French National identity card


French National identity card

The French national identity card (French: carte nationale d’identité or CNI) is an official identity document consisting of a laminated plastic card bearing a photograph, name and address. While the identity card is non-compulsory, all persons must possess some form of valid government-issued identity documentation.

Identity cards, valid for a period of 15 years (extended from initially 10 years as of 1 January 2014), are issued by the local préfecture, sous-préfecture, mairie (in France) or in French consulates (abroad) free of charge. A fingerprint of the holder is taken, which is stored in paper files and which can only be accessed by a judge in closely defined circumstances. A central database duplicates the information on the card, but strict laws limit access to the information and prevent it being linked to other databases or records.

The cards may be used to verify identity and nationality and may also be used as a travel document within Europe (except Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) as well as French overseas territories, Anguilla, Egypt, Turkey, Georgia, Dominica (max 14 days), Montserrat, Saint Lucia and on organized tours to Tunisia instead of a French passport. The cards are widely used for other purposes — for example, when opening a bank account, or when making a payment by cheque.


Identification document

The French national identity card can be used as an identification document in France in situations such as opening a bank account, identifying yourself to government agencies, proving your identity and regular immigration status to a law enforcement official etc.

Similarly, French citizens exercising their right to free movement in another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland are entitled to use their French national identity card as an identification document when dealing not just with government authorities, but also with private sector service providers. For example, where a supermarket in the UK refuses to accept a French national identity card as proof of age when a French citizen attempts to purchase an age-restricted product and insists on the production of a UK-issued passport or driving license or other identity document, the supermarket would, in effect, be discriminating against this individual on this basis of his/her nationality in the provision of a service, thereby contravening the prohibition in Art 20(2) of Directive 2006/123/EC of discriminatory treatment relating to the nationality of a service recipient in the conditions of access to a service which are made available to the public at large by a service provider.

In practice, the ID card can often be used for pure identification purposes worldwide, such as for age verification in bars or checking in at hotels

Travel document

The French national identity card can be used as a travel document (instead of a French passport) to/from the following countries:

European Union All countries in Europe except Belarus, Russia and Ukraine
France French overseas territories
Anguilla (max 24 hours, 72 hours for St Martin residents)
Dominica (max 14 days)
Egypt (a passport photo must be supplied to the border authorities upon entry)
Saint Lucia
Tunisia (only when on a package tour)

Previously, the Dominican Republic, Mauritius, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal and Morocco permitted French citizens to travel to their countries on the strength of a French national identity card alone. However, the five countries’ authorities have since required French citizens to use their passports when entering/leaving.

Prior to 1 January 2013, unaccompagnied minors under the age of 18 who travelled outside metropolitan France using their French national identity cards were required to obtain an autorisation de sortie du territoire (AST). In order to obtain an AST, one of the minor’s parents had to visit the local mayor’s office. On 1 January 2013, the obligation to obtain an AST was removed, and all minors are now able solely to use their French national identity cards when leaving/re-entering France without a parent. However, whilst the French border authorities no longer require an AST from his/her parent when an unaccompagnied minor leaves/re-enters France, the border authorities of other countries may require the unaccompagnied minor to present some form of written approval from the his/her parent(s) before admitting him/her.

Prior to 1 January 2014, French national identity cards were issued with a maximum period of validity of 10 years.

On 1 January 2014, the period of validity of new cards issued to adults was increased from 10 to 15 years.

In addition, on the same day, a retroactive change in the period of validity came into effect by virtue of Decree 2013-1188. As a result, all French national identity cards issued between 2 January 2004 and 31 December 2013 to adults had their period of validity automatically extended from 10 years to 15 years. This extension took place without the need for any physical amendment to the expiry date which appears on eligible cards — for example, the holder of a French national identity card issued on 1 February 2004 (when he/she was already an adult) will actually be valid until 1 February 2019 automatically without the need for any amendment to the card (even though it states on the card that it will expire on 1 February 2014).

The card measures 105 x 74 mm. The paper card is laminated and has rounded corners. All the information on the card is given in the French language only.

Whilst French passports and residence permits (issued to non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens residing in France) contain an RFID chip, the design of the French national identity card has remained unchanged since 1994 and so cards continue to be issued without an RFID chip (unlike a number of other EU member states which have updated the design of their national identity cards to include an RFID chip). Whilst fingerprints are collected as part of the application process for the card, fingerprint images are neither printed on the card nor stored in an RFID chip embedded within the card.
Front side

The front side features the words “RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE” across the top, and the following information below:

Card number
Nationality (French)
Photograph of the holder
Given name(s)
Date of birth (
Place of birth (If born in France, only the name and number of the département)
Height (in metres)
Signature of holder

At the bottom of the front side is a two-line machine readable zone.

Machine-readable zone
The format of the first row is:


1 1 alpha I
2 1 alpha Type, at discretion of states (D in that case)
3–5 3 alpha FRA // issuing country (ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 code with modifications)
6–30 25 alpha Card holder’s last name followed by ‘<‘ symbols to fill any unused space
31-33 3 alpha+num Digits 5-7 of ID card number, department of issuance.
34-36 3 num Office of issuance
31-36 6 alpha On some cards 31-36 will instead be filled with <<<<<
The format of the second row is:


1-4 4 num Digits 1-2 are year of issuance, 3-4 are month of issuance
5-7 3 alpha+num Department of issuance. Same as characters 31-33 on the first line.
8–12 5 num Assigned by the Management Center in chronological order in relation to the place of issue and the date of application.
13 1 num Check digit over digits 1–12
14–27 14 alpha First name followed by given names separated by two filler characters
28-33 6 num Birth date (YYMMDD)
34 1 num Check digit over digits 28-33
35 1 alpha Gender (M or F)
36 1 num Check digit over digits 1-36 in first row combined with digits 1-35 in second row
Rear side
The rear side contains the following information:

Residential address of the holder
Date of expiry (
Date of issue (
Issuing authority
Signature of the issuing authority