China will soon begin fingerprinting all foreigners entering the country, with a pilot project beginning in the southern city of Shenzhen from Friday.
The new regulation will be gradually implemented at all entry points across the country this year, starting from Shenzhen Baoan International Airport.
The US, France and Japan are among other countries which fingerprint all foreigners entering their territory.
“In 2017, exit-entry departments across the country will begin to collect the fingerprints of foreign nationals aged between 14 and 70. Those holding diplomatic passports or under reciprocal conditions are exempted,” official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
“Collection of biometric data, including fingerprints, is an important border control measure that has been adopted by several countries in the world...China's exit-entry departments will strive to improve the efficiency of entry clearance,” the report added.
It is not clear whether foreigners already residing in China will be fingerprinted when, say, they return to the country from work or a holiday abroad.
China had been toying with the idea of fingerprinting foreigners entering the country for some years.
A draft law on entry and exit procedures, which allowed the ministry of public security and the foreign ministry to gather biological identification data such as fingerprints from foreign visitors, was first discussed in 2011.
State-controlled China Daily had then reported the rules would apply to foreigners seeking residence visas, businessmen, foreign journalists and many students.
The new law could be aimed at introducing a more reliable identification system and reducing the chances of counterfeiting identities, state media had reported.
Authorities were working for the past few years to ready the technology and logistics needed to implement the new rule.
The Beijing Youth Daily reported in 2015 that the ministry of public security had invited manufacturers of fingerprint readers to bid for equipment.
It mentioned the minimum requirements were that the manufacturers must be registered in China and be Chinese-owned or controlled.