Moving to Germany For Members

Reader question: How can I get an official German ID without a residence permit?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Reader question: How can I get an official German ID without a residence permit?
A man presents his German ID card. Photo: picture alliance / Sebastian Willnow/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Sebastian Willnow

It can be useful to have some form of ID for day-to-day life in Germany. But what do you do as a foreigner if you don't have a residence permit to use, and you don't want to risk carrying your passport around? Here's what you need to know.


According to the Ministry of Interior, all German citizens must own some form of official identification from the age of 16 onwards. There's also a very prevalent myth which states that people in Germany must carry this official ID on them wherever they go.

The first thing to ask is whether this rule is actually true, and whether foreigners in particular are obliged to own, or carry, official ID?

Contrary to what many people are told, neither foreigners nor Germans are legally required to carry a form of ID with them when out and about - unless, of course, they're crossing the German border. 

"Section 48 of the Residence Act does not contain any obligation to carry a passport," states legal website "The Dessau-Roßlau Regional Court (Case No.: 13 OWI 329/11) determined that a foreigner does not have to carry an identity document at all times.

"An identity document must only be presented after a reasonable period of time upon request."

In other words, though it can make it easier if you have ID with you if you're stopped by the authorities for any reason, experts say you aren't obligated to present ID straight away, but rather "after a reasonable period of time". 

That technically means that you can leave your passport at home and only present it as proof of identity once you're able to.

But what if you're keen to have some form of ID that you can carry with you for day-to-day things like using vending machines or proving your age in a supermarket?

Or, more commonly, to show that your vaccine passport or recovery certificate belongs to you under Germany's 3G/2G or 2G-plus Covid health pass restrictions?

That all depends on your citizenship and residency situation.


For German nationals, getting hold of an official ID card is a simple as going to your local Bürgeramt. For non-EU nationals, your residence permit card will have an electronic ID function and can be used to prove your identity within Germany.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to prove you’re a resident in Germany

For EU citizens who aren't German, things can feel a little bit trickier, as you don't need a residence permit and are not entitled to a German ID card.

So what are your options?

Well, since January 1st, 2021, non-German EU and EEA citizens have been able to apply for an electronic ID (eID) card under German law. To do this, you'll need to be at least 16 years old and have another form of valid official ID, such as a passport, in your possession.

The eID cards cost €37 and are issued for a period of 10 years. 


While these aren't considered valid travel documents, they can be used to prove your ID within Germany, for example at vending machines or self-service terminals in local public offices. 

General information about the eID card for EU/EEA citizens can be found here. If you'd like to know more about the digital function and how to use it, see our recent explainer here:

What is Germany’s electronic ID card and how do you use it?


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

lyssa77 2022/02/08 08:42
That sounds like a possibility Norm. Thanks. 2022/02/07 20:01
I recently got my passport card (US) and carry that instead of my actual passport. It's been a lifesaver since it fits nicely in a pocket or wallet. I've used it twice so far without issue. Perhaps that could help your situation, at least a little bit.
julie.m.pardi 2022/02/07 19:21
Ah, ok. I was trying to figure out how someone outside the EU could stay more than 90 days without a residence permit. Makes sense now.
lyssa77 2022/02/07 19:14
We don’t have residence permits because we are here with NATO. We have SOFA visas stamped in our passports. Military IDs don’t work nor do driver’s licenses. Only the passport.
julie.m.pardi 2022/02/07 19:11
Why do you carry your passport? I’m also American. I carry my and my children’s residence permits (Aufehaltstitel) unless we travel outside Germany.
lyssa77 2022/02/07 13:48
It has been a complete disaster having to carry all our passports nearly EVERWHERE we go to do practically anything. Especially for my kids. If they lose them, we're in a heap of trouble as it takes 6-8 weeks to get a new one and getting an appointment at a local embassy or consulate is difficult. We, Americans, are not accustomed to it. We usually use our driver's licenses, military IDs, or work badges to prove identity. Passports are meant for cross-border identification and this is crazy to us.

See Also