Immigration and Checkpoints Authority: Wikis


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The ICA Building at Kallang Road which was opened in the 1990s.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (Abbreviation: ICA; Chinese: 移民与关卡局, Malay; Penguasa Imigresen dan Pusat Pemeriksaan) is a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs in Singapore. The organisation is in charge of immigration, Singapore passports, identity cards, permanent residents services, customs, issuing permits to foreigners such as visit pass, visas and student passes. The ICA is in charge of safeguarding Singapore's borders. It ensures that the movement of people, goods and conveyances through the checkpoints is legitimate and lawful. It is in charge of birth and death registrations. The organisation was formed on April 1, 2003 with the merger of Singapore Immigration and Registration and the border control functions of Customs and Excise Department.




Singapore Immigration and Registration

Before SIR, there were two departments, namely the Singapore Immigration and the National Registration Department. Both organizations merged on April 1, 1998, to form Singapore Immigration and Registration. The National Registration Office existed during colonial times, with birth registration starting in 1872 which was used for health and statistical purposes. However in 1938, registration of births became compulsory by law. After the Second World War, the British colonial government issued paper identity cards in 1948. The purpose of those cards was to identify those born in the colony. The independence of Singapore in 1965 brought with it the National Registration Act. The NRO and the Registry of Births and Deaths came under the former Ministry of Labour. The Registry of Societies, Martial Arts Control Unit 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. The Martial Arts Control Unit was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department in April 1992. The National Registration Department was located at the Empress Place Building until 1986 when the building was transformed into the now defunct Empress Place Museum.

Entering Singapore in the past was considered very free and not much control at the immigration checkpoint. It was only in 1919 when the colonial government enforced immigration control. The Passengers Restriction Ordinance was introduced to newcomers other than those born in Singapore or Malaya. It was only in 1933 when the Immigration Department was established to control the number of alien immigrants. The headquarters of the Immigration Department was moved to the Chinese Protectorate Building at Havelock Road. It moved to a government building at Palmer Road in 1953. More immigration acts came in the 1950s with the Immigration Ordinance introduced in 1959 when Singapore had full internal self-government. The act granted Singaporeans the right of abode and, thus, the right to enter the colony. A new Immigration Depot was moved to Telok Ayer Basin (East Wharf) with the head office was moved to Empress Place Building. There was round-the-clock immigration clearance for vessels since June 1, 1961. When Singapore was united 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.

After Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, freedom of movement existed between the two sovereign 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 needed. The Restricted passport Centre was at South Quay and was moved to Outram Road in 1976, but closed on 31 December 1994. Immigration control became stricter in the 1970s, with exit control implemented from 1978. Data on foreigners' movements within Singapore were processed by the Immigration Data Processing Centre with a task force set up in 1974 to deal with overstayers and illegal immigrants. The Last Port Clearance was introduced in 1980 to attract more passenger liners to Singapore. Computers to screen travellers were first used at immigration checkpoints in 1981. 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 deployed to places such as India and Hong Kong to open consulates and high commissions. All passports issued by Singapore immigration after 1990 were computerized 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 such as People's Republic of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lifted. The access card system was introduced on December 15, 1996, which uses the smart card technology, with the use of fingerprint data when passing through the checkpoint with an access card.

The groundbreaking ceremony of the current ICA Building took place in February 1993. 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 appear at the office in person. Several processes were introduced, including sending it by mail or applying it through the internet. Rebates were given if one applied passport through this method. A new logo was launched by Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng at the foundation stone ceremony at the ICA Building. The West Coast Barter Trade Centre closed in June 1995. Singaporeans were sent renewal forms for passports nine months before their passports expired. The SI became an autonomous agency in 1996 as well as launching its first website. All the immigration facilities moved from the Pidemco Centre to the new ICA Building at Kallang Road in 1997.

Customs and Excise Department

The Customs and Excise Department was established in 1910 and was where it collected tax from travellers who bring in restricted goods such as hard liquors and opium initially. Tobacco, liquor, motor vehicles and petroleum became restricted goods as well.

Cigarette smuggling is often reported in the local press.[1] In 2006, 1,186 arrests were made.[2]

The CED also assisted several other government departments such as the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and the Central Narcotics Bureau. When the GST was introduced in 1994, the work of the CED was increased. The red and green channel customs system was implemented in 1991 at Singapore Changi Airport initially and was used at all custom checkpoints later on. The Customs and Excise Department was located first at Cecil Street from 1910 till 1932 and later the White House at Maxwell Road from 1932 until 1989 when it moved to World Trade Centre (now HarbourFront Centre). It moved again in 1996 to its current headquarters at Revenue House.


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