Travel documents

Information about Rights & Duties

Documents required from EU citizens, their family members who are not EU citizens, minors travelling alone and non-EU citizens when travelling across borders within the European Union (ID card, visa, passport)

Travel documents when travelling abroad

The obligation to carry a valid passport or identity card when crossing the border continues to apply for travel within the European Union and to third countries. If you do not, you will be committing an administrative offence The amount of the corresponding fine may not be less than EUR 5.00 and may not exceed EUR 1.000. For third-country nationals and persons entitled to freedom of movement, the fine is EUR 3.000 (cf. Section 98 V in conjunction with III No 3 of the Residence Act (AufenthG) or Section 10 III in conjunction with IV of the Freedom of Movement Act/EU (FrizügG/EU).

Within the European Union, citizens with a nationality of a Member State of the European Union may also travel exclusively with their valid identity card and use it as a travel document. Concerning the necessary documents (passport and visa) enabling third-country nationals to travel within the European Union, please consult the website of the European Commission (Your Europe Portal).

For trips outside the European Union, a passport is usually required. It should be noted that some countries set certain requirements regarding the minimum validity of the passport. Various rules are applicable in this regard. In some countries, the passport must still be valid for at least 3 months, in others for 6 months.

Travel documents in the case of multiple nationalities

For visa-free travel within the European Union, citizens of the EU and of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland who hold more than one nationality must carry and present at checks a passport or identity card issued by the Member State of the European Union of which they are nationals. In such cases the passport of a non-EU country is not sufficient. The same applies to entry into or departure from third countries. Travellers may therefore be required to carry two passports or identity cards when travelling between the European Union, on the one hand, and a non-EU country, on the other: on the one hand, a passport of the EU Member State and, on the other hand, a passport of the country of destination.

Travel documents for minors

To facilitate travel, minors travelling alone and entering or leaving Germany - although not required by law - should carry a declaration of consent signed by the persons with legal custody of the child, in addition to their own valid travel document (passport, children's passport or identity card). Where possible, such declaration should be issued in the languages of the home country and of the country of destination.

It should specify:

  • that the minor may travel alone
  • the contact details of the parents with custody
  • the route being travelled 
  • the contact details of the accompanying adult(s), if applicable

Before the departure, it is important to make photocopies of the identity documents being used for the journey by the minor travelling alone and which could potentially be lost. This will make it easier to obtain a passport substitute while abroad if the passport/identity document is lost.

In the case of minors travelling alone or accompanied by only one parent, it is advisable to have the non-accompanying parent with custody issue a power of attorney with the contact details of the latter. This makes it possible to avoid delays at border controls, such as lengthy enquiries, and to deal with exceptional situations. This allows border guards to contact the non-accompanying parent if there are any doubts about the situation.

Border checks on minors are carried out in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2016/399. (Schengen Borders Code). Under Article 20(1)(f) of this Regulation, in conjunction with Annex VII, border guards must pay particular attention to minors. This is to prevent the minor from being unlawfully removed from the parent with custody or to prevent the minor from leaving the territory against the wishes of the parent with custody. In addition, in certain situations it may also be sensible, as a precautionary measure, for the minor to carry a power of attorney from the non-accompanying parent with custody, for example in the event of illness during the journey. In this way, for example, the doctor can clearly establish who has authority to make decisions on behalf of the travelling child for the initiation of any necessary medical treatment.

Validity of travel documents for minors

If you want to apply for a document that will remain valid for several years for your child, you can apply for an identity card or a passport. With an identity card, your child can easily travel across borders within the EU. Identity cards for children are valid for a maximum of 6 years. If you are planning an international trip beyond the EU, you should apply for a passport for your child. Passports for children are valid for a maximum of 6 years.

Please note: The facial appearance of infants and very young children can change so much within six years that identification with the original identity document is sometimes no longer possible even well before the printed end of validity is reached, rendering the identity document prematurely invalid. In this case, please apply for a new identity card or passport for your child in good time before the start of your journey.

If you need an identity document for your child for only one journey, you can also apply for a child passport. The child passport has a maximum period of validity of 12 months. If the twelfth year of life is completed within these twelve months, the validity may not extend beyond the completion of the twelfth year of life.

Lost passport or ID card

If a passport or identity document has been lost abroad, citizens should obtain a police statement confirming the loss, and submit this to their embassy or consulate general along with their application for a travel document as a passport substitute. Authorities in Germany cannot be contacted for queries at weekends or on public holidays, so please remember that documents can only be issued on the next working day. EU citizens who lose their passports in a third country (non-Schengen countries) where there is no diplomatic or consular representation of their home country can turn to the consulates or embassies of other EU countries for the issue of an emergency travel document.

Any photocopies of lost identity documents that you have brought with you for the trip will facilitate the issuing of a passport substitute abroad, as well as the process of reapplying before the passport/identification authority in Germany.

Please note: Identity documents that have been reported lost or stolen should not be used as travel documents if they are found again. Even if a lost travel document has in the meantime been reported as recovered to the passport authority, this does not automatically lead to the immediate deletion of the loss record in the Interpol database or to this deletion being reflected in national databases of states around the world. For this reason, border police frequently confiscate recovered identity documents because the documents in question are still registered as missing in the system.

Expired passport or ID card

In the case of an expired passport or identity card, the Federal Police can issue a travel document as a passport substitute for German nationals to enable them to travel for a limited period of time. This only applies if the issuance of a (temporary) travel document at a passport office can no longer be expected in time. In order to be able to return to Germany after completing their journey, German nationals must apply for a travel document as a passport substitute at the competent embassy or consulate in good time before returning. Please refer to the comments under lost passport or identity card.

The German Federal Police can also issue an emergency travel document for EU citizens if their passport or the ID card issued by their home country has expired. EU citizens whose travel document has been lost or stolen in Germany should first try and obtain replacement identity papers from the embassy of their home country; it is only in the event that this would cause an undue burden that the German Federal Police or local immigration authorities may issue emergency travel documents upon request and upon presentation of a police report attesting to the loss. Replacement documents may usually only be issued to children and persons under the age of 18 with the consent of their legal representative. Proof of identity and nationality must be evidenced by official documents. These can be, for example, an expired passport or passport substitute.

Germany has agreements with certain EU Member States under which German travel documents may in principle be recognised by those countries as proof of identity for up to 1 year after expiry. Further information about this can be found on the Council of Europe website under the European Agreement on the Regulations governing the Movement of Persons between Member States of the Council of Europe (CETS No. 025).

However, this European agreement does not guarantee travel, nor does it make recognition of the expired documents mandatory, for example by transport companies. In order to avoid any problems when travelling with expired documents, it is advisable to always travel with valid documents.

Further information

Travel documents for minors

For information about specific rules in certain destination countries and about travel and safety information for German nationals, please check the website of the German Federal Foreign Office (in German).

You can also obtain information about the applicable rules in the destination country from the relevant country's mission (in German).

Lost passport or ID card

The German Federal Foreign Office website provides information on the application documents required and consular assistance available in the event of loss of your passport (in German).

Expired passport or ID card

Further information is available from the Bundespolizei (German Federal Police).

Documents you need for travel in Europe

Check what travel documents you'll need to cross the border into another EU country. And find out what documents you need for your spouse, children or other relatives if they are not EU nationals.

Legal basis

Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory, Residence Act

Aufenthaltsverordnung (German)

Act on the General Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens, Freedom of Movement Act/EU

European Agreement on Regulations governing the Movement of Persons between Member States of the Council of Europe (ETS No. 025)

Responsible for the content
Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community

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