In the absence of a formal identity document, driving licenses tend to be accepted as the most effective method of proof of identity. National passports are also accepted and are usually also recognised as a form of identification outside of the issuing country.
In the United Kingdom and the United States especially, government-issued compulsory identity cards or, to be more precise, their centralised database are a source of debate as they are regarded as an infringement of privacy and civil liberties. Most criticism is directed towards the enhanced possibilities of extensive abuse of centralised and comprehensive databases storing sensitive data. A 2006 survey of UK Open University students concluded that the planned compulsory identity card coupled with a central government database generated the most negative attitudinal response among several alternative configurations.
The term "compulsory" may have different meanings and implications in different countries. The compulsory character may apply only after a certain age. Often, a ticket can be given for being found without one's identification document, or in some cases a person may even be detained until the identity is ascertained. In practice, random controls are rare, except in certain times.
A number of countries do not use country-wide identity cards to verify identity. These include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, India See below, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.
A number of countries have non-compulsory identity card schemes. These include Austria, Finland, France (see France section), Hungary (however, all citizens of Hungary must have at least one of: valid passport, photocard driving licence, or the National ID card), Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland.
During the UK Presidency of the EU in 2005 a decision was made to: "Agree common standards for security features and secure issuing procedures for ID cards (December 2005), with detailed standards agreed as soon as possible thereafter. In this respect, the UK Presidency has put forward a proposal for EU-wide use of biometrics in national ID cards.
In the United States, some states issue non compulsory identity cards for people who do not hold a driver's license as an alternate means of identification. In some states such as New York, these cards are issued by the same organization responsible for driver's license, the Department of Motor Vehicles.
For the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara, pre-1975 Spanish identity cards are the main proof that they were Saharaui citizens as opposed to recent Moroccan colonists. They would thus be allowed to vote in an eventual self-determination referendum.
Some companies and government departments issue ID cards for security purposes; they may also be proof of a qualification. For example, all taxi drivers in the UK carry ID cards. Managers, supervisors and operatives in construction in the UK have a photographic ID card, the CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card, indicating training and skills including safety training. Those working on UK railway lands near working lines must carry a photographic ID card to indicate training in track safety (PTS and other cards) possession of which is dependent on periodic and random alcohol and drug screening. In Queensland and Western Australia, anyone working with children has to take a background check and get issued a Blue Card or Working with Children Card, respectively.
Detailed information on European ID documents, including what they look like, you can find in PRADO, information pages provided to the general public by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.
Until 2004 the national debit card Dankort contained a photo of the holder and was widely accepted as identity card. As the Danish banks lobbied not to have pictures on the national debit cards and so in 2004 the Dankort no longer contains a photo and hence rarely accepted for identification.
A driver's license or passport are the only ID cards issued by the government containing both the Personal identification number and a photo.
Driving licenses and KELA (social security) cards with a picture are also widely used for general identification purposes, even though they are not officially recognized as such.
In the past, identity cards were compulsory, had to be updated each year in case of change of residence and were valid for 10 years, and their renewal required paying a fee. In addition to the face photograph, the card included the family name, first names, date and place of birth, and the national identity number managed by the national INSEE registry, and which is also used as the national service registration number, as the Social Security account number for health and retirement benefits, for access to court files and for tax purposes.
Today, the law (Art. 78-1 to 78-6 of the French Penal Procedure Code) only mentions that during a ID check performed by police or gendarmerie, one can prove his identity "by any means", the validity of which is left to the appreciation of the law enforcement official. Though not stated explicitly in the law, an ID card or a passport will, in most circumstances, be sufficient. The decision to accept other documents, with or without the bearer's photograph is left to the discretion of the law enforcement officer.
Random checks of passers-by's ID by the French police are quite common, especially in poorer neighborhoods. Even though it is not compulsory de jure to carry an ID, not doing so may lead to a de facto arrest ("vérification d'identité") of up to 4 hours according to art. 78-3 of the French Penal Procedure Code ("Code de procédure pénale").
For financial transactions, ID cards and passports are almost always accepted as proof of identity. Due to common forgery, driver licenses are sometimes refused. For transactions by cheque involving a larger sum, two different ID documents are frequently requested by merchants.
