Identity card (Germany)

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The electronic identity card issued in the Federal Republic of Germany from November 1, 2010 to July 31, 2019
The revised version issued from November 1, 2019 to August 1, 2021
The current version issued since August 2, 2021

The identity card of the Federal Republic of Germany is an official document as proof of identity for German citizens . In principle, the identity card authority responsible for the main residence issues it at the citizen's request.


  • Middle Ages : Coats of arms , medals , guild symbols fulfilled the function of an identity card.
  • From 1808: Nobility register (in Bavaria ).
  • From 1850: passport card in the German Confederation .
  • From 1916: ID card as a passport replacement in the German Reich
  • From 1938: ID card as one of the forerunners of today's identity card . It was compulsory for Jews to take them along.
  • From 1939: Fingerprint and ID compulsory in occupied countries for the police to register residents; The owner had to keep this ID (book form) with him at all times.
  • With the beginning of the Second World War , ID cards were compulsory. On September 10, 1939, the Reichsgesetzblatt published an ordinance on the compulsory passport and visa as well as the compulsory identity card .
  • Due to the four-power status , in East Berlin until 1953 and in West Berlin until 1990 only the “makeshift identity card” was issued without specifying the issuing state. Due to a reservation by the Allied protective powers of Berlin, no federal eagle was printed on the West Berlin identity card that citizens received until 1990 .
  • January 1, 1951: The identity card was issued in the then Federal Republic and in West Berlin in the form of a small passport book in DIN A7 format (74 mm × 105 mm) with a dark gray cover (Federal Republic) and a dark green cover (West Berlin).
  • November 1, 1953: Blue ID cards were issued in book form in the GDR .
  • November 1, 2010: Introduction of the new ID card (nPA, formerly ePA) in ID-1 format (credit card size ) with a 13.56  MHz RFID chip (it is embedded in the top right), in which the personal data and the biometric data ( Photo and optionally two fingerprints) can be saved. This should make it possible to identify the ID card holder more securely, and the ID card can be used for official online services as well as for doing business on the Internet . The fee was increased to 28.80 euros, from January 1, 2021 to 37.00 euros.
  • November 1, 2019: The nPA experienced minor textual adjustments with regard to the information on names and maiden names.

  • August 2, 2021: The nPA was adapted to Regulation (EU) 2019/1157 . The changes relate to the fact that the country code "DE" is shown in white on the front with the blue EU flag and two fingerprints (as an encrypted image file) are mandatory on the identity card. In addition, the machine-readable zone of the ID card has been supplemented with the version number. The mandatory storage of two fingerprints has met with criticism from data protectionists, but is intended to enable unambiguous identification. However, an expert opinion by Netzwerk Datenschutzxpertise comes to the conclusion that unambiguous identification is also possible with a print of a little finger.

Planned changes

  • May 1, 2025: Passport photos should only be created and transmitted digitally to prevent morphing .

Legal bases


German nationals must a complimentary pass for establishing the identity possess (from the age of 16 year ID required § 1 PAuswG ). This obligation can be fulfilled by an identity card or a passport , whereby the simultaneous possession of both documents is permitted. Therefore, only those people who do not have a passport need to have an identity card.

However, owning does not mean that you always have to carry your identity card or passport with you in public. A carrying requirement exists only in exceptional cases, for example when driving certain weapons (see. § 38 of the Weapons Act ). The photo is subject to certain requirements in accordance with Section 7 of the Identity Card Ordinance. In Germany , the Personal Identity Card Act ( PAuswG ) and the state implementing laws are relevant.

String.Latin is specified as the character set in the ID card ordinance . This means that numerous special characters such as letters with diacritical marks are also possible.

Application, validity and fees

Sample of the preliminary identity card VS.jpg
Sample of the provisional identity card RS.jpg
Sample of the provisional identity card

According to § 8 PAuswG, ID cards are generally applied for at the citizens ' or residents' registration office that is responsible for the applicant's main residence. Homeless people apply for their ID at the municipality in which they are staying. The same applied to Germans living abroad who had to apply for their identity card in Germany until the end of 2012; Since January 1, 2013, the respective diplomatic or consular missions in Germany have been responsible ( Section 35 PAuswG). Since November 1, 2007, ID cards can be applied for with the birth of a child - also for young people under 16 years of age. For this purpose, the birth certificate or the child ID card, child passport or passport issued until 2006 is required.

