China to store all foreigners’ fingerprints upon entry – with new rule starting in Shenzhen

Regulation, to be gradually rolled out at entry points nationwide, will affect all foreigners aged 14 to 70

  All foreigners aged between 14 and 70 will be asked to leave their fingerprints at entry points to the country and the information will then stored for official use.  File photo: Edit international

All foreigners aged between 14 and 70 will be asked to leave their fingerprints at entry points to the country and the information will then stored for official use. File photo: Edit international

The move, aimed at improving border checks, would see China collecting the fingerprints of all foreigners aged between 14 and 70 entering the country, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

The new regulation will start on Friday at Shenzhen Baoan International Airport, among other locations, before being gradually rolled out at all checkpoints across the country.

The information would then be stored for official use, the statement said. It did not elaborate on whether the information would shared across ministries and other government agencies. Foreigners using diplomatic passports and visas will not have to provide their fingerprints.

Chinese citizens from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were not considered foreigners, a Shenzhen border authority official said. Unlike foreigners who use their passports to enter mainland China, Chinese citizens from those regions do so using home return permits issued by Beijing. Their fingerprints are already required upon entering the mainland using their home return permits through e-channels.

“Storing biological identification information of people entering and leaving borders is an important border control measure, and many countries have started to implement the regulation,” the public security ministry’s statement said.

The border control authority would work on improving efficiency after the new rule took effect, it added. Other countries that already collect biometric data from visiting foreigners include the United States, Britain, France, Japan and Australia.

Fingerprinting foreigners at the border is often adopted as a measure to counter terrorism.

In the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, the US in 2004 started collecting electronic fingerprints from foreign nationals. The following year, foreigners were required to submit all 10 fingerprints instead of just two when they apply for US visas at its consulates.

The US collects the information only from those aged between 14 and 79, and exempts those using diplomatic and official visas or undergoing medical emergencies. Japan began fingerprinting and photographing foreigners entering the country in 2007 as an anti-terrorism measure.