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?

  • 2
    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 ). – Rudy Gunawan Mar 21 '12 at 7:20

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 8
    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
  • 3
    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 – Tom J Nowell Mar 20 '12 at 14:43
  • @e100 - I didn't often drive in the UK, to be fair. – Mark Mayo Mar 20 '12 at 20:12
  • 1
    @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
  • 1
    +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

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • o.O buying sudafed at the pharmacy needed your passport?! – user541686 Mar 21 '12 at 19:50
  • 2
    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. – Kate Gregory 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. – Kate Gregory Mar 21 '12 at 21:59
  • Yeah, that's really weird... thanks for sharing! – user541686 Mar 21 '12 at 22:00

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    A bouncer might well accept university ID, but I wouldn't rely on it. – Marcin Mar 20 '12 at 12:30
  • 2
    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. – krystan honour Mar 20 '12 at 12:53
  • 2
    +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
  • @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. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Mar 22 '12 at 0:15

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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
  • 1
    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? – Andrew Ferrier May 21 '15 at 19:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.