The ID is valid for ten years from the date of application, six years if applied before the age of 24 ( § 6 PAuswG). The issuing fee in Germany is 37 euros (Section 1 of the PAuswGebV). Contrary to the original plan, the first ID is no longer free for young people between 16 and 18 years of age; for people under 24 years of age, the fee is 22.80 euros. If the ID is applied for abroad, the fee generally increases by 30 euros. For those in need, the fee can be reduced or waived ( § 1 PAuswGebV). Subsequent activation of the online ID function, changing the PIN in the Citizens Registration Office and unblocking the online ID function have been free of charge since January 1, 2021. It has no longer been possible to deactivate the online function since July 2017 and the ID card has always been delivered with an active chip since then. Blocking (not deactivation) is only possible via the hotline with the telephone number 116116 , e.g. B. in case of loss, possible.

There is no obligation to exchange old ID cards, they are valid without restriction until the expiry date printed on them.

Because the ID card is produced centrally in Bundesdruckerei, it takes a few weeks before the new ID card is available. If ID is required immediately after the application is submitted, the local authorities in Germany will issue a temporary ID card ( Section 3 PAuswG), which is valid for a maximum of three months ( Section 6 (4) PAuswG). The fee is 10 euros ( Section 1 (2) PAuswGebV).

The validity of the identity card for travel extends to all member states of the European Union and the Schengen area as well as the micro-states of Europe . Furthermore, the identity card is recognized as a travel document in Egypt (two photographs must be taken with you, which are required for an accompanying card ), Albania , Bosnia and Herzegovina (up to 90 days within 180 days), the Faroe Islands , the French overseas territories , Georgia , Kosovo , North Macedonia (up to 90 days within 180 days), Republic of Moldova , Montenegro (up to 30 days without a residence permit), Montserrat (up to max. 14 days), North Cyprus (up to 90 days), Serbia (up to 90 days within 180 days), Turkey (up to 90 days within 180 days), Tunisia (as part of a package tour by air). All other countries, on the other hand, require a passport and in some cases also a visa . There it is not sufficient to present your identity card when entering the country.


The identity card is the property of the Federal Republic of Germany ( Section 4 (2) PAuswG). Unofficial changes can be punishable by law ( § 273 StGB : changing official identity documents and § 267 StGB: forgery of documents ). Invalid ID cards can be withdrawn and secured ( Section 29 PAuswG).

Deposit prohibition

According to Section 1 (1) PAuswG, the holder of the ID “may not be required to deposit the ID or to give up custody in any other way.” For example, fitness studios and hotels are not allowed to remove the ID from visitors when entering the respective premises. In the event of a violation, however, there is no penalty or fine. Deposits may only be requested by authorities authorized to establish identity. The ban on deposit does not apply if the ID has to be withdrawn or secured (Section 1 (1) PAuswG).

Copy restrictions

From 2010 to 2017, photos of the identity card were only allowed in special exceptional cases. Since the changes to the ID card Act 2017, ID cards can be photographed (photocopied, photographed, scanned) in accordance with Section 20 (2 ) if the ID card holder agrees. The resulting copies must be "clearly and permanently" recognizable as copies (e.g. black and white photo, lettering "Copy") and may only be passed on to others by the card holder.

Legal functions of the identity card

The identity card serves to identify and prove a person as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany. According to Article 27 of the 1954 Convention on Stateless Persons, stateless persons are also supposed to receive an identity card, but in Germany this Convention came into force on January 24, 1977 only with the proviso that Article 27 is not applied. Article 38 of the Convention allows such reservations.

Exercise of civil rights and duties

In order to exercise civil rights and obligations, it is desirable or necessary to present an identity card or passport . In the case of a federal election, for example, the electoral board can demand that the voter identify himself. This should happen in particular if the voter is unable to submit a voting notification ( Section 56 (3 ) of the Federal Electoral Regulations ) or wants to vote at the polling station with a ballot paper that has been requested for postal voting . Similar rules apply to other state and municipal elections.

Establishing the person

Especially in private legal traffic, i. H. When concluding sales or other contracts, both contracting parties want to be certain that the respective contracting partner actually exists and that the contract is not concluded under a false name. Proof is often provided by presenting an identity card. The identity card is used to facilitate and accelerate private legal traffic. At the same time, it serves as proof of age.

In addition, in some legal transactions in private transactions, the identity of the person must be determined due to legal regulations, especially in notarial contracts, but also, for example, to open a current account with a bank. The banks will not open any accounts without presenting an identity card or a comparable official identity document . The identification requirement results from § 154 Tax Code i. V. m. The Money Laundering Act .

