Singapore is aiming to alleviate stress and make travel more seamless by replacing passport checks with biometric scans. One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of international travel is the paperwork. Travelers must ensure that they have all the necessary up-to-date documents to traverse borders legally. It usually boils down to panicking while looking for your passport’s expiration date after you already bought airline tickets to a faraway destination, then worrying that you left your passport at home.
Singapore government officials have stated that the city-state’s Changi Airport will implement automated immigration checkpoints using only biometric data next year. Changi is one of the most highly rated airports in the world. Singapore’s facility is also one of the busiest international airports, seeing 60 million passengers annually before 2020.
Communications Minister Josephine Teo said, “Singapore will be one of the first few countries in the world to introduce automated, passport-free immigration clearance.” The effort required the country’s parliament to pass amendments to Singapore’s Immigration Act, allowing the technologically-dependent form of identification.
The technology will allow airline passengers to depart Singapore without a passport. Biometric systems already are in partial use at immigration checkpoints. The ultimate goal is a paperless airport experience where biometric data could be used in place of a passport or a boarding pass. Obviously, passengers would still have to adhere to the local procedures wherever they are flying outside of Singapore.
While Singapore officials have stated their aim of making travel seamless and convenient for visitors, the significant changes will also allow Changi to manage a higher volume of travelers without increasing the level of immigration staffing at the airport. Airport biometric technology is being trialed in the United States by the Transportation Security Administration. However, the unprecedented level of government intrusiveness has raised privacy concerns in America.