The current identification cards are now issued free of charge, and are non-compulsory. The current government has proposed a compulsory biometric card system, which has been opposed by human rights groups and by the national authority and regulator on computing systems and databases, the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés, CNIL. Another non-compulsory project is being discussed.
It is compulsory for all German citizens age 16 or older to possess either a "Personalausweis" (identity card) or a passport, but not to carry it. While police officers and some other officials have a right to demand to see one of those documents, the law does not state that one is obliged to submit the document at that very moment. But as driver's licences are not legally accepted forms of identification in Germany, most persons actually carry their "Personalausweis" with them.
A compulsory, universal ID system based on personal ID cards has been in place in Greece since World War II. ID cards are issued by the police on behalf of the Headquarters of the Police (previously issued by the Ministry of Public Order, now incorporated in the Ministry of Internal Affairs) and display the holder's signature, standardized face photograph, name and surname, father's name and surname, mother's name and maiden surname, date and place of birth, height, electoral district (Demotologion), and the issuing police precinct. There are also two optional fields designed to facilitate emergency medical care: ABO and Rhesus factor blood typing.
Fields included in previous ID card formats, such as vocation or profession, religious denomination, domiciliary address, name and surname of spouse, fingerprint, eye and hair color, citizenship and ethnicity were removed permanently as being intrusive of personal data and/or superfluous for the sole purpose of personal identification.
Since 2000, name fields have been filled in both Greek and Latin characters. According to the Signpost Service of the European Commission [reply to Enquiry 36581], old type Greek ID cards "are as valid as the new type according to Greek law and thus they constitute valid travel documents that all other EU Member States are obliged to accept." In addition to being equivalent to passports within the Schengen Treaty Area, Greek ID cards are the principal means of identification of voters during elections.
Since 2005, the procedure to issue an ID card has been automated and now all citizens over 12 years of age must have an ID card, which is issued within one workday. Prior to that date, the age of compulsory issue was at 14 and the whole procedure could last several months.
In Greece, an ID card is a citizen's most important state document, as it is used in most public and many private transactions. For instance, it is required for opening a bank account, to perform banking transactions if the teller personnel is unfamiliar with the apparent account holder, to make a contract, to have state insurance, to register in a school or university, to take part in driving license examinations, to interact with the Citizen Service Bureaus (KEP), receive parcels or registered mail etc. Citizens are also required to produce their ID card at the request of law enforcement personnel. Failure to do so can lead to brief detention for the purposes of identity verification.
All the above functions can be fulfilled also with a valid Greek passport (eg. for people who have lost their ID card and have not yet applied for a new one, people who happen to carry their passport instead of their ID card or Greeks who reside abroad and do not have an identity card, which can be issued only in Greece in contrast to passports also issued by consular authorities abroad).
Legal resident aliens from non-EU countries are issued a similar document, colloquially called a green card. For non-residents, the passport acts as the ID card. EU citizens may produce any document that is valid in their own country.
The lower section of the second page is called Connotati e contrassegni salienti ("Main physical features"), and shows the following voices:
The third page of the document includes a colour photograph and the signature of the holder. It also contains the place and date of issue, proper stamp of the issuing authority and the name and signature of the public official who materially released the document. The third page also has a space to contain the left index fingerprint of the holder, mandatory if he has a criminal record.
The card has a validity of 5 years; the expiry date is reported on the fourth page. The ID number is two letters followed by seven or more digits, and is unique; it is reported on both the first and fourth pages.
In Italy, an ID card is the most important document of a citizen. It can be used as a valid identification to create a bank account, to validate a credit card transaction, to vote (mandatory, together with proper Voter Card), to check in on all flights for either domestic or EU destinations, etc.; the Identity Card is also used in lieu of the Passport to enter all European Union-member Countries and others in the European area, including Switzerland. It can be replaced with other documents, including the driving licence, for all of these uses except for voting and for leaving the Country, when it's mandatory to display the Identity Card (along with the Passport if the citizen is leaving Italy for a non-EU destination). It should be noted that an Italian ID card can be issued as Non valida per l'espatrio ("Not a valid document to leave the Country"), thus acting as a valid identity document within the Italian territory but not as a valid voucher to leave Italy, even towards EU Countries. The issue of ID cards not valid to leave the Country is no longer the rule, and is a compulsory practice only if the holder is subject of certain limitations of personal freedom (i.e. after having been found guilty of certain crimes) or if he is an underage individual (under 16 years of age); this last limitation, requiring consent of both parents or tutors for an underage individual to be issued of a valid ID to leave Italy, has been introduced to prevent phenomenons like parental abduction or teenagers escape/leave.
