An Armenian national lives in Germany and holds a permanent residence (Niederlassungserlaubnis). This is a sticker in their Armenian passport. They have applied at the UK embassy in Berlin to get a standard visitor visa, which will likely be granted. The UK embassy kept their passport and said issuing and sticking the visa into the passport will take five days. After those five days, they will be able to reclaim their passport.

However, German residence act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) § 3 says that as a foreigner you have to have a passport with you (English source, German source).

(1) Foreigners may only enter or stay in the federal territory if they are in possession of a recognised and valid passport or passport substitute, unless they are exempt from the passport obligation by virtue of a statutory instrument. For the purpose of residence in the federal territory, possession of a substitute identity document shall also suffice in order to meet the passport obligation (Section 48 (2)).

Section 48 says they have to give that document to the German authorities if they need it, i.e. for a control.

Also when asked, the Berlin foreigners office (Auslaenderbehoerde) says as the holder of a residence permit you should carry your passport around at all times.

So within those five days, they have a passport and a valid visa for Germany, but they cannot carry it around with them as it's with the UK embassy.

How do they fulfill the obligation to have their passport with them all the time? Are they breaking the law?

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    In life there are countless laws which are never enforced, e.g. in the USA immigrants are supposed to keep their permanent residence cards on them at all times. Very few people do. It's the same with your scenario. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:26
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    "says with the residence permit you should carry your passport around at all times." - that's only true on paper. In reality the residency permit is sufficient in 99% of cases. Even my Czech residency card was sufficient for a German police check.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:56
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    I, you, them, they, we...wtf, how many Armenians there are in this question? 0_o
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:59
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    @motoDrizzt I picked the title so it would be easy to google for future readers, thus I. They refers to the one Armenian person I'm talking about, but without disclosing gender. You is generalized so it refers to everyone whom this stuff applies to. ;)
    – simbabque
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 12:03
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    @WGroleau "substitute identity document" is a specific class of document issued by government authority. See section 48 (2): "In the case of a foreigner who neither possesses a passport or passport substitute nor can reasonably be expected to obtain one, it shall be sufficient for the purposes of the obligation to have and present identification papers to carry the certificate confirming a residence title or the suspension of deportation, provided that such document contains the foreigner’s personal details and a photograph and is marked to indicate that it is a substitute identity document."
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


I asked the Bundespolizei on Twitter. This is their reply.

answer of federal police on twitter

In English that reads

Your documents are valid in general. You only need the originals to cross borders. It would be useful to have a copy, and to tell them about the AZR.

AZR stands for Ausländerzentralregister, which is the federal German database of everyone who has a permanent residence or some other form of long-stay visa or asylum.

So this seems not to be a problem.


The regulation that you quoted only requires that there exists a valid passport (or substitute) for the foreigner. It is not required that the foreigner has the passport with them at all times. (Incidentally, there is a very similar rule requiring Germans to have a valid ID card (or passport), in § 1 PAuswG.) You need to be able to present it on request, but not immediately; it is OK if you store it at home, or even at an embassy, and show it to the authorities a few days later. You can’t be fined for that.

However, if the police get interested in you for some reason and you neither have your passport with you nor can corroborate your identity in some other way, there is a certain risk that the check might take quite a bit longer, or that you might even be taken to the police station. The same applies to Germans who don’t have their ID card.

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    Example: Train conductors catching you without valid ticket in germany will just take your details down and you'll get a fine letter later if you have an ID card - if not or if you refuse to show ID, they will call the police on you. Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 12:30
  • As far as I understand, this is true in all of the Schengen area (including Denmark which isn't technically part of the Schengen, but in effect is part of Schengen).
    – Clearer
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 9:01
  • @rackandboneman: Totally unrelated. What a private company such as DB does or requires of its active users can be more or less than what the law requires. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 10:09
  • YES. But it tells a lot of what is expected of germans to have on them or not in practice. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 19:41
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    @rackandboneman there might not be a law any more that requires us to carry valid ID around with us at all times, but the police are entitled to check your identity. If you do not have an ID with you (driving licence does not count in Germany), and they are interested to know who you are, maybe because you're drunk and they picked you up for disorderly conduct, they will drive you home to get your ID card, then take you back to the station to hold you (or not, depends on your level of intoxication). Most Germans just always carry their ID card. It's very unusual to leave it at home...
    – simbabque
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 8:12

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