China to fingerprint all foreign visitors
09 February 2017 15:41 GMT

All foreign visitors to China will now be fingerprinted at border points to enhance national security, the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday.

Fingerprinting of foreigners will be introduced at Shenzhen airport in the south from Friday, and it will then be gradually rolled out at other entry points around the country, the ministry said in a statement.

All foreign passport holders aged 14-70 will have to give their fingerprints, it said, without saying if other biometric data would also be collected.

The ministry said the regulation would strengthen immigration controls and increase efficiency.

While Chinese border posts do not generally have overly onerous entry formalities, most visitors need a visa, though many cities have visa-free deals for visits of a few days as part of efforts to boost tourism.

Chinese authorities counted more than 76 million entries and exits last year from foreigners, primarily from South Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia.

The ministry said in a statement that the new requirement was "an important measure to strengthen entry and exit management" that matches requirements in other countries.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has fingerprinted most foreign visitors since 2004. The agency said on its website that it is conducting tests of facial recognition software and other biometric screening. Japan also began fingerprinting all arriving foreigners in 2007 as a public safety measure.