Fingerprints are displayed on a U.S. Customs computer screen as travellers from Japan wait to enter the United States after arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2004. The United States began requiring visitors from some of its allies be fingerprinted and photographed as they arrive. ((Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press))

Japan's cabinet has given final approval to a plan to fingerprint and photograph all adult foreigners entering the country, six years after the country dropped a similar requirement because of privacy concerns.

Cabinet made the decision Wednesday, a day after its parliament's Upper House approved a bill toughening security measures.

Among other measures in the same bill:

  • Japan's justice minister will be able to expel foreigners who are suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.
  • Airlines and ship lines will have to provide passenger and crew lists before they arrive in Japan.

Japan's lower house approved the bill in March. Now that it's been approved by cabinet, its measures are expected to take effect in November 2007.

After that date, in order to enter the country, those born outside Japan and aged 16 or older will have to agree to be photographed and have electronic images of their fingerprints taken.

The images will be checked against those in international crime and terrorism databases, as well as domestic crime records, and then stored for an unspecified time.

The only exceptions will be state guests, diplomats and some permanent residents of Japan.

Fingerprints collected until 2000

Japan fingerprinted all arriving foreigners until 2000, when the requirement was dropped because of a public outcry over invasion of privacy.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been pressing for the measure to be resumed, claiming that it will decrease crime and protect the country from terrorist activity.

Japan believes itis a potential target for militants linked to al-Qaeda because it has troops in Iraq as part of the American-led coalition keeping order in the country.

Japan recorded about7.5 million foreign visits in 2005.

The United States has also brought in security measures that require all arriving foreigners to be fingerprinted. Canadians and Mexicans areexempt from the requirement.