Proof of German citizenship

Neither the identity card nor the German passport are proof of possession of German citizenship . They only establish the presumption that the card holder is a German citizen. Proof is the citizenship certificate , alternatively the certificate of the legal status as a German. However, anyone who has had an identity card or passport for at least twelve years automatically acquires German citizenship retrospectively in accordance with Section 3 (2) of the StAG to the date of issue of the document or the presumption.

Proof of home address

Example of a registration confirmation

In Germany, the owner's address in the register is documented on the identity card, but not on the passport. For Germans abroad, the note “no main residence in Germany” can also be entered ( Section 5 (2) No. 9 PAuswG). If you change your place of residence , you will not apply for a new identity card. Instead, the responsible reporting office sticks a sticker with the new address over the address field on the back, which is sealed and some reporting offices pasted over with a self-adhesive transparent film. Some ID card authorities put the date on the sticker. This sticker process reduces the costs for citizens when there are frequent changes of address, because a new identity card does not have to be applied for. If a citizen who only has a passport needs proof of his residential address, the registration offices will issue a confirmation of registration upon request . The same applies to the proof of a second residence , because the identity card only mentions the main residence.

Obligations of the ID card holder

Some state laws expressly require ID card holders to apply for a new ID card before the previous one loses its validity. On the one hand, this results indirectly from the identification requirement , on the other hand, according to Section 1 (2) sentence 3 PAuswG, there is no general obligation to have an identity card: if you have a valid passport , you do not need to have an identity card, i.e. you do not have to apply for a new one. The practice of some municipalities to impose a fine if a person fails to renew the identity card before the expiry of its validity is therefore only permissible if the person concerned does not have a valid passport.

The card holder must immediately report the loss of the identity card to the identity card authorities. If the online identification function is activated, according to Section 27 (2) PAuswG, the owner must take reasonable measures to protect the secret number (PIN) required to use the electronic functions. In addition, the holder must take technical and organizational measures so that electronic functions of the ID card can only be accessed in a secure environment with devices that are certified by the BSI (Section 27 (3) PAuswG). The Federal Ministry of the Interior recommends regularly updating the operating system and using an up-to-date firewall and an up-to-date anti-virus program . If the card reader does not have a keyboard, the AusweisApp's on- screen keyboard should be used. In the case of a basic reader in particular, the new ID card should not be placed on the reader for longer than necessary.

Denial and withdrawal of identity card

On October 17, 2014, the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the interior ministers of the federal states agreed that such a basis would be created for securing the identity card. The main aim of this is to prevent the departure of German nationals who want to join the terrorist organization “ Islamic State ”, since the German ID card entitles them to enter Turkey and these people can then go to Syria or Iraq . According to the Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, these people will be issued with a replacement identity card that does not entitle them to leave the federal territory.

This possibility of refusal and withdrawal of the identity card was standardized in § 6a of the PAuswG. The maximum period of validity of the replacement ID card was set at three years ( Section 6 (4a) PAuswG). It costs a fee of ten euros ( Section 1 (2) PAuswGebV).

There are currently no further options for denial or withdrawal, while a passport can be denied for various reasons, such as an arrest warrant .

Information on the identity card

Structure of the new identity card

Section 5 of the Identity Card Act determines what information the identity card must and may contain . Paragraph 2 regulates the clearly visible information, paragraph 4 the information on the machine-readable zone and paragraph 5 the information on the RFID chip. According to Section 26 (2) PAuswG, fingerprints are deleted by the identity card authority at the latest as soon as the ID has been issued, and unlike the electronic health card , according to Section 4, no central file of biometric data is created. The legend texts as well as the terms “Federal Republic of Germany” and “ID card” have also been translated into English and French , the two working languages ​​of the UN .


Front of the identity card
  • Name of the person - see Section 5 (2) PAuswG
  • First name of the person
    • further first names, if applicable
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • place of birth
  • Validity date
  • alphanumeric ID number / serial number (top right)
  • Access number / Card Access Number (short: CAN, bottom right; not on old ID cards). It does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the person and is required if the PIN was entered incorrectly twice when using the online function of the ID card. In order to prevent the online identification function from being blocked by a third incorrect PIN entry, you will be asked to enter the CAN in front of this.
  • Signature of the holder
  • Passport photo (grayscale or color photo suitable for biometrics. The photo should not be older than six months when applying for a new identity card.)
  • in the case of old ID cards, the machine-readable data zone

Titles of nobility are part of the family name in Germany.


