Obligation of identification

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Obligation of identification describes the compulsion to be in possession of a valid identity card and to produce this on demand by authorities.

Many countries do have an obligation of identification for their own citizens within their borders, such as many European countries.

When a person is entering or exiting a country or state, an obligation of identification is often required, e.g., passport control.


Many countries in Europe and several states in the US do require identification:

History (Germany)[edit]

The obligation of identification in Germany was introduced in 1938 by the Nazis for Jews and men of military age and shortly after the start of World War II was extended to apply to all citizens over the age of 15. The identity card was known as Kennkarte.

British citizens were obliged to carry identity cards between October 1939 and May 1943.[1] The British identity card did not have a photo of the individual or date of birth, just the name and address.

Present day (Germany)[edit]

In Germany, there is an obligation of identification (Ausweispflicht) using either a German identity card or passport applies to all citizens over the age of 16.[2] The obligation to have an identification card in Germany is governed by the Act on Identity Cards and Electronic Identification (German: Personalausweisgesetz). It allows for fines of up to 5000 euro for violations of the law.[2] The German identity card has a chip which stores an image of the holder's face and may also store fingerprints for holders from the age of 6.[3] Driver's licenses are not valid as identification card in Germany.


In Sweden there is no explicit law on obligation of identification. But still the police can demand identification in case of crime suspicion, because they have the duty to identify the identity of suspects. A person who is suspect of a crime giving a fine or an extra fee, such as no local traffic ticket, and are without an identity card, are suspect of identity fraud, a crime that can give prison and warrants an arrest.[4][5] Normally those are brought to the police station and are asked for their name and personal id number and are checked against the photo stored in the passport or driver's license database. A fine is not given if the identity is given correctly. Driver's licenses are valid as identification card in Sweden. Car drivers still have mandatory duty to carry their licenses, even if there is no crime suspicion.

The situation is similar in the other Nordic countries. Identity documents from Nordic countries are valid in all these countries although some types are less known and can give problems.

See also[edit]