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Living in Austria For Members

Do foreigners in Austria have to carry ID?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Do foreigners in Austria have to carry ID?
As a foreigner in Austria, you'll generally need your passport and residence permit for valid ID. Photo by Global Residence Index on Unsplash

The short answer is yes—as a foreigner in Austria—you need to both have ID and generally carry it with you. But the police are bound by certain rules as to when and in what circumstances they can ask you for it.

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Foreigners in Austria have one obligation that Austrian citizens are exempt from—the requirement to carry identification in Austria. This requirement is in place for any non-Austrian in Austria, so it binds other EU citizens and non-EU foreigners alike.

Depending on the circumstances, Austrian police can ask you to produce identification to verify your identity.

Although Austrian citizens don’t technically have to carry ID, many do anyway in the form of national ID cards. These cards are smaller than a passport, but as they identify the bearer’s nationality as Austrian—foreigners obviously can’t get these. There’s a few acceptable forms of ID you can carry as a foreigner though.

The first is perhaps the most obvious—and cumbersome. You can simply carry your passport with you. Of course, carrying such an important and expensive document with you that’s also larger than standard wallet-sized ID might not be preferable.

However, your residence card is also an acceptable form of ID to carry in Austria—and probably a little more convenient than your passport.

If you’re an EU citizen, you can also simply carry your national ID card with you—if your country has one.

One document that won’t count with Austrian police—should they decide to ask you for ID—is a driver’s licence. Unlike in some countries, where a driver’s licence is an acceptable alternative to a passport for ID, a driver’s licence does not carry the same legal weight in Austria.

All this basically means that if you don’t have a residence card in Austria—either because you’re a tourist or you just arrived and are waiting for your residence card—you may technically have to carry your passport with you.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

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When can the police ask me for ID in Austria?

The good news is that Austrian police have stricter conditions placed on them than countries like France for example, where police have a great deal of latitude to require people to produce ID.

An Austrian police officer can ask for your ID only in certain situations.

A generic image of an Austrian police car seen in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

Austrian Police face tougher limits as to when they can ask you for ID than police in many other countries do. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

First, the officer can ask you for ID if they have reason to believe that you were involved in or witnessed a dangerous act that puts public safety at risk. They can also ask you for ID if something illegal has taken place at your place of residence. Unlike countries like France, simply being in an area where a lot of crimes happen or having the police suspect that you might be about to commit a crime isn’t sufficient grounds to ask for your ID in Austria—even if you’re committed a crime before.

The police may also ask for your ID if they are actively searching for a missing person or escaped prisoner—for example—and want to verify people’s identities as part of that search, or if a public emergency requires them to identify people.

One place where Austrian police can ask you for ID at pretty much any point is at an Austrian airport.

Other than that, police generally cannot arbitrarily ask you to produce ID in Austria. Obviously though, certain service providers can ask you for ID for administrative reasons—such as for picking up an parcel or voting in certain elections.

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What happens if I don’t have my ID with me?

If you don’t have valid ID with you and the police have asked you to produce it for a valid reason, be prepared to lose a bit of your day. They may take you to a police station to establish your identity, or accompany you home to get your ID if you’re close by to where you live.

If you don’t possess a valid form of identification at all as a foreigner in Austria, you can face a fine of up to €5,000.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Austria and stay long-term

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