Back of identity card

Security features

The identity card has a variety of security features . In addition to numerous printing and material-related safeguards, the ID number and the name of the holder are negatively omitted ( laser inscription ) on the back of the new ID card in the horizontally running hologram strip . According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, these features make the ID one of the most forgery-proof documents in the world.

Since November 2001, new additional security features combined under the protected collective termIdentigram ” have been incorporated on the front of the identity card: The photo and the machine-readable zone are also shown holographically offset from the printed data. In the bottom quarter of the photo area, when viewed from a flat viewing angle, an additional feature perceptible as a “circular red dot” has been recognizable for some time (ø approx. 5 mm - machine-readable security feature). On the right of the map - above the printed photo and the federal eagle  - there are kinegraphic structures that are visible under a point light source ( e.g. with direct sunlight or a halogen spot ).

Machine readable zone

The machine readable zone (abbreviated: MRZ, English machine readable zone ) has been on the back since November 1, 2010 and consists of three lines:

  • Line 1 is divided into three segments:
    • Start identifier ( I ) / document type ( D );
    • Exhibitor state ( D erm);
    • ID number (can also be found on the front top right without a check digit ), consisting of:
      • Code of the issuing authority (1st to 4th digit);
      • randomly assigned number (5th to 9th digit);
      • Check digit (10th digit); unused fields at the end are <filled with the character .
  • Line 2 is divided into four segments:
    • Date of birth in the format JJMMTTwith final check digit and subsequent filler character <;
    • Last day of validity in the format JJMMTTwith a final check digit;
    • Nationality D; unused fields at the end are <filled with the character ;
    • Check digit for the entire line at the end of the line.
  • Line 3: family name, first name (if applicable, further first names in the same order as in the birth certificate); unused fields at the end are <filled with the character .
Machine-readable areas on the new and old ID card
( attention: the check digit is wrongly framed on the left ! )

The MRZ uses the OCR-B font , a font developed for optical character recognition . Umlaut , diacritical marks , " SS " and other special characters (such. As æ , œ , ð , þ ) are in the MRZ either circumscribed in the name (eg. B. M ü ller → , Gro beta → ) or by normal Replaces letters (e.g. D é sir é e → ). This means that the name is written in two ways in the document, which can cause confusion, especially abroad. The German name right (no. 38 NamÄndVwV) also recognizes special characters in the family name as a reason for an official name change (even a mere change of spelling, for. Example of M ü ller to M ue port or by Wei ß to Wei ss applies as such). On October 1, 1980 introduced the Federal Administrative Court again found that the technically caused erroneous reproduction of special characters on electronic systems can be an important reason for the change of surname (the plaintiff spelling wanted his name of G ö tz in G oe change tz , but initially failed at the registry office). MUELLERGROSSDESIREE

The machine-readable area on the front of the ID cards requested by October 31, 2010 is two lines:

  • Line 1: IDD<<Familienname<<Vorname(only the first name if there are several first names), then to the end of the line <.
  • Line 2:
    • ID number, then nationality Dand <<;
    • Date of birth in the format JJMMTTfollowed by a check digit and <;
    • Expiry date in the format JJMMTTfollowed by a check digit and <to the end;
    • Check digit for the entire line at the end of the line.

On the basis of this ID number or the date of birth, the so-called age verification system can be used to find out whether a person is already of legal age (sometimes used on the Internet as "evidence" of age). However, since it is very easy to generate a valid number, this test is considered unsafe. The RFID chip in the new ID card enables proof of age without transmitting the date of birth; it is only transmitted whether the ID card holder has reached a certain age or not.

Changes since November 1st, 2007

At the same time as the introduction of the fingerprint in the ePassport , which is initially of no relevance to the identity card, changes to the identity cards also came into force. The field “religious or artist name” has been omitted and the period of validity for identity cards for applicants under the age of 24 has been increased from five to six years. Applicants from the age of 25 receive an identity card that is valid for ten years (until the end of October 2007 only from the age of 26). The serial number is also printed on the back of the ID card. On the front, the two black lines within the machine-readable zone are shown as micro-writing lines with the text “FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY”. Since November 1, 2007, ID cards can be applied for for children of all ages and serve as an alternative to the ( children's ) passport when traveling to the states of the European Union or the Schengen Agreement . Since November 1, 2007, children can no longer be entered in their parents' passports, and existing entries are no longer valid on June 26, 2012, which is why every person, regardless of their age, needs their own travel document.

