Immigration and Checkpoints Authority
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (Abbreviation: ICA) is the border control agency of Singapore . It is a department in the Ministry of Home Affairs. ICA is responsible for securing Singapore's checkpoints against the entry of undesirable goods and people. The current commissioner of ICA is Mr. Marvin Sim.
|Immigration and Checkpoints Authority|
Penguasa Imigresen & Pusat Pemeriksaan
|Governing body||Government of Singapore|
|Headquarters||10 Kallang Road, Singapore 208718|
|Elected officer responsible|
Colonial Era (1915 - 1964)Edit
Immigration Department and Registration DepartmentEdit
When the Straits Settlement was first established, immigration control was minimal to facilitate free trade. Entry control began when the colonial government enacted the Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance in 1915. In 1933, the Immigration Department was established to administer the Aliens Ordinance which placed quotas on newcomers entering Singapore. This effectively ended the freedom of travel in Singapore.
Ordinance No. 5 of 1952 (The Immigration Ordinance) came into force on 1 August 1953, setting the foundation of immigration law in Singapore.The Immigration Ordinance was amended in 1959 after Singapore was granted sovereignty. The amendment gave Singaporeans the right of entry into the Colony. A new Immigration Depot was built at Telok Ayer Basin (East Wharf) while the head office was moved to Empress Place Building. Round-the-clock immigration clearance for vessels was started 1 June 1961.
Birth registration started in 1872 which was then used for health and statistical purposes. However, by 1938 registration of births became compulsory by law. At the start of the second World War, the British introduced paper identity cards for the first time. This was suspended after the British surrender in 1945. The colonial government began issuing identity cards again in 1948 to counter the communist insurgency. The desire to limit the entry of those who might have communist sympathies extended to the creation of a new Immigration Bill in 1950. When Singapore merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, immigration came under the jurisdiction of the federal government and the Immigration Department became a federal agency in Kuala Lumpur.
Customs and ExciseEdit
Customs control was started when the Monopolies Department was founded in 1910 to collect excise duties on goods such as hard liquors and opium. In 1916, the colonial government began taxing tobacco products on import to raise funds for the war effort. In 1932, the Customs headquarters was shifted to the Customs House from Cecil Street. The Excise Department replaced the Monopolies Department in 1936 and in 1938, the Excise Department was renamed the Department of Customs & Excise.
Post-independence (1965 - 2002)Edit
Stricter immigration controlEdit
After Singapore separated from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, freedom of movement continued to exist between the two countries for a short period of time. Two border checkpoints were gazetted for travel between the two countries. They were the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the Woodlands Checkpoint. Malaysians had to produce identity cards to be able to enter Singapore, until passports were required on both sides in July 1967. To travel to Peninsular Malaysia, the Singapore restricted passport and the Singapore Certificate of Identity was required. The Restricted Passport Centre was at South Quay and was moved to Outram Road in 1976, but closed on 31 December 1994.
In the 1970s, illegal immigration and over-stayers became a serious problem in Singapore. A task force was set up in 1974 to deal with the immigration problem. Laws were introduced that allowed immigration officers to seize and detain vessels and vehicles used to convey illegal immigrants. Those who harboured or employed illegal immigrants could also be punished. Data on foreigners' movements within Singapore were processed by the new Immigration Data Processing Centre.
The Last Port Clearance was introduced in 1980 to attract more passenger liners to Singapore.
A passport office was opened at Joo Chiat Complex in 1984. This office issued both international and restricted passports and was closed in 1999. The Immigration Department moved its head office to the Pidemco Centre in June 1986. Immigration officers were also deployed to places such as India and Hong Kong to open consulates and high commissions. All passports issued by Singapore immigration after 1990 were computerised and machine-readable. The Entry and Exit Control Integrated System implemented in the early 1990s was a computerized immigration system that was used at checkpoints to speed up the processing of travellers. A hotline for information was set up in 1992, with restricted access to countries lifted.
