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MOVING TO GERMANY

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

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.

A man presents his German ID card
A man presents his German ID card. Photo: picture alliance / Sebastian Willnow/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Sebastian Willnow

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 Juraforum.de. “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?

Member comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

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For members

READER QUESTIONS

What tourists visiting Germany need to know about the €9 ticket

Public transport in Germany is about to get a lot cheaper with the introduction of the €9 ticket this summer. We looked at whether you have to be a resident in Germany to get it.

What tourists visiting Germany need to know about the €9 ticket

What’s all this about cheaper transport?

You may have read on The Local (yes, we’ve been writing about it a lot!), that Germany is bringing in a reduced price travel ticket. For the months of June, July and August, people will be able to purchase a €9 monthly ticket which they can use on public transport all over the country. 

The ticket is valid on buses, trains, U-Bahn services, trams and regional trains. People will be able to use it in all local networks – whether it’s Hamburg, Bavaria, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia or anywhere else.

It’s not valid on long-distance transport – that includes ICE and IC trains, as well as Flixbus and Flixtrain services. So you need a separate ticket for these services. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Is it available to tourists?

Definitely. Anyone in Germany can buy it. That includes tourists or anyone else visiting the country, as well as residents who live in Germany. 

How can I get it?

It’s not available quite yet, but you should be able to get your hands on it in the second half of May. All going well, it is set to be approved by the German parliament and states on May 19th and 20th (although they are bickering about the funding of it right now). 

Local transport providers are already updating their ticket machines. 

How does it work?

The ticket is being implemented by local transport organisations across the country so there are slight differences depending on where you get it. But the general idea is that people will be able to buy it at ticket machines, customer service centres and even via the transport provider’s app. 

The ticket will cost €9 per calendar month, or €27 in total if you buy three separate tickets. It will always be valid from the 1st of the month. So even if you buy the ticket on June 14th it will still cost €9 and it will only last until the end of that month (not into the next month). 

You can’t buy a three month version of the ticket – you’ll have to buy a separate ticket each month. 

The ticket will have your first and last name on it, so you can’t give the ticket to someone else. 

Two women take a photo in central Frankfurt. Tourists and residents can use the €9 travel ticket this summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Can I bring children with me?

Usually, local transport providers allow children under the age of six to travel for free with an adult who has a ticket. But check the terms and conditions of the area you are in. 

Can I bring a bike with me?

No. You’ll need to buy a special ticket to bring your bike on board. You can bring luggage on board without an extra ticket. 

Is it worth tourists buying the €9 ticket?

If you plan to take public transport in Germany, it’s definitely worth getting it. A single day ticket in Munich for example costs €8.20 normally (and even more depending on the zone). In Berlin, a single day ticket costs €8.80. 

Are there any downsides?

Expect services to be busy during these three months as more people turn to local transport. Rail operators have also urged people to watch out for building work on the lines. Since most people normally travel in summer, the warmer months are used to upgrade service and lines. 

READ ALSO: What is Sylt and why is it terrified of the €9 holidaymakers?

Why is the ticket being brought in?

It’s part of the German government’s energy relief measures, which include a €300 payout to German taxpayers and a fuel tax cut. The aim of the transport ticket is also to encourage people to leave their cars at home which protects the climate. If successful, it may lead to price reductions of local transport in future. 

Are there still Covid measures in Germany?

Yes – on public and long-distance transport, people in Germany still have to wear a face mask. You also have to isolate for at least five days (or a maximum of 10 days) if you get a positive Covid test, and there are still restrictions on entering the country

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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