Singapore citizens aged 16 and above who submit a passport application on or after 1 Oct this year will have their passport validity period extended from the current five years to 10 years, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Friday (7 May).
In a statement today, ICA said that the increased validity period “will reduce the frequency of passport renewals, and offer greater convenience to Singaporeans”.
There will be no change to the passport application fee, which will remain at S$70, said the Authority.
The validity period of the passport issued to children below 16 years old will remain at five years, ICA added.
Touching on the rationale behind previously reducing the validity period from 10 years to five years in Apr 2005, ICA said today that the shortening of the period was due to a need to monitor the stability of the newly-introduced biometric passport technology at the time.
“This ensured that the Singapore passport remains a highly secure and trusted travel document, which gives Singaporeans access to many countries without the need for a visa,” said the Authority.
The biometric passport incorporated an embedded microchip that contains the passport holder’s biometric information, namely facial and fingerprint identifiers.
However, the use of biometric technology by immigration authorities is now widespread and recognised globally, which “has made it increasingly difficult for criminal syndicates and persons with ill intent to use forged or stolen passports to gain illegal entry”.
“Also, biometric passport technology has stabilised. We now have greater confidence in the durability of the passport microchip,” said ICA.
Hence, in view of such developments, ICA said that “it is now viable to increase the validity of the Singapore passport to 10 years without compromising security or global confidence in the Singapore passport”.
“Many countries that previously issued five-year passports have also moved to a 10-year passport,” said the Authority.
The 10-year validity period is the maximum period allowed in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) recommendation, said ICA.
“Therefore, when a citizen renews the passport, any remaining validity in the old passport cannot be added to the new passport,” said the Authority.
For citizens aged below 16, the passport validity will remain at five years, as “children’s facial features change more rapidly”.
Renewing their passport every five years will allow the photograph in their passport to be updated more frequently, which will minimise identification problems when going through immigration, said ICA.
Director of Citizen Services Centre, Assistant Commissioner Chui Wai Cheng said: “Biometric passport technology has stabilised since we first introduced it in 2006. In view of this, ICA will increase the validity of the Singapore passport, and will implement this for passport applications on or after 1 October 2021. We are making this announcement now, so that travellers can plan ahead for their passport renewal.”
Many commenters on the CNA and The Straits Times‘ Facebook pages were happy with the announcement, as the five-year validity period before renewal was too short and costly for many passport holders, particularly for those who do not travel frequently and who may not get full use out of their passport pages.
Several questioned why the passport validity period was changed from 10 years to five before now being extended “back to 10 years”.
Similar to ICA’s explanation, one commenter said that the reduction of the validity period in 2006 was due to the shift to a biometric system.
“Maybe at that time the technology was still developing or international standards (have) not yet stabilised,” they said, adding that a 10-year period may be risky due to the possibility of the biometric chip becoming “obsolete internationally”.
Some commenters were disappointed that this change was not announced earlier on at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, where chances for travelling were already greatly limited for most Singapore passport holders.
Several commenters who had just renewed their passports recently said that the extension should have been implemented from last year.
One commenter suggested that the extension should apply to those who have renewed their passport from early last year prior to the travel restrictions being implemented.
One commenter even urged ICA to “compensate those affected” by the extension “for the loss of use”.
Many commenters were also of the view that it is unlikely that most people will be able to utilise their passports even with the extended validity period, due to ongoing and indefinite border restrictions, given how the COVID-19 pandemic has not shown signs of subsiding on a global scale.
A couple of commenters suggested that the ICA either retain the passport numbers for each holder or document a reference to old passports on the newest passport.
They said that when passport numbers are changed, setting up businesses, opening bank accounts and making employment pass applications overseas become “an inconvenience”.
One commenter suggested that the ICA increase the number of passport pages to 100, as Singaporeans travel frequently, especially to Johor Bahru.
“Otherwise their passports are gonna be full with malaysian immigration stamps only before even 5 years,” they said.
One commenter opined that Malaysia should follow suit with Singapore’s move.
Currently, the validity period of a Malaysian passport is five years from the date of issue.
For Malaysians aged 13 to 59, the passport renewal fee is RM200, while the cost is RM100 for citizens aged 12 and below, and seniors above 60.
Disabled persons are permitted to renew their passport free of charge.