National Registration OfficeEdit
The independence of Singapore in 1965 brought with it the National Registration Act in 1966. The distinctive pink identity cards were issued for the first time. The National Registration Office (NRO) replaced the former Registry of Persons.
At the time, the NRO and the Registry of Births and Deaths (RBD) came under the former Ministry of Labour. The Registry of Societies (ROS), Martial Arts Control Unit (MACU) came under the Ministry of Home Affairs. On 16 October 1981, the NRO, RBD, ROC, MACU and ROS merged to form the National Registration Department (NRD). The NRD consisted of four registries: the Registry of Births and Deaths, the Registry of Citizens, the Registry of Societies and the National Registration Office. The NRD was located at the Empress Place Building until 1986 when the building was transformed into the now defunct Empress Place Museum.
Customs and Excise DepartmentEdit
Tobacco, liquor, motor vehicles and petroleum became restricted goods after Singapore was granted independence as a sovereign nation. The Customs and Excise Department (CED) cooperated closely with other government agencies such as the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and the Central Narcotics Bureau. When the GST was introduced in 1994, the work scope of the CED was expanded. The red and green channel customs system was implemented in 1991 at Singapore Changi Airport and at sea checkpoints.
Singapore Immigration and RegistrationEdit
In 1995, the Immigration Department was renamed Singapore Immigration. An immigration checkpoint was established at the Changi Ferry Terminal in May that year. There was a change in the passport application and collection in the 1990s, reducing the need for applicants to report to the building. To further reduce that need, applications by mail and internet were introduced and rebates were given for such applications.
A new logo was launched by then-Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng at the foundation stone ceremony for the SI Building in 1995. The West Coast Barter Trade Centre closed in June 1995. Singaporeans were sent renewal forms for passports nine months before their passports expired.
SI became an autonomous agency in 1996 as well as launching its first website. All immigration offices moved from the Pidemco Centre to the new building at Kallang Road in 1997. The Singapore Immigration and the National Registration Department merged to form Singapore Immigration & Registration in 1998. A new land checkpoint at Tuas was opened on 2 January.
21st century: Merger and integration (2003 - Present)Edit
On April 2003, SIR and the border control functions of CED were merged to form ICA in response to the 9/11 attacks and the Jemaah Islamiyah plots. The remaining functions of the CED was reorganised and renamed into Singapore Customs. ICA was to be part of the Home Team and a new, blue uniform was introduced to reflect that change. The first Commissioner of ICA was Lock Wai Han, who was in the Singapore Police Force before he oversaw the merger of the two agencies.
ICA's first major challenge came with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, testing the agency's ability to control Singapore's borders and screen passengers for contagious diseases.
In 2005, the then-Director CNB Eric Tan became the Commissioner of ICA.
In 2010, Deputy Commissioner Clarence Yeo became the Commissioner of ICA.
Integrated Checkpoints CommandEdit
On 2 January 2015, the Integrated Checkpoints Command concept was introduced. Under the Integrated Checkpoints Command, ICA checkpoints are split into three domains: Land, Sea and Air. Each domain is headed by a Domain Commander who reports directly to the Commissioner. All Home Team agencies deployed at the checkpoints must report to the Domain Commander.
In March 2017, it was announced that Woodlands Town Centre would be absorbed by the new Woodlands Checkpoint extension.
On 1 April 2018 the amended Immigration Act was introduced. ICA officers would now perform roles as first responders. The amendment gave immigration officers the legal powers of police officers in relation to offences committed in the vicinity of checkpoints.
On 3 September 2018, Marvin Sim became the Commissioner of ICA. He was previously senior director of Joint Operations Group at MHA and deputy director at CNB.
ICA oversees all immigration and registration matters in Singapore with the exception of work passes which is under the purview of the Ministry of Manpower. At its Kallang Road headquarters, services are provided from "cradle to grave", starting from birth registration to the issuance of identity cards and finally to the registering of deaths. At the various checkpoints of Singapore, ICA carries out its border control duties on both goods and people.
