BEIJING – From this week, China will start collecting fingerprints of millions of foreigners visiting the country annually, China’s Ministry of Public Security announced Thursday.

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.

The requirement will apply to most people between the ages of 14 and 70. Foreigners holding a diplomatic passport or coming from countries that have reciprocal agreements with China will be exempted, the ministry added.

Fingerprint logging will start Friday in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city bordering Hong Kong, before being gradually implemented elsewhere, according to Bangkok Post.

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

The United States, Japan, Taiwan and Cambodia, among others, have similar requirements.

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.