas Checkpoint that uses iris and facial images.

With the new contactless immigration clearance system, travellers with faded fingerprints or those burdened with shopping bags will find clearing immigration a breeze.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) is conducting a six-month trial that began on April 8 and uses one of the automated arrival lanes in the immigration hall at Tuas Checkpoint.

Upon entering the automated lane, travellers will be prompted to look at the facial and iris scanning screen. The system will capture their facial and iris images and verify their identity.

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

While the facial and iris scanning technology is not new and has been used in other places, including Australia and Hong Kong, Singapore is among the first countries to test this contactless immigration clearance system.

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 at the ICA.

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

"This clearance process will definitely be faster and bring convenience to travellers, as there is no need to present and scan passports," he said.

About 300 Singaporeans have taken part in the trial at Tuas since it began. More than 400,000 travellers pass through Singapore's two land checkpoints a day, with some 280,000 using the Woodlands Checkpoint.

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

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

Iris images are more permanent than fingerprints, which can wear out over time or become faded.

The ICA aims to roll out the contactless clearance system to the rest of the checkpoints if the trial is successful, said Supt Soong.