ICA officers primarily enforce the Immigration Act (Cap 133) and the Passports Act (Cap 220). Immigration officers are authorised to act on behalf of the Controller of Immigration (who is de facto the Commissioner of ICA).Officers may also be empowered as registration officers under the National Registration Act (Cap 201).
Immigration officers can prohibit entry to any person or class of persons for any reason related to the conditions of Singapore. Since 2018, immigration officers have limited policing powers within the checkpoints and in their immediate vicinity. Under the ICC concept, ICA is ultimately responsible for border security at Singapore's checkpoints.
To facilitate entry for aliens arriving in Singapore, ICA issues a variety of passes. The most common is the social visit pass, which allows aliens to remain in country for a specified number of days. Other types of passes include student passes, dependent's passes, landing passes and special passes.
ICA officers deployed as cargo and baggage examination officers are empowered under the Customs Act (Cap 70) to search people and conveyances at any checkpoint. They can then seize any controlled items or contraband found before referring them to the appropriate Controlling Agency such as Singapore Customs or the Central Narcotics Bureau. The most common contraband are duty-unpaid cigarettes and tobacco products due to the high duties imposed on them. Other examples include narcotics, replica firearms, wild animals and unlicensed medicine.
Immigration offenders are referred to ICA's Enforcement Division (ED) which oversees investigation, prosecution and repatriation matters. Prosecution officers work together with public prosecutors at the Attorney-General's Chambers to ensure that offenders are lawfully detained and given trial. Examples of common offences include the harbouring of immigration offenders, employing immigrants illegally or entering marriages of convenience. Home owners who have been found guilty of renting their houses to immigration offenders and not carrying out one or more of the mandatory checks may be sentenced to a jail term, fine or both.
ICA is Singapore's first line of defence against potential terrorist threats by restricting the movement of security sensitive personnel across borders. After the escape of Mas Selamat in 2008, all checkpoints immediately stepped up security checks. During the lead-up to the 2018 Trump-Kim Summit, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam revealed that four people had been turned away at the checkpoints for terrorism related reasons.
ICA is part of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group within the Republic of Singapore Navy's Maritime Security Task Force. ICA participated in the 2011 Exercise Northstar, in which immigration officers boarded ships to check for immigration offenders, firearms and explosives. ICA also participated in the 2013 Exercise Highcrest which simulated terrorist attacks on one of Singapore's checkpoints.
ICA has three services centres which caters to the different demographics in Singapore.
The Citizen Services Centre issues the pink National Registration Identity Card (NRIC), the certificate of citizenship and the Singapore passport. The Registry of Births and Deaths is also under the Citizen Services Centre.
The Permanent Resident Centre issues the blue NRIC for permanent residents as well as entry and re-entry permits.
The Visitor Services Centre issues visit pass extensions, visas and long term visit passes.
ICA is divided into staff and line units. Staff units are involved in manpower, training and corporate services. Line units deal with the front-line operations of ICA. The senior executive management is called the Leadership Group (LG).
