This article was first published on 21 September 2020 and has been updated with additional reporting.
As an air travel hub and very open economy, reopening the skies will be something Singapore and Singapore residents look forward to. From the looks of it, this will be done via a different and customised manner. Predominantly, most travel arrangements will start off for essential business and official reasons.
In January 2021, even as vaccine plans are being rolled out across the globe, there has been a resurgence of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Due to this, many of the travel arrangements between countries, including Singapore and other countries, have been temporarily halted to reduce imported cases and local transmissions.
For now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has stated that the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) arrangements between Singapore and Germany, Malaysia and South Korea will be suspended for a period of 3 months, beginning 1 February 2021. The RGL will be reviewed at the end of the period on 1 May 2021.
Earlier, in December, it was also announced that Indonesia would be imposing a ban on foreign nationals entering the country. This restriction, initially to end on 14 January 2021, was extended to 8 February 2021.
The RGL between Singapore and Japan was also halted as a result of Japan a state of emergency for COVID-19. Initially slated to end on 31 January 2021, the travel halt will now only be lifted once the state of emergency is lifted. Numerous Japanese and global news reports have suggested that the state of emergency in Japan will be extended beyond the current 7 February 2021 target.
As RGLs are reciprocal in nature, any travel suspension from either country will likely affect the travel arrangement both ways.
To-date, Singapore has the following travel arrangements:
- Fast Lane agreements
- South Korea (temporarily halted until 1 May 2021)
- Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) arrangements
- Malaysia (temporarily halted until 1 May 2021)
- Japan (temporarily halted until 7 February 2021; expected to be further halted)
- Indonesia (temporarily halted until 8 February 2021)
- Germany (temporarily halted until 1 May 2021)
- Air Travel Pass
- New Zealand
- Air Travel Bubble
- Hong Kong (to commence soon)
- Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA)
Here is a summary of the different agreements with different countries.
Fast Lane Agreements
Fast Lane Agreements enable essential business and official travel between Singapore and the respective countries.
Travellers from either countries will have to abide by strict mutually agreed upon arrangements and local health measures in the respective countries. This will include pre-departure and post-arrival testing (done at the cost of the traveller), as well as having to abide by a controlled itinerary for the first 14 days in the country.
China (Started on 8 June 2020)
Currently, the Fast Lane arrangement is only applied between Singapore and 6 Chinese provinces and municipalities: Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang. This will be gradually expanded to other regions.
Applicable travellers who want to visit Singapore via the Fast Lane agreement must come from the above-mentioned six Chinese provinces and municipalities. These travellers “must be sponsored by either a Singapore-based company or a Singapore Government agency”.
The Singapore liaison will file an application for the travellers, for a SafeTravel pass.
Similarly, those who need to travel to these six regions must be sponsored either by a company or government agency in China. In turn, the Chinese liaison will file an application on behalf of the applicant with the local provincial or municipal authorities. If approved, an invitation will be issued to the applicant to apply for a visa from the PRC Embassy in Singapore, as well as submit a health declaration to the Chinese authorities.
Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea; started on 2 September 2020)
[Temporarily halted until 1 May 2021]
The Fast Lane arrangement is open to all residents of South Korea and Singapore.
In South Korea, entry and exit of the country is only allowed through Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, at this time.
Visitors from South Korea must be sponsored by either a Singapore-based company or Government agency. The Singapore liaison will then file an application for a SafeTravel Pass.
RECIPROCAL GREEN LANE (RGL) AGREEMENTS
Similar to the Fast Lane arrangements, Reciprocal Green Lane Agreements are mainly for business purposes. As such, travellers will have to be sponsored by a local company or government agency. Those travelling to Singapore must obtain a SafeTravel Pass document. Those who are required to obtain a visa must also do so.
Approved applicants will have to submit a pre-trip health and travel history declaration, and declare the local accommodation. Travellers will have to take a PCR test to obtain a certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19 prior to their travel as well as upon arrival (at their own costs).
Malaysia (started on 14 July 2020)
[Temporarily halted until 1 May 2021]
Travellers from Malaysia can enter Singapore via the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) arrangement and a special Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA). Each scheme is to address the needs of different groups of travellers.
Singapore’s Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement with Malaysia enables “short-term cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes between both countries, up to a maximum of 14 days’ stay”.
