My current situation is that I have residence permit of Germany (as a stamp in passport) and I wish to apply for UK visa in next few days from Germany and won't have my passport anymore during the processing time.

Instead of waiting for the process, I wish to travel to Scandinavian countries immediately on holidays, later receive my passport from visa center after I return back to Germany.

  • I am wondering if photocopy of passport and residence permit suffice as identity proof to border control (if I face them)?

  • What else are valid documents that I can show as valid identity proof to border control?

  • What are the exact problems I will face if I face the border control, and they are not satisfied with my travel documents?

  • 2
    Germany requires foreigners to have an approved ID document. For a foreigner, that's generally the passport. They don't have to have it on them all the time, but they have to have it when crossing borders.
    – o.m.
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 14:09
  • 2
    and the Netherlands requires EVERYONE to have an approved photo ID on them at all times, which comes down to European ID card, passport, or driver's license (and the latter maybe only for Dutch citizens).
    – jwenting
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 5:40
  • 2
    Have you been in Germany since before 2011? Normally you should have a German photo ID card known as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_residence_permit. This would still not allow you to cross a Schengen border, but in connection with photocopies as you describe and the good explanation, it would no doubt reduce the risk of getting into trouble if you are caught.
    – user24594
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 8:07
  • 1
    @jwenting:slight nuance: the Netherlands does not require everyone to carry an ID, but requires everyone to be able to show an ID when the police needs to know your identity. In practice this means that you need to carry one at all times, but the Dutch police is not allowed to stop you and ask you for your ID if they don't have a reason for this. (source)
    – user94336
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 14:01
  • 1
    @jwenting whether a driver's license may be used for identification depends on the purpose of the identity check, not on the nationality of the person being identified. Also the qualification "European" applies to ID cards and driver's licenses, but not to passports (and more precisely it denotes EU/EEA/Swiss IDs and licenses, not all European IDs and licenses).
    – phoog
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 15:33

5 Answers 5


Schengen does not remove the requirement to have appropriate documentation when crossing borders (or even within a country). It only removes systematic checks at borders.

  • You can still have spot checks at border points.

  • There could also be "emergency measures" checks restored at some borders.

  • There could even be spot checks inside a country, completely unrelated to crossing borders. The legislation for this (when/why they can do such checks, what documents you are required to have, what procedures/flexibility there might be if you don't have them) is quite variable from country to country.

Note that regulations may require you to provide ID when checking into hotels as well, though, again, details vary a lot from country to country in terms of what documents are acceptable, what happens if you can't provide such a document, and even whether that is enforced at all.

  • 1
    In addition to this excellent answer: 1. In many cases an identity card will do instead of a passport. This depends on the country of origin. 2. Without a passport or identity card, there is no way to take a plane even inside the Schengen area. 3. Photocopy of passport + residence permit + driving licence (or similar) with photo might be enough for someone who likes a bit of risk to do some short distance travel in the Schengen area by foot, car or train. But it is not legal and might ultimately lead to expulsion from Germany if things go very wrong.
    – user24594
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:55
  • 4
    Since OP specifically mentioned Scandinavian countries, it's worth noting that there are currently border checks to enter Sweden by land from Denmark.
    – user141592
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 8:16
  • 11
    @HansAdler your point no. 2 is simply untrue. You can travel in many cases without showing your ID to anyone at the airport. This is especially true at the airports with self check-in/self bag-drop.
    – kukis
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 8:22
  • 2
    @kukis and even more so if you don't have checked luggage.
    – jcaron
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 10:13
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    @HansAdler That was a lot of untrue statements in only one comment. As already pointed out, your point 2 is blatantly wrong and you will definitely not be expelled from Germany just because you cross or try to cross the border without actually carrying the required passport if you otherwise are entitled to be there. Commented May 28, 2019 at 12:37

Exact requirements for crossing intra-schengen borders are set in national law, so it will depend on exactly where you are travelling, but in general, you will usually be required to carry a recognized travel document when crossing intra-schengen borders. For most practical purposes, this also applies to EU/EEA citizens.

In your particular case, you will be required to carry your passport both when leaving and when reentering Germany and the Scandinavian countries have similar requirements. This does not mean that you will be checked, there are no permanent checkpoints on the border, but you will end up with more or less hassle if you happen to run into a spot check. Especially on the land borders to Sweden, chances are very much real, that there will be a check. Depending on how you intend to travel, the transport operator may also refuse to transport you if you can't show the required travel documents when checking in.

I am pretty sure that this is a duplicate and that even I recently have answered a very similar question, but I can't find it right now.

  • Question: What will happen if I just take my photocopy of passport/visa and letter acknowledging my pending visa application and get checked by border control? Will I be denied entry, or will get arrested or what?
    – user38149
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 17:36
  • @VarunAgw Get checked where? Also that will differ from country to country. Commented May 28, 2019 at 18:00

To travel within Schengen, you are technically still required to have travel documents on you. In addition to that, all the Scandinavian countries have had "emergency" border checks with the rest of Schengen for a few years now. You will almost certainly be asked to show your passport or ID card at the Denmark/German border, and turned back if you do not have appropriate documents.


You definitely need your passport to cross borders within the schengen area, those rules are set by each country, you may not get checked at each border but that’s a different issue in itself. Even as a citizen in a country that participated in the Schengen Agreement passports are normally carried for international travel although it might not be strictly necessary for border crossings most airlines etc will require it anyway, so your mileage may vary depending on where you dross even between the same countries and depending on how you travel


Can you do it? Yes, probably. You will probably just get through, and nobody even notices or cares. I've not been controlled in the street in almost 5 decades, and I've not been controlled on an EU border (including non-Schengen, very much to my surprise!) in... don't know how many years. 15 years at least.

Should you do it? No. Germany in particular requires you to be able to present a valid identification document, as does crossing a Schengen border. This applies to everybody, not just foreigners.

Literally, German law says "be in possession of" (besitzen) which is technically not the same as "own one, in general". Besitzen literally means "exercise physical control over something". A thief stealing your car is the Besitzer, for example. Which is just silly.
That's probably just a stupid wording in a law made by stupid people (or a reference to the fact that the passport itself has written "Property of Country XYZ" on it when you paid for it, and it's clearly yours, with your photo inside). But whatever it is, reading the law by the letter you're breaking the law the moment you leave your passport at home (or in an embassy) and go through the street, since you no longer possess the passport.

Now, abstaining from these own vs possess sophistries, getting a bit more practical: The law requires you to carry identification when crossing the border, but it does not strictly require you to carry it at all times otherwise. It requires you to have ("own") one.

However, while you are not required to carry ID at all times, you are required to present it timely upon being challenged by police or another authorized instance (court, office, whatever). The meaning of timely is up to debate, and it can cost you 3,000 Euros if whatever time it takes isn't "timely enough" in the officer's opinion. The understanding that lawyers and such usually have of "timely" is "immediately, until something of highest importance prevents you from doing so", as in: you cannot comply now or else desastrous stuff would happen.
But whatever, if you just piss off the officer enough (or if he already had a bad enough day), the meaning may be something quite different, and you have very few options there.

So... I wouldn't want to stress my luck if that's not necessary. It means needlessly taking a risk.