German Identity Card


German Identity Card

The German Identity Card (German: Personalausweis) is issued to German citizens by local registration offices in Germany and diplomatic missions abroad, while they are produced at the Bundesdruckerei in Berlin.

Obligation of identification
According to the German law of obligation of identification, it is compulsory for everyone in Germany age 16 or older to possess either an identity card or a passport. While police officers and some other officials have a right to demand to see one of these documents, the law does not stipulate that one is obliged to submit the document at that very moment.

As everyone in Germany must possess an ID card or a passport, acceptance of other official documents (like driving licences) as proof of identity is not guaranteed, especially for old driving licences with less security. Driving licences issued before 2013 are not replaced in Germany, so the same document is kept.

German citizens travelling inside Europe (except Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine) or to Egypt, Georgia, Montserrat (max.14 days), Turkey, and on organized tours to Jordan (through Aqaba airport) and Tunisia can use their ID card, which is a machine-readable travel document, instead of a passport.

Just like German passports, German identity cards are valid for ten years (six years if the holder is under 24 on the date of issue).

Physical appearance

The current ID card is an ID-1 (credit card size) plastic card with an embedded RFID chip. It is covered with multi-colour guillochés and appears green-brown from a distance. All the information on it (except for colour of eyes) is given in German, English, and French

Front side


Photo of ID card holder (biometric photo)
Document number (9 alphanumeric digits)
Access number for RFID chip (6 decimal digits)[4]
Doctorate (only if holder holds this degree)
Birthname (only if differing from current surname)
Given name(s)
Date of birth (
Nationality (DEUTSCH)
Place of birth (Only the city/town of birth, no country)
Date of expiry (
Signature of holder

Rear side

The rear side shows the Brandenburg Gate. It contains the following information:

Colour of eyes
Height in cm
Date of issue (
Issuing authority
Residence (postal code, town, street, house number)
Religious name or Pseudonym (only if holder has one)
Machine-readable zone

Machine-readable zone

The three-line machine-readable zone on the back side contains the following information:

First line
1-2 ID identity document
3 D issuing country: Germany (Deutschland)
6-14 alphanumeric digits document number
15 decimal digit check digit over 6-14
Second line
1-6 decimal digits date of birth (YYMMDD)
7 decimal digit check digit over 1-6
9-14 decimal digits date of expiry (YYMMDD)
15 decimal digit check digit over 9-14
16 D nationality of holder: German (Deutsch)
30 decimal digit check digit over 6-30 (upper line), 1-7, 9-15, 19-29 (middle line)
Third line
1-30 alphabetic digits<<alphabetic digits<alphabetic digits SURNAME<<GIVEN<NAMES
Empty spaces are represented by “<“.

Different spellings of the same name within the same document

German names: German names containing umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and/or ß are spelled in the correct way in the non-machine-readable zone of the ID card, but with AE, OE, UE and/or SS in the machine-readable zone, e.g. Müller becomes MUELLER, Groß becomes GROSS, and Gößmann becomes GOESSMANN.
The transcription mentioned above is generally used for aircraft tickets etc., but sometimes (like in US visas) also simple vowels are used (MULLER, GOSSMANN), so passport, visa, and aircraft ticket may display different spellings of the same name.

The three possible spelling variants of the same name (e.g. Müller / Mueller / Muller) in different documents sometimes lead to confusion, and the use of two different spellings within the same document may give persons unfamiliar with German orthography the impression that the document is a forgery.

Non-German names: In some names of naturalised citizens, some special letters that are not available may always be replaced by simple letters, also in the non-machine-readable zone. The “Bundesdruckerei AG,” which prints the German passports, uses the font LA8 Passport, which includes a Latin subset of the Unicode characters (ISO 10646), so that letters such as ç and ł can be displayed at least in the non-machine-readable ID card zone. In the machine-readable zone, special characters are either replaced by simple characters ( e.g., é becomes E) or transcribed according to the ICAO rules (e.g., å becomes AA, ø becomes OE, etc.).

Names originally written in a non-Latin writing system may pose another problem if there are various internationally recognised transcription standards.

For example, the Russian surname Горбачёв is transcribed
“Gorbatschow” in German,
“Gorbachev” in English (also ICAO standard),
“Gorbatchov” in French,
“Gorbachov” in Spanish,
“Gorbaczow” in Polish, and so on.

