S'pore using iris & facial scans, doing away with fingerprint scans for immigration clearance

Towards a passport-less clearance.

Belmont Lay | October 28, 2020, 01:00 PM

Iris patterns and facial features will replace fingerprints as the primary biometric identifiers for immigration clearance in Singapore.

This was announced by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority on Oct. 28, 2020.

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.

Fingerprints to be secondary biometric identifier

Fingerprints will be used as secondary biometric identifier for travellers who are unsuccessful in their iris and facial scans.

ICA started enrolling the iris images of Singapore citizens and permanent residents since Jan. 1, 2017.

Iris scan more sophisticated

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.

Iris patterns have a higher degree of variation and uniqueness than fingerprints.

An iris scan provides almost 250 feature points for match, as compared to about 100 feature points for a fingerprint.

Specialised equipment is required to conduct the iris scan, which makes it less susceptible to misuse.

Who can use new iris scan

ICA will employ iris and facial scans concurrently.

Facial recognition provides a second check of a person's identity.

Singapore citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and international travellers on the Frequent Traveller Programme who have enrolled their iris and facial biometrics with ICA are eligible for this new mode of 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 facilites.

Children exempted

Children below six years of age will not be eligible to use iris and facial scans for clearance. Their physical features and related biometrics are still developing and may not provide a reliable means of authentication.


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 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.

Doing away with passports

The use of iris and facial scans is part of a plan to transform Singapore's checkpoints to provide travellers with more secure and efficient immigration clearance.

The New Clearance Concept (NCC) should be realised at checkpoints by 2022.

Beyond multi-modal biometric clearance, the NCC will eventually enable Singapore residents to clear immigration at our checkpoints without the need to present a passport.

ICA also aims to enable the majority of foreign visitors to clear immigration at the automated lanes on arrival without prior enrolment of their biometrics.

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