|Commissioner (ICA)||Commissioner||Marvin Sim||Appointed on 03 Sept 2018|
|Deputy Commissioner (Operations)||Deputy Commissioner||Hsu Sin Yun||Previously from SPF|
|Deputy Commissioner (Policy & Transformation)||Deputy Commissioner||Tan Hung Hooi||Previously from SPF|
|Deputy Commissioner (Corporate Development & Administration)||Deputy Commissioner||Vijakumar Sethuraj||Previously from CNB|
|Director Manpower||-||Pravina Jit|
|Director Operations||Senior Assistant Commissioner||Bophinder Singh|
|Director Intelligence||Senior Assistant Commissioner||Jaswant Singh|
|Domain Commander Sea||Senior Assistant Commissioner||Nam Liang Chia|
|Domain Commander Land||Assistant Commissioner||Ong Choon Beng|
|Domain Commander Air||Senior Assistant Commissioner||Zuraidah Abdullah||Previously from SPF|
|Director Enforcement||Assistant Commissioner||Wong Hong Meng|
|Director (Policy, International Relations & Legislation)||Assistant Commissioner||Dominic Chua|
|Director (Planning & Review)||Assistant Commissioner||Kelly Lim|
|Commander Airport||Senior Assistant Commissioner||Sng Gek Lian Julia|
|Commander Woodlands||Assistant Commissioner||Chua Sze How|
|Commander Tuas||Assistant Commissioner||Tan Ngak Leng Colin|
|Commander Coastal||Assistant Commissioner||Chia Hoi Mun|
|Commander Ports||Assistant Commissioner||Ng Chin Kok Danny|
|Commander Air Cargo||Assistant Commissioner||Koo Weng Yew Alan|
|Commander Training||Assistant Commissioner||Ernest Soo|
|Director Citizenship Services Center||Senior Assistant Commissioner||David Tan|
|Director Visitor Services Center||Assistant Commissioner||Chew Sui Lin|
|Director Permanent Resident Services Center||-||Tan Kok Guan|
|Director Corporate Communications||Assistant Commissioner||Chia Hui Keng|
|Director Information Management and Chief Data Officer||Assistant Commissioner||Chua Yeng Eng|
|Director Technology and Chief Information Officer||-||Tan Sor Hoon|
|Director Corporate Services||Assistant Commissioner||Wong Kum Peck @ Angie Wong|
The Old Woodlands Checkpoint is closed to most traffic except for motorcycles and lorries carrying cargo.
- Airport Command
- Air Cargo Command
- Coastal Command
ICA's Coastal Command is the largest command in ICA in terms of the number of checkpoints, stretching from the East to the West of the country. Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore is the newest checkpoint in ICA and is only open when there is a visiting cruise ship.
Immigration officers in ICA are divided generally into Junior Officers and Senior Officers. Under the current Home Affairs Services (HAS) (ICA) Unified scheme, new junior officers and senior officers join as Direct-Entry Sergeants and Direct-Entry Inspectors respectively. Direct-Entry Sergeants range from ITE graduates to polytechnic diploma holders. Direct-Entry Inspectors must be graduates from a university accredited by its home country. New Sergeants will become Primary Screening Officers, while Inspectors will become Team Leaders in their foundation posting. Regardless, all new officers will be posted to Tuas, Woodlands or Coastal Command.
All ICA direct-entry Sergeants and Inspectors must attend and pass the ICA Basic Course which is held regularly at the Home Team Academy. The Basic Course includes lessons on document examination, basic unarmed combat and basic firearms training. The Basic Course lasts twenty weeks for Direct-Entry Inspectors  and sixteen weeks for Direct-Entry Sergeants. Both courses are non-residential, are fully paid-for the duration of the courses and trainees will receive their substantive rank pay as well. In return, officers have to serve bonds of one to two years after graduation. Direct-Entry Sergeants also receive sign-on bonuses and retention pay-outs. To remain in service, officers will have to pass law examinations and a firearms shooting test.
Advanced courses are also conducted by ICA's Training Command. Direct Entry Sergeants are typically trained into specialists in different fields such as profiling, cargo examination and firearms shooting. Senior officers will first be exposed to ICA's ground operations before being sent to enforcement, service or staff units. Overseas postings at Singapore's consulates are also available. Furthermore, suitable officers at any level below that of Inspector may also secure scholarships and promotion into the rank of senior officers as part of the new unified scheme.
There is also a separate scheme for Management Executives who are deployed to the Services Centres. These officers are not considered immigration officers and do not don the blue uniform.
Before the merger, both SIR and CED had their own distinct rank progression. However, they were similar in that there was a separate scheme for Senior and Junior officers. This continued to be the case post-merger until 2017.
Since 2017, ICA officer ranks have fallen under the HAS (ICA) Unified scheme. All Immigration officers are placed under this scheme regardless of education level.
As part of the unified scheme, the ranks of Corporal and Staff Sergeant were collapsed into a single Sergeant rank with numerical increments. The ranks of Senior Checkpoint Inspector were removed and suitable Checkpoint Inspectors would be promoted to Inspectors instead. A new rank, Deputy Assistant Commissioner was added to provide more opportunities for officers at the middle management level.
