Singapore to use iris and face for borders
05 November 2020 16:32 GMT

Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has said Iris patterns and facial features will replace fingerprints as the primary biometric identifiers for immigration clearance. Fingerprints will be used as a secondary biometric identifier for travellers who are unsuccessful in their iris and facial scans.

The ICA has been progressively implementing more secure and efficient immigration clearance, in collaboration with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX). Since July 2020, all automated and manual immigration lanes and counters at the passenger halls of Singapore’s land, sea and air checkpoints have been equipped with iris and facial scanners.

Since ICA implemented the enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) in 2006, fingerprints have been the primary biometric identifier for immigration clearance at our checkpoints. ICA started enrolling the iris images of Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents from 1 January 2017, as iris patterns have a number of strengths as a biometric identifier compared to fingerprints.

By using iris patterns in lieu of fingerprints for identification, issues with fingerprint verification, such as deterioration of fingerprints due to ageing, scarring or dryness, are avoided. This will enable travellers who currently have difficulty authenticating their identity using fingerprints to use the automated immigration clearance lanes. Second, iris patterns have a higher degree of variation and uniqueness than fingerprints, and are therefore more robust and reliable for use for identification purposes. An iris scan provides almost 250 feature points for matching, as compared to about 100 feature points for a fingerprint. In addition, specialised equipment is required to conduct the iris scan, which makes it less susceptible to misuse.

To further strengthen the identification process, we will employ iris and facial scans concurrently. Facial recognition provides a second check of a person’s identity. The use of two biometric identifiers (i.e. iris patterns and facial features) will provide even more reliable authentication of the identity of travellers, and further strengthen ICA’s ability to safeguard Singapore’s borders. For travellers, the new immigration system allows for simultaneous and touch-free capture of these two biometrics, and offers more hygienic, more convenient and more efficient immigration clearance.

Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents, long-term pass holders, as well as international travellers on our Frequent Traveller Programme (FTP) who have enrolled their iris and facial biometrics with ICA, are eligible for this new mode of clearance.

When these travellers approach the automated immigration lanes, they will be prompted to use their iris and facial biometrics for immigration clearance. If authentication via iris and facial biometrics is unsuccessful or if they have yet to enrol their iris and facial biometrics with ICA, such travellers will be prompted to clear immigration using their fingerprints.

Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and long-term pass holders who have yet to enrol their iris and facial biometrics with ICA and are keen to do so can seek the assistance of ICA officers at the checkpoints when they travel or when they visit the ICA Building for immigration facilities (e.g. renewal of passport or re-registration of identity cards).

Children who are below six years of age will not be eligible to use iris and facial scans for clearance. This is because their physical features and related biometrics are still developing and thus may not provide a reliable means of authentication. They will be enrolled at a later age.

First-time foreign visitors to Singapore will need to enrol their iris, facial and fingerprint biometrics on arrival at the manual immigration counters. They will be able to use automated clearance when they depart Singapore. For their subsequent trips to Singapore, they can clear immigration using their iris and facial biometrics at the manual counters, if they are using the same passport as when their biometrics were enrolled.

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