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Is it allowed/accepted to travel with a photocopy of an ID (in order not to lose the real one) rather than the ID itself or would it create issues with the local police in case of checks? I mean, do they have some sorts of verification system or database checking in order to see whether the data displayed on the photocopy are authentic or not, since the same issue can come up with the real ID itself?

Sorry, I forgot to mention some crucial details. I didn't mean traveling by plane, but I mean simple border crossings and coming backs (e.g Netherlands-Belgium or France-Luxembourg).

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No.

Official ID documents have many features to prevent forgery or manipulation. They might also be officially invalidated when a new one is issued before the expiry date. A copy has none of those -- it might easily be photoshopped.

The only use for a photocopy or digital scan is as a handy reference of all the relevant data, in case the original gets lost. That way you have the document number when you file the report.

What you can do is get yourself both an ID card and a passport if your country issues cards, and take one or the other within Europe.


Follow-Up: Just to clarify, EU countries are not in the habit of arresting people just because they don't have ID on them. In fact, many don't require citizens to carry IDs. But anyone could get into a situation where the authorities want to record the ID of all involved persons and take official statements later. For those who can show ID, no problem. For those without it, there could be inconvenience.

And the sort of EU-wide automatic database query which the OP envisions doesn't exist. Authorities in one member state can send questions to another, but that takes time.

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  • Ok thank you, but what if I get caught with only a photocopy? – abdul Jan 30 at 13:15
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    @abdul, that was an example, and pedestrians can get into traffic violations as well. If you are so worried about the loss of the ID, get a passport and keep that safe at home. – o.m. Jan 30 at 17:34
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    @abdul If you are caught with only a photocopy you will probably be treated as if you had no ID. If you try to persuade them that they should treat the photocopy as a valid ID they will either ignore you or contact the issuing authority. If (to take an example) it turned out that the authority had not actually issued such an ID you would probably be arrested for fraud. – DJClayworth Jan 30 at 17:37
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    The thing is that when I get an ID search here in Italy, police looks into a database by putting all the ID data in order to check whether such identity really exists (fraudsters nowadays are very handy), so if they do this with a real ID then there's no real need to carry out a real one, moreover it's actually a gain, coz at least there's no risk to lose the real one and at the same time the data are crucial, not the ID itself. – abdul Jan 30 at 17:44
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    Knowing the information is trivial. Having an original document itself, as explained in @o.m.'s Answer above, is what's called for, because an original is not trivial to forge. In any event, if you were taken to jail, it would (in the police's view) not be a mistake at all, but a rational response to a traveler who isn't following the rules. – DavidSupportsMonica Jan 31 at 0:41
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No, it's not acceptable.

Besides the police, what's the point?

How are you travelling? Most airplanes, some trains, checking in hotels, renting a car: they all require some form of identification. For crossing borders too, and even for Schengen borders you might need some official ID. If you lose your credit card, you might use your ID for getting money through Western Union or similar services.

Take your ID with you, and leave the passport at a safe location. If you want to reduce the chances of losing the ID use a travel belt, hidden pocket or neck pouch.

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There is no EU resident/citizen database authorities could use to double-check your data and no EU-wide rule regulating this matter. As often, what the EU mandates is that other EU citizens are treated on a par with citizens. It's still up to the country to regulate police checks, registration and identification requirements as they like.

Depending on the jurisdiction, holding or carrying government sanctioned ID might or might not be mandatory and the likelihood of a check varies widely. You might also end up needing some identification document following other interaction with the police (accident, etc.) There is at least one country (the Netherlands), where not carrying ID is a (minor) criminal offense, punishable by a fine.

The downstream risks for you as an EU citizen are limited (you won't be found guilty of illegal stay, deported or banned from reentering the Schengen area or anything like that) but without any ID document, you first need to establish that you are in fact an EU citizen. I have heard of several cases of citizens being retained and put through the process leading towards a removal. Even if the mistake was ultimately cleared up, it would result in a few extremely unpleasant days/hours.

That's one of the reasons I suspect the photocopy might in fact be useful. In practice, even when the police insists that ID is mandatory (possibly illegally), if they are convinced you are an EU citizen, doing something about the lack of ID is just a burden. Lots of paperwork for something that's not a crime, won't result in a valued outcome in their performance statistics, etc. They might seize on the copy to let you go with a verbal warning. Something similar happened to members of my family (with non-official non-photo ID like credit cards).

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  • Removal of what??? – abdul Feb 1 at 12:12
  • @abdul Of the country, which could be the ultimate outcome if you were found not to be an (EU) citizen and to have no claim to be in the country. That's one of the reasons ID are being checked in some area. – Relaxed Feb 1 at 12:16
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    The downvote on this answer is baffling. Of course a photocopy does not satisfy a legal requirement to carry ID. Of course a photocopy could serve to (help) convince police that the person is an EU citizen. Of course a police officer might decide to let the person go with a warning. Or not: police behavior varies widely. But of the small number of incidents where an ID is requested, some proportion will go more smoothly if there's a photocopy. So this answer is correct: a photocopy might be useful. – phoog Feb 1 at 17:10
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    @abdul PR of an EU country does not necessarily have the right to travel to other EU countries. A permanent resident of France, for example, who is a citizen of Nigeria, requires a visa to enter Ireland. – phoog Feb 1 at 17:15
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    @abdul anyone with a Schengen residence permit, permanent or otherwise, can travel around the Schengen area. But some Schengen countries have an ID requirement for which the residence permit is not sufficient, even if it's the original. For example, a US citizen who resides in Germany with a German residence permit needs a US passport to satisfy the Dutch identification law. – phoog Feb 1 at 18:06

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