This is the quick guide. For further detail see below!
1. Border checks should not take place inside the Schengen Area
2. If a border check does take place, keep calm and be polite.
3. Ask the border guard or policeman if the control is a border control, or an ID check or customs check.
4. If the answer is ‘border control’, ask how this is in compliance with Schengen. Do not show any identity document initially until a justification or explanation is provided. Note the answer, and submit the details of the check on this site.
5. If the answer is ‘identity check’, then national ID laws apply. Hence provide the police officer with whatever identity document is acceptable. In most circumstances a driving license should be acceptable. If more (an ID card or passport) is demanded, ask the officer for evidence from national law that he/she can demand this. Note all answers, and submit details here.
Above all: do not film, do not record, do not break the law.
Once a person is within the Schengen Area, the basic principle is that no checks – neither demanding identification, nor customs checks about what a person is carrying – should be carried out. The countries of the Schengen Area are all of the 27 EU countries except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, and – in addition – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In total there are 26 countries in Schengen.
Identity Checks at a border
If a police officer demands to see identification from a person when crossing between 2 countries inside the Schengen Area, the first question to ask is whether the check is a border control (illegal under the Schengen Borders Code), or whether the check is classified as an Identity Control on the Territory of a Member State.
If the response is that the check is a Border Control, the officer should be reminded that such checks are illegal under the Schengen Borders Code, and clarification should be sought as to the legal basis for the check having taken place.
If the controller responds saying the check is an Identity Check on the Territory of a Member State, the identity requirements of the country on whose territory the check takes place shall apply. In Germany, for example, a citizen is required to show ID if demanded by a police officer, while this is not the case, for example, in Denmark. A full list of countries’ ID requirements is below.
You are entitled to ask for justification of why checks are being conducted – a response such as “we can” or “this is our job” is not adequate according to Article 21 of the Schengen Borders Code (full text here
) – any identity check must be non-systematic and justified according to police information (e.g. searching for drugs). This however means checking every passenger on every train or bus is not acceptable.
Please note that if you checked, you must comply with the law of the country in which the check is taking place. This means – also when submitting reports to this site – that you should not normally take any photographs or record any audio of the incident nor, when submitting reports on this website, name any official involved. This may not apply for official complaints to the European Commission
, where the name of an official involved may be appropriate.
List of countries’ ID requirements
Note that this section is a work in progress, as every EU country has its own ID requirements. More debate about this issue can be found here.
Austria – no legal obligation to carry formal ID at all times, but police can demand that a person prove their identity using ‘adequate documents’ if a reason for the demand is given. A driving license is an appropriate way to do this.
Belgium – obligation to carry ID at all times. Not known whether a policeman has to justify why he/she is demanding it be shown, or what ID is acceptable. Start by showing a driving license – same as the French and German rules below.
Czech Republic – no obligation to carry ID with you, but an obligation to identify yourself if demanded by a police officer who has to justify why he/she is asking. This can be to provide name, address and date of birth. This is easiest by using an ID card, but is not obligatory. If checked at a border into Czech Republic push strongly – demand what legal basis a police officer has to ask for ID.
– no obligation to show ID to a police officer. Name, Date of Birth and Address must be told when demanded (source
Estonia – not known. If you know please contact us
Finland – not known. If you know please contact us
– French law sets out three circumstances under which ID can be demanded. These are explained in French here
. It is important to note that ID does not
mean just an ID card or passport, but also includes a photo card driving license. Do try just showing a driving license if checked at a border!
– there is an obligation to carry a passport, or an appropriate national ID card to enter
Germany, but there is no obligation to carry either of these once inside Germany. When inside Germany a police officer can demand that an individual proves their identity, but other documentation can be used for this – a driving license for example. Follow this example
Greece – ID must be carried, and a police officer can demand to see this at any time, and need not justify why they are making this demand.
Hungary – not known. If you know please contact us
Iceland – not known. If you know please contact us
Latvia – not known. If you know please contact us
Liechtenstein – not clearly known, but see the Swiss case below.
Lithuania – not known. If you know please contact us
Luxembourg – not known. If you know please contact us
Netherlands – compulsory ID system, also for non-Dutch nationals. Police must be able to justify why they need to see identity papers, but if this is provided ID must be shown. Exact list of permissible IDs not known.
Norway – not known. If you know please contact us
Poland – not known. If you know please contact us
Portugal – not known. If you know please contact us
Slovakia – not known. If you know please contact us
Slovenia – obligation to carry ID. National ID cards, passports, or driving licenses are permissible IDs. If asked at a border show a driving license first. Not known if a police officer has to justify why he/she is demanding ID from you.
Spain – a legal obligation to carry ID at all times, and for it to be shown to a police officer, and no justification need be given. Not known if a driving license is an adequate ID.
Sweden – not known. If you know please contact us
– the country is in Schengen for freedom of movement of people, but is not in the EU Customs Union. This means that border checks are often dressed up as customs checks. Confirm which check you are being subjected to. More details here