This “allows Singapore and Malaysia residents, who hold valid work passes in the other country, to enter that country for work”. This is via Woodlands Checkpoint or Tuas Checkpoint.
Travellers to Singapore under this scheme will have to serve a Stay-Home Notice and take a Covid-19 test before the Notice period ends. However, applicants can apply for a waiver of the Stay-Home Notice (SHN), and if granted, they can take the PCR test at the checkpoint at their own cost.
After at least 90 days in their country of work, they can return to their home country for short-term home leave. Then, they may re-enter their country of work to continue working for at least another 90 days.
Brunei (started on 1 September 2020)
2 travel schemes – Reciprocal Green Lane and Air Travel Pass – are available to enable travel between Singapore and Brunei.
The Reciprocal Green Lane “enables short-term cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes between both countries”.
Japan (started on 11 September 2020)
[Temporarily halted until 7 February 2021; expected to be further halted]
Singapore and Japan have implemented a Reciprocal Green Lane (Business Track) between the two countries. This is applicable to only the Tokyo (Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport) and Osaka (Kansai International Airport).
Indonesia (applications began on 26 October 2020)
[Temporarily halted until 8 February 2021]
On 12 October, a joint press release by Singapore and Indonesia detailed a Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement to commence soon.
Applications for the Reciprocal Green Lane will open on 26 October 2020, and “travel will commence soon”.
Germany (started 23 October 2020)
[Temporarily halted until 1 May 2021]
On 23 October, a joint press release by Singapore and Germany announced the agreement for a Reciprocal Green Lane arrangement to be established between the two countries.
The press release also detailed that this upcoming RGL arrangement will serve as a model for future similar agreements between Singapore and other European countries.
There was no stated date for the commencement or any date people could start applying for the RGL arrangement.
AIR TRAVEL PASS
The scope of Air Travel Pass extends beyond just essential business and official reasons, to include leisure as well.
Air Travel Passes may not be reciprocal either – which means that people in Singapore may not be able to travel to the country. Further, Air Travel Pass does not mean the other country has eased border restrictions advice for its residents to travel to Singapore.
Travellers must have spent the last consecutive 14 days in the respective countries before departing for Singapore on a direct flight, without transit.
Upon arrival, travellers will have to bear the cost of taking a PCR test upon arrival. Results will be out within 48 hours, and typically in about 12 hours. Visitors must arrange for their transportation from the airport to their declared accommodation.
If they test negative, they will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore without a Stay-Home Notice (SHN).
If the traveller requires a visa, they must also apply for it separately from the Air Travel Pass approval. Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, and Singapore Long-Term Pass holders are not required to apply for an Air Travel Pass to travel to Singapore from Brunei Darussalam. However, Singapore Long-Term Pass holders will still have to seek entry approval from the relevant Singapore Government agencies before travelling to Singapore.
Travellers will also have to abide by travel protocols and to use the local country’s tracing app, such as the TraceTogether app (in Singapore).
New Zealand (started on 21 August)
From 8 September, short-term visitors from New Zealand can apply for an Air Travel Pass to enter Singapore.
Brunei (started on 21 August)
From 8 September, short-term visitors travelling from Brunei Darussalam can enter Singapore by applying for an Air Travel Pass.
Australia (started on 30 September)
From 1 October 2020, visitors from Australia (excluding Victoria State) can apply for an Air Travel Pass to come into Singapore.
Vietnam (started on 30 September)
From 1 October 2020, visitors from Vietnam can apply for an Air Travel Pass to come into Singapore.
Air Travel Bubble
Air travel bubbles are two-way travel arrangements that will likely not have restrictions on the purpose of travel or segments of travellers, or any controlled itinerary, if they test negative for COVID-19.
Hong Kong (will commence soon)
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung also announced on 15 October that Singapore and Hong Kong has reached an in-principle agreement to open an Air Travel Bubble.
As both countries have low incidence rates of COVID-19, there will no stay-home notices (SHN) either. There will continue to be a pre-departure test and an arrival test.
While Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung mentioned that the two countries will now enter formal discussions to conclude the agreement, but did not set any dates for the start of the arrangement.
(Additional reporting by Dinesh Dayani)
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