Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Home Affairs in view of the spike in the number of Singaporeans applying for new passports in the past few months, what efforts are being made by ICA to speed up the current processing of passport applications.
Mr K Shanmugam: There was an increase in processing time, earlier this year, when travel restrictions were eased, arising from a large number of people applying for passports at the same time.
ICA’s longstanding practice has been to advise Singaporeans to renew their passport nine months before their passport expires. Reminders are sent via the SingPass app, through SMS, or via email.
When travel restrictions were eased, a very substantial number applied for passports online. Since 2002, ICA has made it possible for passport applications to be made online through the ICA website.
ICA has received over 500,000 passport applications since April 2022. This is an average of about 6,000 passport applications per day, compared to 2,000 per day in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The larger volume led to a delay in processing time.
Many of those who submitted applications had passport that was expiring, or had already expired. Some had also made travel plans. They were anxious to get their passport and visited ICA Building physically to request that their application be expedited, leading to long queues and waiting times.
There are also other issues that caused delays: for example, applicants submitting photos that did not meet ICA’s requirements.
Since early April 2022, ICA has been updating the public of the passport processing time, when it increased to at least a month, and subsequently to at least six weeks as demand continued to spike.
To reduce the queuing time for passport collection at ICA Building, ICA had worked with SingPost to offer passport collection at no additional fee since October 2021, to encourage eligible Singaporeans to collect their passport at any of 27 designated post offices. Two more post offices will offer passport collection services from July. Some post offices will add more passport collection counters to cater to the demand.
To deal with the surge in passport applications, ICA has also re-deployed officers from other work units to process passports on a 24/7 basis. Officers have been working extended hours. Those on day-offs have been recalled, while applications for block leave have not been allowed. There is however a limit to how sustainable this is.
To prioritise its resources on the processing and issuance of passports, since 13 June, ICA has restricted walk-ins for passport-related matters to those who are collecting their passport and those who need help submitting their appeals or documents.
Ministry of Home Affairs
4 July 2022