Citizens are not required by law to carry the ID card with them at all times, but since it is instead mandatory for a citizen to have his ID card when outside his Comune of residence, and since a citizen is required to promptly show the ID card to the authorities upon request (i.e. for Police controls) or face possible retention for identification, Italian citizens are de facto required to have the Identity Card or another ID with them at all times. a new Italian electronic identity card is being planned to be phased in, although its introduction might actually take years due to Governmental budgetary constraints. This new electronic ID should actually be a chip card, containing all biometric datas of the holder in an embedded integrated circuit. This could allow remote access to Public Administration services (i.e. issue of certificates) through computer positions, and also prevent counterfeiting and allow Police personnel to check an individual's identity in real-time through specially-issued devices such as PDAs (at present times, if Italian Police personnel wishes to check an identity, they must retain the individual while asking by radio an archive control over the ID). Recently (July 2008), the current Italian government has stated they will consider the introduction of mandatory fingerprints on all ID cards as a "buffer" solution to allow better identification of the citizen until the electronic ID card is fully implemented.
All foreigners in Italy are required by law to have an ID with them at all times. Citizens of EU-member countries must be always ready to display an identity document that's legally government-issued in their country. Non-EU aliens must have their Passport with Customs entrance stamp and/or a paper similar to the American Green Card called the Permesso di Soggiorno (literally translated: "Residence Permit") released by Italian authorities; while all the resident/immigrant aliens must have the Permesso di Soggiorno (otherwise they are illegal and face deportation), foreigners from certain non-EU countries staying in Italy for a limited amount of time (typically for tourism) may be only required to have their passport with proper Customs stamp. Additionally permanently resident foreigners can ask to be issued an Italian ID card by the local authorities of their city/town of residence.
Every Polish citizen over 18 who is resident in Poland must have an Identity Card (Dowód osobisty) issued by the local administration. Other Polish citizens may obtain it on a voluntary basis.
All Portuguese citizens are required by law to obtain a Identity Card as they turn 16 years of age. They are not required to carry with them always, but are obligated to present them to the lawful authorities if requested. The old format of the cards (yellow laminated paper document)featured Photo, Fingerprint and name of Parents. It is currently being replaced by Grey plastic cards.
Every citizen of Romania must register for an ID card (Carte de identitate, abbreviated CI) at the age of 14. The CI offers proof of the identity, address, sex and other data of the possessor. It has to be renewed every 10 years.
Another ID Card is the Provisional ID Card (Cartea de Identitate Provizorie) issued when an individual fails present all the documents necessary for a normal ID Card to be issued. Its validity extends for up to 1 year.
The Slovak ID card (Občiansky preukaz) is a picture ID in Slovakia. An Slovak ID card is officially recognised by all member states of the European Union for travel within the EU. For travel outside the EU, Slovak citizens may also require a passport.
On the reverse appears the birth date and place, the gender, both parents' names (if known) and the current address. At the bottom, some of the previous information is written in special characters suitable to be read by OCR.
The ID number is an eight digit number followed by a letter. The letter is only a CRC used to verify the correctness of the number. This id number is unique, and is used by the Spanish Hacienda Pública to keep track of each citizen's income taxes and financial status.
In Spain, an ID card is the most important document of a citizen. It is used in all public and private transactions. It is required to open a bank account, to sign a contract, to have state insurance, to register in a university or to be fined by a police officer. It is one of the official documents required to vote at any election, although any other form of official ID such as a driving license or passport may be used. A police officer can require it to be shown, but non-compliance won't lead to arrest and detention unless there are other lawful reasons for it. If a policeman requests the ID, you can just ask him to come with you to the place where you keep it.
