Singapore, my neighboring country, may be small but it is a stable and
prosperous multi-racial city state. Moreover, it has a reputation for
non-corruption. Consequently, it attracts tourists and prospective residents.
Being a small country, many Singapore residents like to travel abroad to escape
from their fast-paced city life. Hence, for both foreigners and-locals alike,
the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building is a place they will
need to visit at least once.
The grey, multi-storeyed building stands
adjacent to the Lavender MRT (mass rapid
transit) station. From dawn to dusk, it receives a steady stream of visitors
from the station or from the nearby bus stop. Most of them make a beeline for
the building as the surrounding buildings are just a mix of
drab warehouses and scattered residential
The building itself has several levels catering to the various needs of the
visitors. Here, people come to apply, renew, extend or collect the passports and
forms or passes relating to residence, immigration or citizenship.
A visitor will usually head for the information counters first. There, his
request will be assigned a queue number at a given counter. He will then head
for the required storey and counter. Once there, the person will wait patiently
or impatiently for the perpetually busy
clerks to call out his number. Then he will produce his collection of forms,
photographs and other documents so as to process that all important document
which either allows him to visit the overseas country he is hankering for (for a
local) or to stay in this country for a while longer (for a foreigner).
The Immigration Officers work behind closed doors in their office booths.
Occasionally, he or she will come out to clarify something or hand over some
papers to the clerks. When people are ushered into the offices, they are to be
interviewed for the issue of the documents they are requesting for. The merits
of their case will be considered according to rules and regulations and its
progress according to due process for this is a country which prides itself on
its 'clean' and efficient reputation.
People of different races and cultures will be seen. People trickle in at
early dawn, patiently waiting for the doors to open and to avoid the crush of
public applicants who come later. The crowds swell to its maximum just before
At this time, many people will head for the canteen on the ground floor. A
casual observer will hear topics of conversation ranging from holidays abroad to
problems of applying for citizenship. However, the main employment of the mouths
here is to receive food for the hungry stomachs.
By 4 p.m., the crowds thin out. More people will be seen leaving rather than
entering the building. The doors of the building will close promptly at 5 p.m.
When dusk settles in and the evening shadows become longer, the place becomes
silent and empty. The building and its staff will rest and recharge for the next
day will be another busy day when the doors open again.