SINGAPORE: The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building on Kallang Road was a hive of activity on Thursday (May 12) amid a rush for passports, with security guards “screening” visitors and directing them.
Among those who turned up was Mr Ad Maulod, who waited three hours before collecting his new passport, a day before he was due to travel to Malaysia.
"I have a backache now (from standing in line)," he said on the situation inside the building.
He leaves for a family trip to Kuala Lumpur on Friday, and it was the second time queuing up for his passport in as many days, said the 38-year-old research fellow.
On Wednesday, he waited four hours in the hope of having the process expedited.
He applied for a passport on Apr 2, but with an old photo. When it was rejected on Apr 22, he was told it would take another week for processing.
"One week later, nothing happened so I started panicking," he said. It would be his family's first trip together after a long time. He was glad the hours spent waiting paid off eventually.
There has been an “overwhelming demand” for passports since the easing of travel measures.
In response to CNA's queries, ICA said that the number of passport applications has "spiked" to more than 7,000 per day since Singapore eased travel restrictions.
At its peak, ICA received 14,000 applications in a day, it added. This is compared to about 2,000 applications per day pre-COVID.
Currently, the average waiting time for passport processing is at least six weeks from the time of application, a spokesperson added.
WAITING OUT OF DESPERATION
Those who spoke to CNA at ICA building on Thursday were aware of the situation but felt they had no choice but to go down.
“I was desperate,” said Mr Ad.
A senior administrative executive who wanted to be known only as Bhuvana was similarly in urgent need of a passport. She arrived at the ICA building after 8am, she said.
After waiting in a queue outside the building for about an hour, she waited another four hours on two different levels of the building before she was told she could collect her passport at 4pm the same day, she said.
Ms Bhuvana is due to go on pilgrimage to India with four other family members in about two weeks.
"I came because I was worried about not getting my passport in time," said Ms Bhuvana, who applied for the document more than a month ago.
However, she believes that she will have to pay more than her family did for a flight, given the short runway to the date of departure.
Ms Joanne Sheu, who like others went to the ICA building in the morning, was also told she would be able to collect her passport later in the day.
The 34-year-old who works in the finance industry said that she is visiting family in Malaysia over the Vesak Day long weekend.
Some people however, were not able to collect their passports despite waiting.
An employee in a dental clinic who did not want to be named said that she arrived at 8.30am and three hours later was given a slip informing her that she could collect her passport on Jun 2. She had applied for her passport on Mar 31.
"If it's not ready then, I am not sure what to do," said the woman who hopes to travel to Malaysia for her husband's nephew's wedding.
ADHERING TO PHOTO GUIDELINES
An ICA spokesperson said on Wednesday that Singaporeans who need to travel urgently are required to produce supporting documents in-person at the ICA building for assessment on a case-by-case basis.
The spokesperson added that processing of applications could take even longer than the current minimum of six weeks if there is a greater surge in the number of applications or if there are issues with the application, such as the submitted photograph not meeting requirements.
She urged people to ensure that the photograph submitted with their application meets ICA’s passport photo requirements to avoid delays in processing.
“If the submitted passport photo does not meet the requirements, applicants would have to resubmit a new photo, and additional time would be required to complete the transaction,” said the spokesperson.