Singapore Trialling Electronic Landing Cards

On many international flights, before landing, the crew will walk through the cabin offering landing cards to anyone who needs to complete them. These are a slip of paper where passengers enter their details such as name, passport number, origin, reason for trip and customs declarations.

Those passengers will then hand the landing card to the immigration officer when they land (along with their passport).

In my experience, some airports will study these landing cards carefully, while others barely look at them and they get tossed onto a large pile, and may never actually be read. I sometimes have trouble even reading my own writing scrawled into those tiny boxes, so I don’t know how anyone else does!

Australia used to also have annoying outgoing passenger cards which were eventually axed after Australian airports admitted that they were not even read, and the required information was already being given to each airport by airlines as part of the flight manifests anyway.

Singapore

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority is trialling electronic landing cards, which are intended to eventually replace the paper landing cards currently used.

The trial is commencing on October 4 and running for three months, but don’t panic if you are flying soon — The Business Times is reporting that the trial will only initially apply to those passengers who haven’t completed a paper card when they reach the immigration checkpoint. Rather than asking these passengers to complete the paper card before proceeding through immigration, they will be invited to participate in the trial instead.

The information to be entered will not change.

The trial will be conducted at air, land and sea checkpoints into Singapore, most notably at Singapore Changi Airport and Singapore’s cruise ship terminals.

My biggest frustration with these landing cards is I rarely have a pen within arm’s reach when the cards are handed out, so either need to get one from my bag in the overhead at the time, or ask a cabin crew member for a pen to complete the card (as so many other people are doing at the same time).

I also don’t usually keep my passport at my seat (as I’m terrified I’m going to leave it on the plane), so then need to either put the landing card with my passport (in my bag), or remember to both complete the landing card later in the flight (when I have a pen), and find the landing card to put it with my passport.

So, while I suspect most passengers would rather not complete a landing card at all, the electronic option would be faster for most people, as it does have multiple benefits that will save travellers time:

  • It will be available in multiple languages
  • If a group is travelling together (i.e. a family), it only needs to be completed once for the group
  • Some information, such as address in Singapore will be saved for future trips, so won’t need to be completed each time
  • Anyone completing the electronic card will only require their passport at the immigration checkpoint

Bottom line

I’ve always thought technology would make things like landing cards redundant. In 2018 it seems archaic to be scrawling your date of birth in tiny boxes on a landing card, given that to depart so many airports all you now do is quickly scan a boarding pass at immigration or security.

The trial (and future use) of electronic landing cards will not be required by Singaporeans, permanent residents, eIACS and long-term pass holders (such as students and workers) returning to Singapore, as they do not need to complete the paper landing cards.

Hopefully once this becomes permanent, travellers will receive some notification as they are waiting to board their flight to Singapore, that they can complete it at the gate before boarding their flight where they should have easy access to airport wifi. This is because they may not have wifi on the plane and will not want to wait around Changi airport when they land to connect to the wifi to complete the electronic landing card.

Would you prefer to complete an electronic landing card rather than a paper card?

Comments

  1. If USCBP can figure out how to make a “Mobile Passport Control App,” surely other nations can also make this work. Of course, it’d be even more efficient if CBP could somehow combine an esta submission and a customs card app for non-US/Canadian citizens, but I know this is pushing things. I’m honestly surprised otherwise technologically sophisticated governments in east Asia still rely on those little sheets of paper.

  2. @James, would you not be completing ebough of these cards to remember every passport detail without looking? 🙂

    If I know my arrival point has a card, I usually ask the crew for it upon boarding, and complete it while waiting for boarding to wrap up

  3. Not surprising to see Singapore being ahead of the curve on this – their immigration clearance process is a breeze. I completely agree that hand written paper landing cards seem woefully out of date and I also am consistently annoyed at having to bring out a pen and my passport etc late in the flight to fill it out. I have a system now where I make sure to have a couple of pens in my travelling satchel within easy access. If I’m flying in business with aisle access this isn’t an issue but if I’m on a narrow-body in economy then it means I”ll put my satchel under the seat instead of in the overhead.

