Below is a letter I had written and emailed to both ICA and ST Forum.
I would like to express my mixed feelings about my experience with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
I have applied my two-month-old son’s passport online via APPLES (Application for Passport On-Line Electronic System). APPLES is an easy-to-use system and the entire process was also a quick one. I found using APPLES to be convenient since I did not need to go to ICA in person. This is especially helpful since I am a new mother taking care of a young baby on my own. With that, I would like to commend ICA for the ease and speed of this online passport application system.
Although the passport application was a breeze, I am surprised and shocked that the collection of the passport is not.
On 23 Nov 07, Friday, I brought my son to ICA to collect his passport as it was necessary for him to be there in person. I expected the collection of the passport to be a quick affair, given that the passport application was a short one. Before I could collect the passport, I obtained the queue number by scanning my son’s birth certificate. This, I believe, also sent the notice to the backoffice to retrieve my son’s passport for collection.
To my horror, I also saw that there were two hundred and eighty-three other applicants before me, as printed on my queue number slip. And even though there were altogether fourteen counters (Counter 18 to 31) opened for collection of passports, the queue for collection of passport did not seem to be shorter.
I also observed that there were two young persons who held on to the passports and would pass the passports to the next available ICA officer, before the officer activated the next queue number for collection. Although the young persons were generally attentive, there were a few times some ICA officers had to signal to them when available. I found this to be quite a backward system for retrieving and giving the passports to the ICA officers, compared to APPLES, which I felt also contributed to the delay in passport collection.
I also feel very strongly that ICA could do more to make the passport collection to be an easy and quick matter for parents with children who are younger than 3 years of age. Unlike adults, who have the patience or self-discipline to wait for hours, children younger than 3 years of age do not. ICA could help lessen that burden by perhaps, giving the children and their parents the opportunity to collect their passports first. Since there are already 14 counters opened for passport collection, perhaps one or two of them could be just for the collection of children’s passports. Afterall, I am sure the system that ICA has is intelligent enough to know which applicant is a child and which is an adult, given that the child’s birth certificate is used to scan for the queue number whereas the adult will use his/her identity card.
I hope that ICA will look into this matter and make the passport collection to be faster, so that it is comparable to the ease and speed of their online passport application system.
I decided not to wait for my turn, seeing that I was behind 283 other applicants on 23 Nov Friday, and paid a second visit to ICA this morning. I was there at 9am and though the queue was shorter, I was still the hundredth person waiting to collect the passport.
TJ napped throughout the one and a half hour wait, and I could even use that time to read my magazines. All that 90 minutes of waiting to collect his passport which only took about 3 minutes. But thank God this is over and TJ has finally gotten his passport.