At present, ICA ranks follow those in the Singapore Police Force with some exceptions in insignia and ranks (see table below). Unlike the police, the words "ICA Singapore" can also be seen below the rank insignia.
|Corporal (obsolete; replaced by SGT1)||CPL||Two chevrons, pointing down|
|Sergeant||SGT1||Three chevrons, pointing down|
|Staff Sergeant (obsolete; replaced by SGT3)||SSGT||Three chevrons, inverted below coat of arms|
|Checkpoint Inspector (1)||CI (1)||Coat of arms with wreath below chevron|
|Checkpoint Inspector (2)||CI (2)||Coat of arms with wreath below two chevrons|
|Senior Checkpoint Inspector (1) (obsolete)||SCI (1)||Coat of arms with wreath below three chevrons|
|Senior Checkpoint Inspector (2) (obsolete)||SCI (2)||Coat of arms with wreath below four chevrons|
|Assistant Superintendent||ASP||Coat of arms|
|Deputy Superintendent||DSP||Coat of arms above one pip|
|Superintendent||SUPT||Coat of arms above two pips|
|Deputy Assistant Commissioner||DAC||ICA logo (wreathed portcullis below state crest)|
|Assistant Commissioner||AC||ICA logo below one pip|
|Senior Assistant Commissioner||SAC||ICA logo below two pips|
|Deputy Commissioner of ICA||-||ICA logo below coat of arms|
|Commissioner of ICA||-||ICA logo above coat of arms and pip|
Under Section 38A of the Immigration Act, all immigration officers shall be issued arms and ammunition as necessary. In practice, only qualified officers serving in security related roles are issued firearms.
In the early 1970s, Singapore Immigration had a brown and cream uniform. The colour of the uniforms did not vary for more than 20 years, with only modifications in style. In 1997, uniforms in green and white were introduced.
In 1996, the Customs uniforms and accessories were changed to a shade of blue reminiscent of the current design.
In 2003, the uniform was updated to its current design. The uniform became Navy Blue, which was chosen to establish ICA as a member of the Home Team.
The uniform comes in different designs to suit the varied operating environments of ICA. The basic field uniform consists of a short-sleeved dress shirt and pants with a dress or duty belt as appropriate. This uniform can be most often seen in the Land and Sea checkpoints. Senior officers typically wear a bush jacket (for men) or a tunic (for women). A dress skirt is also available for female staff officer. Air Domain officers working at Changi Airport wear two-piece suits with ties to conform with airport guidelines, while sea-going clearance team officers wear long-sleeve coastal uniforms that resemble the SAF's Number 4 uniform. Cargo examination officers are issued polo shirts due to their warm operational environment.
ICA integrates information technology to streamline the entry and exit procedure at checkpoints. Singapore citizens, permanent residents and other registered travelers can use automated lanes called enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS). The Biometric Identification of Motorbikers (BIKES) System at ICA's land checkpoints can be used by residents and work pass holders entering and leaving Singapore by motorcycles.
In 2018, the ICA released the MyICA app which allowed citizens to process multiple transactions in a single payment.
ICA has constantly implemented the use of biometric verification to improve security at its checkpoints.
In 1997, the Checkpoint Access Cards used fingerprint data to facilitate entry.
In October 2006, ICA began issuing biometric passports to Singapore citizens. In October 2017, ICA started issuance of new biometric passports that comes with additional security features. This marked the second series of biometrics passports issued by Singapore. Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents have their iris bio-data registered as well.
In 2016, ICA began the biometric registering and verification of travelers using the Bioscreen system. In 2019, ICA announced the launch of iris scanning and facial recognition trials. This would allow passport-less travel for its citizens and permanent residents.
At Changi Airport's Terminal 4, there are Automated Immigration Gates (AIGs) which allow foreigners one-time use of automated immigration clearance.
In 2017, the Singapore passport was reported to be the most powerful passport in the world.
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