Singaporeans put off travel plans as surge in passport applications leads to longer processing time


SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Mohd Shariff submitted an application for his wife's new passport on April 6, intending to travel to Kuala Lumpur on Vesak Day on May 15 with his family. But they had to put their plans on hold when she could not get her travel document on time.

He is among other people here who have amended plans and put hotel and flight bookings on hold, amid an overwhelming spike in passport applications.

In a statement on May 11, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said it was getting more than 7,000 applications for passports each day compared to 2,000 before the pandemic.

The easing of travel restrictions and upcoming school holidays in June have added to the demand.

Shariff, 31, a site supervisor in the fire protection industry, said he received a reply from ICA about a month after he sent in his wife's application and was told the passport would take four to six more weeks to process. Her photo did not meet the requirements in the application, it said.

Shariff said his family had to "cancel the flight and postpone it because I could not get the passport in time. I sent ICA the necessary documents to show that I was going to take the flight, but they were not able to expedite the application for me".

He managed to get a refund for his family's hotel booking but had to top up money for their flight which they postponed to December due to an increase in fares.

ICA said on May 11 that the average waiting time for passport processing is at least six weeks from the time of application.

"(We) understand that many Singaporeans are eager to start travelling again, especially during the coming June school holidays. We are doing our best to handle the high demand and our officers are working longer hours during this period," the authority added.

Some would-be travellers are playing it safe.

A month before his trip to Thailand in June, polytechnic student Nigel Tan, 18, realised his passport had expired last November.

Due to the six-week processing period, he has kept off booking flights or accommodation in Thailand with his friends while waiting for his new passport.

He noted that air tickets to Bangkok have gone up in price "so if my passport is renewed, it will cost a lot more to book a flight. It is also possible that my passport does not get renewed on time and I just cannot go for my trip".

Abdullah Shafiq, 23, who recently completed his national service, is hoping to get his passport soon so he can visit his father, who works in Malaysia.

"It has been about more than two years since I have travelled so it's something I look forward to. So far, I've no updates from ICA whereas it used to take two or three days," he said.

ICA said it has deployed more resources to process the applications, with more passport counters being made available on other floors in the ICA Building in Kallang.

In a separate update on Facebook on Tuesday (May 24), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared a post reminding Singaporeans to ensure that their passports are stamped at the Malaysian checkpoints before entering and exiting the country.

Leaving the Malaysian immigration booths without the entry and exit stamps constitutes an offence under the Malaysian Immigration Act.

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