Skip the Customs Queues - Singapore Can Now Use eGates!
Frequent flyers to Britain may be familiar with the notoriously long queues that form at border control stations during peak hours. For a traveller, whether for business or leisure, a long wait at any customs office is physically and mentally draining - just ask anyone who tries to head into Johor on Saturday morning.
Thankfully, there are some choice destinations around the world that grant priority access to Singapore passport holders. We’ll cover some of these places where border queues have become a thing of the past - just one more excuse to book that quick getaway from work or school. Hang tight!
Announced in December 2018, Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced Singapore as one of ten countries cleared to use ePassport gates in the country. These gates, located in 14 ports, used to provide easy immigraton clearance to locals - a perk that was officially unveiled on 20 May 2019.
ePassport gates use facial recognition technology to compare passengers' passport photographs with their appearance, a process that differs from Singapore’s Enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System, which relies on a passport holder’s passport for verification. Anyone rejected by the gates will be sent to a manned channel for a traditional check by supervising Border Force officers, guaranteeing safety alongside the added convenience.
This means more joy for both seasonal and occasional travellers who previously had to contend with endless hours of waiting at Heathrow or accompanying airports. With that extra time, you could pop by the Windsor area of London, clocking off must-sees like Windsor Castle and Winchester Stadium, before heading into the city centre proper. If your stomach must be filled before your soul, that extra time will get you into Heathrow restaurants, like Fortnum and Mason Bar, way before the main crowd begins to fill the arrival halls. A hearty meal and a leisurely transit to London? Holidays never started so good.
Slightly closer to home, developing ties between Singapore and New Zealand have extended to the rules of travel, as nationals from both nations are now free to use e-clearance machines to enter and leave both countries. Enacted on 11 February 2019, Singaporeans must be 12 years old and above and need to own a ePassport to enjoy easy access through New Zealand’s eGate passport control systems. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll have to clear border security the traditional way if you’ve children under the age of 12.
However, if you’re travelling solo or with friends that are only young at heart, get ready to enjoy fast-tracked immigration clearances through airports at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. Can’t decide on which city to travel to? We’ve the perfect itinerary here to clear them all at once!
New Zealand’s nearest neighbours, Australia, have had automated clearance services running at their airports for a while now, and Singaporeans have been cleared to utilize their SmartGates since the turn of 2014. SmartGate operates on facial-recognition technology that matches the image taken of travellers at a kiosk screen with the digital facial image stored in the electronic chip in their biometric passport. This does mean that you will need a valid ePassport issued to you before you fly off, so remember to keep your passport up to date! Do also note that Australis imposes stricter age restrictions compared to NZ - you must be at least 16 years old to use the SmartGates.
Whether you’ve just turned sixteen, or simply want to relive those free and easy times, Australia is the perfect place for a soulful escapade. These are eight international airports - one in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast and Darwin, and each city has plenty of personality to share! Having this many places to choose from may leave you spoilt for choice - our guides to Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne may help!
We don’t really need any more reasons to head back to Bangkok (if you happen to, we’ve got you covered). However, here’s one more perk to push you over the edge - Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Auto Gate are free for Singaporeans to use, as announced by the Royal Thai Embassy on Aug 2017. Singapore is the first country outside of Thailand to be accorded this privilege, and our passports can now carry us through these automated gates without prior registration with a Thai immigration office.
Thailand is currently considering an expansion of such a perk in other airports, including the older Don Mueang Airport and others located in other cities. For now, Suvarnabhumi Airport appears to be the only fast way into the Land of Smiles. However, we definitely aren’t complaining, especially since flights to Bangkok just keep getting cheaper.
United States (but not for everyone)
The United States is another place where Singapore travellers can shuttle through immigration checkpoints with ease, but sadly, this perk isn’t open to everyone. In 2016, Singaporeans were cleared to use automated kiosks located at 47 American airports, provided they have been deemed eligible. Being deemed worthy is no easy process - Singaporeans first have to sign up for the US’ Global Entry Programme online, and successful applicants will go through an interview at a Global Entry Enrolment Centre at the US Embassy in Singapore. Once approved, immigration processes will be expedited when they visit the US, bypassing regular passport control queues. While an attractive proposition for frequent business travellers, those who pop by occasionally may wish to pass this on.
Still, it’s a beautiful place for a holiday, and flight prices to your favourite state may just be in your favour - like tickets to this famous American city going for cheap this June!
Starting your immaculately planned holiday stuck in hours of human traffic is an absolute bummer, and automated clearance gates could make the difference between a decent trip and the best getaway of your life. Seeking that perfect adventure? Pack your bags - we’ve got your tickets!