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.

Most countries don't have an obligation of identification for their own citizens within their borders, exceptions include Germany, where an obligation of identification (Ausweispflicht) using either a German identity card or passport applies to all citizens over the age of 16.[1]

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


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 2 was extended to apply to all citizens over the age of 15. The identity card was known as a Volkskartei.[2]

British citizens were obliged to carry identity cards between October 1939 and May 1943.[3] The British identity card did not have a photo of the individual or date of birth, just the name and address.

Present day[edit]

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.[1] 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.[4]

See also[edit]