askST: Why the physical NRIC and passport are here to stay

SINGAPORE – Physical birth and death certificates may no longer be issued from May 29 this year, but the paper versions of the NRIC and Singapore passport are here to stay.

What are the reasons for doing away with official paper documents selectively? Are the digital versions safe? Can birth and death certificates be stored in the Singpass app?

The Straits Times answers these questions and others.

Q: Are there digital versions of the NRIC and Singapore passport?

A: A digital NRIC complete with a barcode can be found in the Singpass app, which authenticates and verifies one’s identity when accessing online and some in-person services.

Today, the Singpass app has about 3.5 million users – representing almost all Singapore citizens and permanent residents above 15 years old who are required by law to register for their NRIC.

There is currently no digital equivalent of the Singapore passport.

Q: What can you do with the digital NRIC today?

A: The Singpass app now authenticates access to more than 2,000 digital and in-person services, including the booking of Housing Board flats and key collection, polyclinic and sports facility registrations and passport collection.

Digital ICs are also accepted as proof of identity for all kinds of counter transactions, including account opening and loan applications at bank branches.

Many bank transactions can also be completed entirely online using MyInfo to verify customers’ identity. MyInfo is a national digital vault of citizens’ personal data from government sources, and can be used to auto-fill digital forms.

Q: Why can’t the NRIC and Singapore passport be completely paperless?

A: A spokesman for the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said there are currently no plans to do away with the paper versions of the NRIC and Singapore passport. “The physical IC is widely accepted and used by both the public and private sectors for transactions,” said the spokesman.

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ST understands that less tech-savvy individuals and establishments, as well as outdated laws, are the key reasons for still keeping the physical card.

As for passports, international acceptance of a digital passport is a major hurdle to cross.

“There is currently no international initiative or standard to digitise passports for border control,” said the ICA spokesman.


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