German naming law accepts umlauts and/or ß in family names as a reason for an official name change (even just the change of the spelling, e.g. from Müller to Mueller or from Weiß to Weiss is regarded as a name change).

Newer ID cards contain an ISO 18000-3[citation needed] and ISO 14443 compatible 13.56 MHz RFID chip that uses the ISO 7816 protocols. The chip stores the information given on the ID card (like name or date of birth), the holder’s picture and, if the holder wishes so, also his/her fingerprints. In addition, the new ID card can be used for online authentication (e.g. for age verification or for e-government applications). An electronic signature, provided by a private company, can also be stored on the chip.

The document number, the photo and the fingerprints can supposedly be read only by law enforcement agencies and some other authorities. All ID card agencies have been supplied with reading devices that have been certified by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Agency staff can use these modules to display all of the personal data stored on the chip, including the digital passport photo and, where applicable, the stored fingerprints.

To use the online authentication function, the holder needs a six-digit decimal PIN. If the holder types in the wrong PIN, he has to type in the six-digit decimal access code given on the ID card to prove he/she really possesses the ID card. If the wrong PIN is used three times, a PUK must be used to unlock the chip. The data on the chip are protected by Basic Access Control and Extended Access Control.
Security features

The identity card contains the following security features:

multicoloured guillochés
fluorescent elements which luminesce in various colors under UV light:
UV overprint:
eagles and BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND (in macroprinting): red-orange
guillochés: turquoise
randomly distributed fluorescent fibres: red, yellow, turquoise
tactile features:
access number for RFID chip and date of expire are tactile
surface embossing: map of Germany and microlettering BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND
security thread: colour changes when viewed under different angles; is personalized: NNNNNNNNNN<<SURNAME<<GIVEN<NAMES<<<<<<<<<< (NNNNNNNNNN is the document number including a check digit; a total of 42 digits can be found on the thread))
changeable laser image: shows either the date of expire or the holder’s portrait depending on angle
color-changing ink: the colour of the text BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND changes from black to green to blue
2D and 3D holographic security elements:
colour-changing holograms: colour changes depending on angle (violet-blue-turquoise-green-yellow-orange-red)
holographic portrait: holographic reproduction of the holder’s picture
four eagles at the left side of the holographic portrait: change their colour under a different angle than the portrait itself
document number: NNNNNNNNN, 9 digits
holder’s name: SURNAME<<GIVEN<NAMES<<<<<<<<<<, 30 digits
green kinematic structures above the conventional picture:
eagle: bright eagle on dark hexagon changes to dark eagle on bright hexagon to letter D in hexagon when document is tilted
hexagon: moves across the picture when document is tilted
stars: change their size when document is tilted
letter D: moves across the picture and turns into a star
text on the left side of the picture; visible only under a certain angle
machine-verifiable structure: a red spot which can be checked by machines
3D eagle: a red-gold eagle visible only under a certain angle

East German Identity Card

Identity cards in East Germany came in the form of paper booklets in a blue plastic cover, much like modern day passports. On the outside, the Emblem of the German Democratic Republic as well as the words “DEUTSCHE DEMOKRATISCHE REPUBLIK” (“German Democratic Republic”) are embossed. Inside the cover page there is a notice to the bearer:

Bürger der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik

Dieser Ausweis ist Ihr wichtigstes Dokument

Sie haben deshalb:

1. diesen Personalausweis stets bei sich zu tragen, sorgfältig zu behandeln, vor Verlust zu schützen und auf Verlangen der Volkspolizei vorzuzeigen bzw. auszuhändigen;

2. keine eigenmächtigen Eintragungen im Ausweis vorzunehmen, diesen nicht als Pfand oder zur Benutzung anderen Personen zu überlassen bzw. von anderen Personen entgegenzunehmen;

3. jeden Wohnungswechsel innerhalb von drei Tagen bei der zuständigen VP-Dienststelle zu melden;

4. jeden Verlust dieses Ausweises unverzüglich bei der nächsten VP-Dienststelle anzuzeigen.

Which translates to:

Citizen of the German Democratic Republic

This identity card is your most important document

Therefore you must:

1. carry this identity card with you at all times, handle it with care, protect it from loss, and show or hand it to the Volkspolizei on demand;

2. not make any entries into this identity card, give it to another person as a pawn or to be used, or accept it as such;

3. notify the responsible VP office of any change of residence within three days;

4. immediately report any loss of this identity card to the nearest VP office.