Major international airport’s plan for passport-free clearance

Next year, the airport often considered to be the best in the world will be cutting down on the need to whip out passports.

Singapore’s Changi Airport will be introducing passport-free immigration clearance, by using biometric technology.

Communications Minister Josephine Teo said the changes will mean the need for passengers to present their travel documents at touch points will be reduced.

“Biometrics will be used to create a single token of authentication that will be employed at various automated touch points, from bag drop to immigration and boarding,” Teo said.

“This will reduce the need for passengers to repeatedly present their travel documents at these touch points, allowing for more seamless and convenient processing.”

She added that Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) will ensure that the data shared will only be used for authorised purposes.

Singapore will be among the first countries in the world to introduce automated, passport-free immigration clearance, however, travel to countries that require a passport will still require a passport.

“Besides Dubai, which already offers passport-free clearance for certain enrolled travellers, we do not know exactly which other countries have similar plans, Teo said,

“MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) and ICA will certainly seek to enable more convenient travel for our people, but it is likely that physical passports will still be required for many countries outside of Singapore.

Changi Airport already has Automated Immigration Gates (AIM) for people departing Singapore, which requires people to register their finger prints with the Immigration Authority.

Changi Airport has been crowned the best in the world 12 times, including in 2023.

At the awards in Amsterdam this year, Changi also picked up the World’s Best Airport Dining, the Best Airport for Leisure Amenities and the Best Airport in Asia awards.

The airport is a destination itself, with a garden that is home to more than 1000 butterflies, a rooftop pool and plenty of art features.

The Jewel, which is referred to as a “playground for everyone” is among Changi’s best-known features.

“Jewel’s top floor is a 14,000-square-metre recreational wonderland for all. Play or dine under the sparkling glass canopy amidst luscious foliage,” the airport’s website says.

The passport-free future?

As Teo mentioned, Singapore isn’t the first to utilise technology to reduce the need for passports and travel documents.

Dubai International Airport has ‘Smart Gates’ at Terminal 3, where passengers can go through passport control in just seconds.

If you’re registered for the Smart Gates, you can pass through by simply looking at the green light, with no need to scan a document,” the airport said.

A passenger crosses a newly deployed fast-track gate that uses face and iris-recognition technologies at Dubai international airport, on March 7, 2021. - The new biometric system has been deployed at 122 smart gates at arrival and departure terminals for first class passengers.

Dubai International Airport also has Smart Gates.

UAE residents, UAE and GCC Nationals and Visa-on-Arrival guests with biometric passports can all use the Smart Gates.

Australia also has Smart Gates at major international airports, where people scan their passports at a kiosk and have their faces scanned.

Other airports in Japan, India, London and Paris also use facial recognition technology in some capacity.

It has long been suggested that biometrics will play a big role in airports in the future, with it being touted as a more convenient way to move through a hub.

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