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I am about to embark on a ten day trip to Spain. A few years ago, I was told that always take digital copies of your passport front page, visa page and etc, since if during your trip your passport gets lost, you can use your photos as temporary replacements.

My take is:

  • Authorities can extract data from my photos and cross-reference them against their database, this way, it helps somewhat.

To what extent, can I use my digital photos as some kind of ID during international trips?

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No you cannot.

A copy has to be certified / notarized in order to be used in lieu of the original for the purpose of identification.

This is true in other areas as well - for example, in Malaysia, students whose passport is sent for their visa renewal are given certified copies of their passports from the school / university to carry with them in case they are stopped.

The certification (a stamp and signature) make the copy valid for identification - otherwise anyone can photoshop a fake looking passport and use it.

Your copies are going to be useful when trying to obtain replacement documents or visas. You can present your copy to the embassy; which is used mainly to lookup your passport number quickly and to issue you a replacement document.

Then you can take a copy of the visa page to the embassy that issued you a visa, along with the replacement document to have it endorsed such that you are not considered illegal in the area.

I think the only place it may work is at a hotel for verifying your identity; but for official / police business I don't think it will suffice; again, as it is something very easy to fake.

  • It could also be useful trying to enter your own country. But probably not by plane. – Belle-Sophie Sep 1 '16 at 7:19
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    The copy is quite useful when filing your report of loss with the police, especially if you made a copy of your visa/entry stamps. While it is not "legal" it is the best form of ID you have if everything else was lost or stolen. – user13044 Sep 1 '16 at 8:46

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