If you’re Singaporean and are about to turn 30, you have to renew your Identification Card (IC). I realised that around my birthday, when I received a letter from the Immigration authorities citing the Regulation requiring me to do so.
The letter sounded a bit stern, but I told myself I’d get round to doing it – after my trips to Berlin, London and Bangkok! Then I was sent a first reminder and thought I’d better act fast!
If you have a home scanner or digital camera, applying for an IC renewal shouldn’t be too difficult. You should also know how to use image-editing software so that you can optimise your images before uploading them.
You need to scan the front and back of your current IC and also take a clear photo of yourself. The images need to be resized to a specified resolution. You will be asked to keep images to a specified file size, like 60kb only.
To make your online application, visit the [Immigrations and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) website](http://www.ica.gov.sg/) and click on the circled link.
You will be taken to this landing page.
According to the FAQs, you need “Internet Explorer (IE) 5.5 SP 2 or Netscape 6.0 and above” and a resolution of 1024×768 to view this site 😉 However, I had no problems using Firefox on a Mac. Maybe this will give us an idea as to when this system was developed… when Netscape was still around!
Similarly, the IC Online interface is more ‘Web 1.0’ than Web 2.0, but it is functional enough. It also took a while to time out, so it wasn’t irritating. Anyway, you are advised to get all your images ready for upload before logging in. If it does time out, it will not store the previous data you’ve entered so you will have to re-type and re-upload everything.
You can preview each image that you have uploaded before submitting it. The system is so basic that you can only preview one image at a time. However, because of the small file size, uploading is quick and I didn’t encounter any bugs or difficulties using the online service.
Collecting your IC
A day or two after submitting my online application, I was informed via email that my new IC was ready for collection! I just had to print out the email and bring my old IC along. This is Singaporean efficiency for you!
I was given two weeks to collect it, or I could make an appointment to collect it at a later date. A few days after that, I was sent a hard copy version of the same message. It also had instructions on how to collect my new IC – by taking a queue number and proceeding to the waiting area.
So this morning I went down to collect my new IC. I thought the queue would be as long as the last time I was at the ICA to collect my renewed passport, so I brought my French notes along to study! However it was much faster than expected.
At the ICA, the signage is so clear that you can’t miss it. Firstly, when you enter the building you will see a directory. I immediately saw that all things related to ICs took place on the third floor, so up I went. When I reached the third floor, there was another sign which had a copy of the green letter. It said that if we had such a letter, we should proceed to take a queue number.
The queue number machines were several paces away. Each had a slot for bar code scanning. There was a bar code on my letter, so I inserted it into the slot, the machine beeped and immediately printed out a queue ticket number, which cited the number of people in front of me: 0. I like that!
However I still had to sit down for a minute as the previous person’s queue number was still on the digital screen above one of the counters. It then refreshed to display my number. I went up, presented my documents and was asked to confirm my personal details.
The only thing I thought I had to update was my religion. However, I was also asked about my highest level of education! I told the lady I was currently doing my Masters and had a university degree.
What surprised me was the next few questions.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Second Upper or Lower?”
At that point I was thinking, ‘You want my A-level grades too? They’re better. I had many more As…’
So my piece of advice to Singaporeans about to enter university – you can get by with average O or A levels but do not slack at University! It will be recorded in the Gahmen system!!
I was also wondering: Why should my University grades be on national record? I’d only want to give them to a potential employer, and even then it is likely to be a more Government-linked one. Those job applications would also ask for my parents’ details.
I also know someone who graduated with a Third class and a couple others who just passed without any Honours or Class at all … how would they feel when asked this question?
Suddenly I pictured some neo-SDU secret scheme, where my education level and grades would be analysed and paired up with a list of possible matches from similar Singaporean males.
Maybe at the very least, my data will be used by some think-tank agency looking to solve the growing problem of singlehood among Singaporeans. Or I could end up as a mere statistic in yet another newspaper report on an increasingly growing number of single and educated Singaporeans who aren’t getting married and having 2.4 children.
Anyway, on with the story. I had to confirm these personal details and sign off a form, and then sign another form to confirm I had collected my new IC.
Lastly, I had to get both my thumbs scanned. There seemed to be a bit of problem with the scanning so that had to be done a couple more times. Then I also had to get both thumbs pressed onto an ink pad to make a hard-copy impression. I thanked my officer and left, wiping off the smudges of ink on my fingers.
Overall, everything was very efficient, as can be expected of our Government services. In this aspect I would call it world class.
The only areas to improve in would be the ‘soft touches’ like having a friendlier-sounding opening letter, rather than citing a possible breach for not renewing one’s IC at the age of 30. I’m sure many of us wouldn’t want to feel we’re in breach of anything, especially if we didn’t know about our obligations in the first place.
Also, front line officers could explain upfront why they require more data beyond important details like address and religion. Also, we should be told if we could opt out of providing extra information to the Government.
On hindsight, I should’ve asked my officer why they required such specific info like my University grade. But at that point in time I was a bit stunned and just wanted to get over with it and collect my IC.
[Update: I just took a look at the [FAQs](http://www3.ica.gov.sg/nric/faq/faq_Website.htm) but don’t see any explanation as to why we have to provide our Education level and grade.
I have also just written to the ICA to ask if they could elaborate on the need for providing specific Education grades, and whether we can opt out of this. Will update this when they reply.]