As a European Citizen (either from Schengen or non-Schengen), what should I do to get a photo identification card to use instead of my passport?

Can I apply for such a ID straight away or are there some limitations or waiting periods? Like employed for several months, have to have national insurance or other non-Schengen limitations (i.e. Romanian?)

  • How can you be a citizen of both Schengen and non-Schengen? Dual citizenship?
    – gerrit
    Mar 12 '14 at 20:56
  • Sorry - That was a typo- I meant shengen or non-shengen
    – Piotr Kula
    Mar 12 '14 at 21:14
  • Note that Schengen rights/agreements have practically no impact in the UK. Mar 18 '14 at 22:59

In the UK (similar to the US), there is no concept of national ID-based identification similar to eg. eastern-EU countries; neither are you required to have one at your person. There was an initiative to have one, called Identity Cards Act 2006, which was discontinued on 2010. Also from there

Only workers in certain high-security professions, such as airport workers, were required to have an identity card in 2009, and this general lack of ID being compulsory tends to remain the case today. Therefore, driving licences, particularly the photocard driving licence introduced in 1998, along with passports are now the most widely used ID documents in the United Kingdom. Given many people do not carry their passports in public without an advance knowledge that they are going to need them, this leaves driving licences as the only valid form of ID to be presented, if requested by an authority for a legitimately-given reason. Colloquially, in day-to-day life, most authorities do not ask for identification from individuals in a sudden, spot check type manner, such as by police or security guards, although this may become a concern in instances of stop and search.

So this boils down to what, specifically, do you need to prove:

  • For age-restricted products, your passport will do fine
  • For bank accounts, you will need Proof of address, for which any bill posted to your UK address will do
  • For National Insurance / self-employed / etc registration, usually the combination of the above, along with invoices / bank statements, as needed.

(Note: This concludes identification, but not naturalization, which is a different topic entirely)

  • 1
    Also note that if you already have a National ID from one of the EU/EEA countries, that will work fine to validate your DOB. Driving licence from you home country should also be okay for DOB verification, but might not be enough to a bank.
    – SztupY
    Mar 14 '14 at 0:38
  • This is the correct. You can apply for a learners drivers licence, that is about as close as you will get to a photo ID in UK. You cannot travel within EU on this and it is generally used to verify one of your last or current addresses, rather than prove who you are. In some EU countries, photo ID cards look like drivers license, but they are actual ID and Drivers are separate. You can travel freely using these ID cards within EU. Brits can only use passports.
    – Piotr Kula
    Feb 5 '16 at 7:55

Requirement for Photo ID

Generally, you will find that the requirement for photo identification is fairly limited. I think you may find the hassle of using something other than your passport isn't worthwhile, unless you are young enough to need to prove your age when buying alcohol or tobacco, or have specific work-related access-control requirements.

In almost all cases that I've been asked for photo ID, it's been a organised situation - like applying for a bank account or similar. The only exceptions to this have been:

  • When driving, where my driver's license was required.
  • When visiting a secure datacenter which had a policy of requiring photo ID that I wasn't aware of.

Driver's License

The most common form of photo identification is almost certainly a driver's license. If you have an EU driver's license card, you will almost certainly find it's universally accepted as proof of identity in the UK, since the UK card adheres to the EU standard.

In the unlikely event that you run into trouble with an EU license, you could convert your EU driver's license to a UK driver's license as per https://www.gov.uk/exchange-foreign-driving-licence for a fee of £50. There are certain limitations to when you can do that, such as how long you've been in the UK.

Biometric Residence Permit

Depending on your visa / residence status, you may find that you are required to register for a Biometric Residence Permit. This is a legally acceptable form of photo identity, but is only applicable in certain circumstances (such as when getting Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK). It is thus quite unusual, and you may only be required to get it years after you arrive.

Proof of Identity in the UK

Proof of identity in the UK is politically and practically complicated. Overall there is no universal method for proving identity in the UK, as many claim that introducing such a structure will lead to a loss of civil liberties. I cannot link to the page (due to my low ranking) but a search for the No2ID campaign will explain more about this.

Identity is thus normally proved by having letters or utility bills that are destined for your name and address. There is no requirement for those born in the UK to have photographic proof of identity for almost any purpose (including voting or even buying a house). Passports are not universally held, but are required for leaving the country - I would guess that they are the second most frequent form of photo identification.

Overall, the lack of universal photo identification means that the requirement for photographic identification on a day-by-day basis is very limited. It is only really required when doing something like opening a bank account as a foreign national, or registering to study or similar. You may find it easiest to stick to using your passport for these reasonably rare circumstances.

Pass-Scheme Card

If you are running into problems buying alcohol or tobacco products, a private company produces a card that retailers will accept for this specific purpose at http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk/ Note that it's not proof of identity so far as I know, and I think it's very unlikely your bank will accept it.

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