Some countries got obligatory identification, where you can even receive a fine if you can't show a valid ID, see for example http://amsterdam.usconsulate.gov/mobile//id/mandatory-identification-obligation.html. This made me wonder, how does this work when a resident of one of these countries applies for a visa? Obviously they can't show their passport when it's at an embassy.

The events that inspired this question are the fact that my passport was at the embassy getting a visa when I needed to go Belgium, where my Dutch drivers license is not a valid ID.

  • It is probably not being taken very serious, and a photocopy of the passport with the explanation that the original is in the embassy for visa processing will be fine. In Germany, there was a law at least for 50 years that you have always to carry your ID with you, and nobody cares the least, including the police - a driver's license is fine, or if really need to verify your ID, they go home with you to see the original. However, I said probably, as I don't know for sure for all countries.
    – Aganju
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 1:18
  • 2
    As someone who travel constantly and lives outside the country of my citizenship, something I started doing long time ago was scanning the front page of my passport, printing out a color, wallet sized copy (which travels with me 24/7) and storing a copy online that I can access from any computer. I have shown the wallet card a couple of times in 'id required' countries and it satisfied the police.
    – user13044
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 2:19
  • Your residence permit is probably sufficient for a police check. It might not be sufficient for boarding an airplane, though, even within the Schengen area. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 2:27
  • 3
    @MichaelHampton but the problem also exists for nonresidents. In the Netherlands, for example, a residence permit is valid ID, but a tourist could apply in the Netherlands for a UK or US visa, and for a non-EU tourist, thepassport is the only acceptable ID.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:14
  • 2
    Referring to the case where your passport is processed for visa: many countries allow you to have multiple passports for reasons including this specific situation.
    – mts
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 9:17

3 Answers 3


All the countries I know with some form of mandatory ID (the Netherlands being the only one I know where carrying ID is mandatory, but there are other where you have to hold an officially sanctioned form of ID and be able to present it within 24 hours or some other short delay) also issue ID cards so that most citizens would have one beside their passports (if they even have a passport).

Beyond that, in the specific case of the Netherlands, a Dutch residence permit or driving license (but not a residence permit from another EU country) or a national ID card from another EU/EEA country are also accepted as valid ID for official purposes. This gives foreign residents in the Netherlands some options beyond their passport.

That does not mean that such laws are written with convenience in mind or that it's not possible to end up in a situation where you have nothing at hand to identify yourself. And of course, national ID cards, driving licenses, etc. all cost money and time to renew.

For example, if you're a Brit living in the Netherlands, you don't drive and you need a visa from a country that keeps passports for a long time, you're out of luck. You might be able to get a second passport but if not, you have no other valid form of ID (the UK does not issue ID cards and residence permits are not mandatory for EU citizens, don't know if you can even get one).


I can give you some examples (unfortunately none for the Netherlands), but the bottom line is - there are alternate means of identification:

  1. In Malaysia, when students submit their passports for visa renewal (a process that can take anywhere from two weeks to three months); they are given a notarized copy of their passport that they use as an ID. It also lets officials know that their status is being renewed and that they are not overstaying.

  2. In Kuwait (and other GCC states) the primary means of identification is the national id which is issued to permanent residents and citizens. Passports are rarely asked for or required as a form of an ID. All visitors must carry their passports with them at all times; and a copy of their visas. GCC citizens can use their civil id in lieu of a passport for travel between GCC member states; permanent residents, however, must still use their passports.

  3. You can always get a notarized copy of your passport for identification purposes; but unfortunately it is (usually) not valid for travel.


I can't answer this for all countries but for The Netherlands that you specifically mentioned in your example, inside the country a valid drivers license and id card are both also a valid way of identifying yourself. Your case where you are travelling abroad while not having your passport is of course a bit rare, but as you probably know you can use a Dutch id card in Belgium and the rest of the Schengen zone. You are right in saying that your drivers license is not a valid id there though.

That said, I've also never randomly been asked for my id in The Netherlands. As stated in the comments, having a printout and a good explanation wil probably work too in case you are asked to show it.

  • Your answer only covers Dutch citizens, you might want to add something about other residents (in the Netherlands, they are expected to use their Dutch residence permit). Similarly, being abroad without a valid passport isn't as rare as you would think, if you don't reside in your country of citizenship (e.g. when you have to apply for a visa or because renewing your passport is very expensive).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 17:38

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