Since 2006 a new version of the 'DNI' is being introduced. The new 'Electronic DNI' is a Smart card that allows for digital signing of documents. It conveys the same printed information as the older version, but in a plastic card with a different design.
These documents are needed, in practice, to be able to get bank services, make purchases with a credit card and similar situations. There are problems accessing health care or buying prescribed medications without them, also getting salaries or subsidies without them.
Since 2007 it has been impossible for many people, mainly immigrants, to get an identity card since the commercial companies have strengthened their requirements to issue identity cards. They might be sued if someone uses a falsely issued card for fraudulent activity. Foreign passports are of no value for these companies to verify a person's identity.
A solution to this problem is envisaged for 2009 when the police will begin to issue Swedish identity cards for foreign citizens having a foreign passport.
Since the early 1950s there has been no national identity card in the United Kingdom, but the Identity Cards Act (effective 30 March 2006) makes one compulsory for anyone getting a new or renewed passport from 2008. Driving licences and passports are now the most widely used ID documents. There are also various PASS-accredited cards, used mainly for proof of age purposes.
There have been two proposals to introduce ID cards for tax and social security access in Australia: The Australia Card in 1985 by the Hawke Labor Government and the Health and Social Services Access Card in 2006 by the Howard Liberal Government. Although neither card would have been an official compulsory ID card, they were both criticised as leading to de facto ID cards. Ultimately, both proposals failed. Currently, drivers licences, issued by the states and territories, are the most widely used ID document.
People's Republic of China is instituting biometric ID cards, beginning with the city of Shenzhen. The card will document data such as work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status, landlord's phone number and personal reproductive history.
People's Republic of China requires every citizen (Except Hong Kong and Macau which have their own identity cards) to carry (居民身份证 Pinyin Jūmín Shēnfènzhèng). It becomes compulsory at 16. The identity card is the only acceptable legal document to obtain resident permit, employment, open bank accounts, obtain passport, driver licence, application for tertiary education and technical colleges, security check points in domestic terminals of Chinese airports.
The Hong Kong Identity Card is an official identity document issued by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong to Hongkongers accordoing to the Hong Kong Law. The Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card is a class of HKIDs issued to persons who have the right of abode (ROA) in Hong Kong.
The Macau Special Administrative Region Resident Identity Card is an official identity document issued by the Identification Department to permanent residents and non-permanent residents.
ID cards are free of charge and duplicates are also free.
It is widely requested as part of every legal and financial purpose, often requested at payment with credit or debit cards for identification guarantee. And requested for buying alcoholic beverages, cigarettes or upon entrance to an adults only place, like bars.
The card must be renewed every ten years and freely issued again if lost. Among the information included there are, in the front, two identification pictures and digitized signature of the owner, identification number (Known colloquially just as the cédula), first name, first and second last names and an optional known as field. In the back there is again the identification number, birth date, where the citizen issues its vote for national elections or referendums, birth place, gender, date when must be renewed and a matrix code that includes all this information and even a digitized fingerprint of the thumb and index finger.
The matrix code is not currently being used nor inspect by any kind of scanner.
Besides this identification card, every vehicle driver must carry the drivers license, an additional card that uses the identification number for the driving license number. A passport is also issued.
This is the only official form of identification for residents in Chile and is widely used and accepted as such. It is necessary for every contract, most bank transactions, voting, driving (along with the driver's licence) and other public and private situations.
Refusal to carry or show this ID card to a law enforcement agent (civil or uniformed police) can lead to the lesser of detention up to 6 hours or until the identity can be verified.
Hi-tech multi-purpose national identity cards, carrying 16 personal details and a unique identification number, were launched in Delhi on Saturday 26 May 2007. The first set of the microchip-based cards were distributed to residents of Pooth Khurd area in North Delhi by Registrar General of India D.K. Sikri. The North Delhi area is one of the 20 localities selected for the pilot project on the multi-purpose national identity cards.