  4. SIN Airport now offers automatic Frequent visitor entrance. I just scan my passport into kiosk like local SIN residents and auto-gate gives green-light to enter or exit. Not sure how many visits/yr are needed for eligibility but fast and friendly. (I’m there @least 2x yr).

  5. I keep my passport info in the notes portion of my contact card on my phone. And my phone is always near me at my seat so it can charge and be readily available upon landing. I, too, am terrified of leaving my passport on the plane so I never leaves my carry-on. As for the pen, seems most amenity kits come with pens these days, which is helpful if not somewhat wasteful.

  6. Canada also has a similar process where you download an app on your phone, fill it out and then scan the QR code at the electronic Kiosk upon arrival — all no WiFi needed. It actually speeds up arrival into Canada, with it flagging you to see an immigration officer if needed.

  7. If the Schengen countries can manage with no landing cards, then why are even electronic ones required?

  8. I keep a a pic of my passport in my phone so I just pull that up when filling out landing forms. Also good to have just in case I actually do lose my passport (which, knock on wood, I have yet to do).

  9. What point do these cards even serve anymore? They contain mostly the same info as the passport itself, which is read electronically and could be saved if need be.

  10. Getting rid of paper landing cards is an early step to getting rid of the passport stamp. The rubber stamp may be used to stamp the card and then your passport. A passport with just an electronic record and no passport stamps would be boring. It would not be much better than a driver’s license sized card.

    Trump should tweet about this and threatened to bomb Singapore with nuclear weapons unless it promises not to get rid of passport stamps. Believe me. Sad.

  11. @james. I always have my wallet and passport in my pocket A small carry on with a pen or two to hand. In the past I had a few landing cards which I picked up in the arrivals zone therefore already ready for the next trip

    What frustrates me the most is airlines who insist on handing them out shortly before landing. They should be handed out during the first service

  12. I find these landing cards really inconsistent (at least in Canada and the USA) as to whether you need to fill it out on paper or if you can fill one out electronically when you land. A few months ago I flew IAD-YYZ on United and the FA didn’t hand out any landing cards. A passenger asked and she said that you do it electronically on the kiosks. When I arrived in Toronto and went to the kiosk it asked for my paper landing card. I asked one of the people working there and they told me to go to a small corner where there were landing cards and pens and fill out a form with a whole bunch of people crowded at this small table. A few months before that I flew ORD-YYZ on United and they just handed out paper landing cards. I have also had similar experiences when flying from Europe to the USA where I filled out a landing card electronically upon arrival, then the next flight I took from Europe to the USA I had to fill out a paper card.

  13. I once got YELLED at by an immigration officer for not having a pen on me to complete the card. He even went ahead to say things like “you have to grow up, always carry a pen with you at all times!!!”

    Anyway, now I always request a landing card while checking in and checking my bags and complete the whole thing before takeoff so I have peace of mind. Best thing! You should try that too, James.

  14. Taiwan has had electronic landing cards for some time now and when I had to use them, they were much easier to fill out a few days before travel online and then not have to worry about it.

  15. Would you not be completing enough of these cards to remember every passport detail without looking?

    If I know my arrival point has a card, I usually ask the crew for it upon boarding, and complete it while waiting for boarding to wrap up

  16. While I agree with the comment that some officials will check the arrival cards minutely while others just seem to ignore them, in the course of my work, I have occasion to speak with the Australia Immigration Department (now known as Border Force), mainly to do with are people legally in the country, every arrival and departure card (when they were completed) are scanned and held on file, I remember one tricky case of trying to confirm ID – we went thru all the cards over the years for this persons arrivals and departures – which gave illuminating information. So while they may just be tossed in a pile – something is done with them (in Australia anyway )

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