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I am a new student in the UK. I attend classes both in London and Cambridge. Should I carry my passport with me wherever I go within UK? Or is a college identity enough?

My parents are visiting me soon. Should I ensure they carry their passports when we go out somewhere in London on a picnic?

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    for your parent, they don't need to bring passport, But I think it's always better to bring the photocopy of the passport for emergency reason ( for example medical ). Mar 21 '12 at 7:20
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Certainly not. As a foreigner who lived in the UK for four years, I definitely only needed my passport for international travel. I used my New Zealand photo driver's license initially for ID (e.g., to get into a bar), and then my UK one. For opening bank accounts and others where you sometimes require two forms, then you bring your passport.

The UK is not like Russia or Uzbekistan where police on the street can and do stop you without cause and demand ID (in my case, six times in one day in Tashkent, Uzbekistan). And in the event they DO need your ID, a driver's license generally suffices - or they can go with you to your place of residence to get your passport if you for some reason got into serious strife.

I can only think of a handful of cases that I needed my passport. To open a bank account, to prove my visa status for starting a new job, for renting a flat / staying in a hostel, and you definitely need it for hiring a car. I remember this one as I tried to argue it, but had to eventually go back home and get my passport. I wasn't pleased.

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    It's interesting to note you don't need to generally carry any ID at all - not even a driving licence while driving (I am not sure if that applies only to UK nationals though). An recently proposed ID card system was strongly opposed.
    – e100
    Mar 20 '12 at 13:48
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    Born in the UK, I've never needed to use passports outside of airports, drivers license does just as well for Banks (though they insist on utility bills and statements etc), bars etc are usually happy with a student card, and being ID'd is rare as it is Mar 20 '12 at 14:43
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    @AndrewFerrier - I even asked for a manager, but they sent me home to get it. I was astonished too, but I've rented cars 3 times in the UK, and they've requested it every time :/ (Enterprise)
    – Mark Mayo
    Sep 19 '12 at 20:23
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    +1 for the great answer. Incidentally, carrying an ID for foreigners is not only mandatory in countries with a reputation for authoritarianism like Russia. In the Netherlands for example, this is also mandated by law. They don't check as often as in the places you mentioned (in many years living there, it never happened to me) but you could in principle face a fine.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 4 '13 at 9:28
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    You don't need your driving licence with you when driving in the UK. If you are stopped without it, then you will be issued a "Producer" (a HORT1 form) which means that you have to go to a police station with your licence, your insurance certificate and your MOT certificate within the next seven days. In my experience, the police regard a producer as a minor punishment for a driving offence, and will be upset if you actually have all the paperwork - I once got an FPN (a fine) when the officer realised that I could actually produce everything. Never taken my MOT with me since! Aug 27 '14 at 18:40
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I've never needed to show my passport in the UK once I've arrived, and that includes checking in at hotels, arriving to visit a business, renting a car and so on. I have an obvious Canadian accent and do obvious tourist things in addition to occasionally doing business things. (With grown children, I never have to prove I'm old enough for anything.) In theory I had to show my passport to get my train pass validated, but I don't remember them actually asking for it.

That is in stark contrast to the USA, where I quite often have to show it in fairly mundane circumstances. They'll ask for a drivers license, and if yours is "out of state" then they want something else. Every hotel checkin, every car rental, picking up my badge at a conference, even buying sudafed at a drugstore all needed my passport. So clearly this varies from country to country.

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  • o.O buying sudafed at the pharmacy needed your passport?!
    – user541686
    Mar 21 '12 at 19:50
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    Yes. She asked for a drivers license but since it was out of state, wanted a passport. And she wrote down my address. Their meth problem is worse than Canada's, I suppose. Mar 21 '12 at 19:54
  • lol, weiiiird... at least in California it's over the counter (just like other cold medicines), so you don't need an ID for anything... maybe it was just that particular pharmacy? Was it in an airport or something?
    – user541686
    Mar 21 '12 at 19:58
  • Washington State, a fairly ordinary suburban drugstore in a strip mall with a grocery store and some banks. In Canada you have to ask for it at the pharmacy counter and I presume not look like a meth addict or something. Showing ID was a new one for me. And having the DL rejected and wanting the passport ... odd. But that's how it happened. Mar 21 '12 at 21:59
  • @Mehrdad it may vary by state, but it's essentially the same in New York (though I don't know what happens if you show a Canadian driver's license in New York). At some point people became aware that meth producers were buying large quantities of pseudoephedrine for raw materials, and states started requiring OTC medicines containing it to be sold literally over the counter rather than out on open shelves.
    – phoog
    Dec 10 '19 at 3:21
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You shouldn't need your passport everywhere you go, and I wouldn't risk carrying it with you at all times.

However, if you plan to go anywhere where you need to be at least 18 years old, you will need some form of identity. And in the UK passports and driving licenses are the most commonly used. A doorman at a bar wouldn't accept a college identity. However you can apply for a UK identity card, such as CitizenCard, which means you don't need to carry your passport with you.

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    A bouncer might well accept university ID, but I wouldn't rely on it.
    – Marcin
    Mar 20 '12 at 12:30
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    It should also be pointed out that you can get dedicated proof of age cards any way so long as you have the correct Id (like a passport) this will then mean you do not need to carry a passport. Mar 20 '12 at 12:53
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    +1 for increasing the risk of losing a passport by carrying it around everywhere. Plus, they get worn out faster. It looks bad at customs.
    – Droogans
    Mar 20 '12 at 15:26
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    @Droogans I carry my almost ten year old passport around everywhere. Only had its condition remarked upon once (Seattle seaport a few years ago). More worried about turning up to an airport without it - I've forgotten almost everything but my wallet. Mar 22 '12 at 0:15
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There is still no legal requirement in the UK to carry your passport with you all the time.
Traveling around I take it with me, as it is safer on my person than left behind in a hostel or even in a hotel room.

But when staying with friends I leave it in their house.

I do usually also carry my national (EU) ID card but have not needed that any time in the UK, apart from when checking in at hotels.

In your case I would leave it in the place you live. Your parents may well want it with them when they travel around or stay in a hotel which they do not trust, but if they can leave it in a safe place where you live it is acceptable by law.

When this question was asked not many people would ask for your age when going into a bar or buying alcohol, these days that is more the norm. So if you live in the UK for longer, are or look like you are under 30, best get a recognized ID with your age on it. Your passport, or in many cases a national ID card from home, should work, but as not everybody in the UK knows those, you may want to get a UK based age card or driving license.

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Car rental asks for passports for non-UK residents as a surety for where to bill you if you fail to return the car etc. Same with most of the hotels and self-catering places we stayed at last summer. They want to see it, and some take photocopies of it for their records. If you live in the UK, they have other resources to find you.

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  • I did have the same experience (+1) and I don't doubt that that might be the intent but it seems like a very thin surety. In many countries, renewing your passport when you change residence is not mandatory, the person might even live in another country entirely and all the hotel has is a name and birth place/date. Also, some countries make debt collection quite difficult so I doubt an hotel can generally achieve very much merely with a passport copy if someone intends to con them. Incidentally, I was also always asked for a credit card.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 4 '13 at 10:14
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    That doesn't really make a huge amount of sense. A passport doesn't have your home address (you don't even have to live in the country of your citizenship, after all). This won't help them find you. Do you have any citations? May 21 '15 at 19:37

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