The identity cards, issued to citizens above 18 years of age, are secured electronic devices to be used for providing a credible individual identification system for improving the citizen-Government interface. The new card seeks to provide an individualised identification system. Inside it is a microprocessor chip, a finger biometric and a digital signature. On it are details of the holder's date and place of birth and a unique 16-digit National Identification Number. The Government decided in November 2003 to implement the pilot project in selected areas of 12 States and one union territory. The card's makers say it can't be tampered with or duplicated. But they admit making ID cards for a billion-plus population will be a huge task. “Chip is not produced in India, it has to be outsourced and there’s tremendous challenge to the industry,” said Deputy Director General MNIC, S K Chakrabarti. The pilot project is currently under way in selected sub-districts of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry. The card has a SCOSTA micro-processor chip with a memory of 16 KB which is secured against tampering. See MNIC - Multipurpose National Identity Card (India)
The card is designed in a bilingual form, printed in Hebrew and Arabic, but the personal data is presented only in Hebrew. The card must be presented to an official on duty (e.g. a policeman) upon request, but if the resident is unable to do this, he or she may contact the relevant authority within five days to avoid a penalty.
Until the mid-nineties, the identification card was considered the only legally reliable document for many actions such as voting, opening a bank account, etc. Since then, the new Israeli driving licenses which include photos and some extra personal information are now considered equally reliable for most of these transactions. In other situations any government-issued photo ID, such as a passport or a military ID, may suffice.
Earlier on, a National Identity Card (NIC) was issued based on a non-electronic database. Then the national database authority NADRA set up an electronic database for registration of all Pakistani citizens and started issuing the new machine readable identity cards, the CNIC.
The Philippine Government had plans for a single national ID system, but it has abandoned the plan due to several protests from civil society groups regarding the privacy of citizens. Instead, the Philippine passport, Social Security ID, Postal ID, Driving Licence, or School ID, are commonly accepted identification documents for citizens.
In Serbia every resident citizen over the age of 10 can have their Lična karta issued, and all persons over the age of 16 must have ID cards and carry them at all times when they are in public places. It can be used for international travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro instead of the passport.
The "Republic of China National Identification Card" is issued to all Republic of China citizens that have a household registration in the Free Area of the Republic of China (Taiwan). While the Republic of China Passport allows for entry into Taiwan, the Identification Card is used for virtually all other activities that require identity verification within Taiwan such as opening bank accounts, renting apartments, employment applications and voting. It is the possession of the Republic of China National Identification Card and not the ROC Passport which grants the holder the right of abode within the Taiwan Area.
The Identification Card contains the holder's photo, ID number, Chinese name, and (Minguo calendar) date of birth. The back of the card also contains the person's registered address where official correspondence is sent, parents' and even spouse's names.
If the person moves, they must re-register at a municipal office (). Unlike the Republic of China passport which can be issued overseas at Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices, the National Identification Card is only issued in Taiwan at municipal offices. Dual Passport holders that have a household registration can only apply for the Identification Card after they enter Taiwan using a Republic of China Passport.
The United States of America passed a bill entitled the REAL ID Act on May 11, 2005. The bill compels states to begin redesigning their drivers' licenses to comply with federal antiterrorist standards by December 2009. Federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don't comply, which would force Americans accessing everything from airplanes to national parks and some courthouses to have the federally mandated cards. At airports, those not having compliant licenses or cards would simply be redirected to a secondary screening location.
The bill takes place as governments are growing more interested in implanting technology in ID cards to make them smarter and more secure. Since 2006, the U.S. State Department has been issuing passports with Radio-frequency identification, or RFID, chips embedded in them, and Virginia may become the first state to glue RFID tags into all its drivers' licenses. Seventeen states, however, have passed statutes opposing or refusing to implement the Real ID Act.
All Uruguayan citizens must have a national identity card - known as a Cédula de Identidad - from birth. The card contains the bearers name, photo, right thumb print, as well as place and date of birth. Cards must be renewed every 5 years until the bearer turns 20, and from there on every 10 years. It can be used in place of a passport to travel into Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay. A separate, multi-paged document used as identification to vote in elctions, must be obtained by all Uruguayans over the age of 18, and is known as the "Credencial Cívica".