The electronic identity card (nPA)

Logo of the new identity card. The “Two Worlds” pictogram without text is located on the back of the new ID card and on suitable reading devices and machines
Reader for the "nPA"

On December 18, 2008, the German Bundestag decided to introduce the new ID card on November 1, 2010. However, the FDP parliamentary group, which has been co-ruling since 2009, wanted to suspend the introduction until 2020 in the spring of 2010. However, this was not put into practice, and with the introduction of the new electronic identity card (nPA), a new version of the identity card law also came into force.

The ID-1 format described in ISO / IEC 7810 ("credit card format", 85.6 mm × 53.98 mm) and the included RFID chip, which is intended to enable various forms of electronic authentication, are new . These can be divided into sovereign and non-sovereign functions. The sovereign functions of a biometric , electronic personal document, which are also present in the biometric passport , can only be used by authorities. In addition, non-sovereign functions were implemented, e.g. B. for electronic authentication to third parties, for example on the Internet. The protocol for these functions was developed by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and is described in the technical guideline BSI TR-03110. The Password Authenticated Connection Establishment (PACE) protocol used means that information from the identity card can only be read out contactlessly if the PIN is known . The protocol also ensures that it is not possible to recognize an ID card without the PIN. This means that no anonymous movement profiles can be created. The ID card is also protected against attacks on the PIN using the brute force method , as after three unsuccessful attempts it requires knowledge of a PUK, which in turn can only be used ten times. There is an exception for devices from government agencies. They do not need the PIN for access and can use the PIN e.g. B. reset if the PUK is lost or used ten times .

The RFID technology works in accordance with ISO / IEC 14443 and is designed for a range of 5–10 cm. Two to three meters are achievable under laboratory conditions , and the maximum upper limit in an optimistic calculation is four meters. Contrary to popular misconception, the signal cannot be safely blocked with aluminum foil.

The following information about the holder is stored digitally on the identity card:

The handwritten signature, height and eye color are not saved.

Requirements for the photo on the German identity card

Since November 1, 2010, only biometric images have been accepted for German ID cards. These have to meet some formal requirements in order to be accepted as a photo for the identity card by the citizens' office. The most important requirements are the following:

  • Size of the photo: 3.5 cm × 4.5 cm
  • The face size should make up approx. 80% of the height of the photo, this is approx. 3.4 cm. It is important to ensure that the face is completely depicted in the photo and not cut off.
  • According to the recommendation, the resolution of the photo should be 600 dpi.
  • The background of the photo for the ID card should be uniform and neutral, with enough contrast between the head and the background.
  • The image should be sharp so that the person can be easily recognized.
  • The face should be well lit in the photo and neither too bright nor with shadows on the face.
  • The head should be in a straight and central position in the photo, the facial expression should be described as neutral and serious. Grins or grimaces are not accepted.
  • People who wear glasses can be depicted with glasses as long as they do not cover their faces or eyes and the light is not reflected in the glasses.
  • In principle, headgear is not permitted, but exceptions can be made for religious reasons as long as the headgear does not cover the face.
  • The eyes must be open in the photo and the line of sight should be straight into the camera.

Sovereign function

Change terminal for the new identity card

The function as a biometric-based travel document essentially corresponds to the implementation in the new electronic passport (ePassport) and should at least meet the requirements of the ICAO and the European specification for access to the fingerprints voluntarily stored in the chip.

The electronic identity card is therefore still valid as a passport substitute within the European Union and offers almost the same functions as the ePassport. Saving the fingerprints of the right and left index fingers is mandatory for both the ePassport and the new ID card. The declaration of this decision must be submitted in writing with the application.

The data of the identity card can only be read out for public bodies with official authorization certificates and additionally after entering information displayed on the identity card (access number or MRZ ). Biometric data may only be read out by the following public bodies:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Customs administration
  • Tax investigation offices of the federal states
  • Passport, identity card and registration authorities

What is new compared to the data already stored in the ePassport, however, is that this data can also be changed by the municipal registration authorities . This is necessary, for example, when changing residence. However, the printed address will still be changed with the help of a sticker. As with the passport, a biometric passport photo must be used in the new identity card . If desired, the names of orders and artists can be recorded again. The zip code in the address field is new .

A change terminal is available to the passport authorities in order to be able to change data and functions at a later date. The passport authority can change the following data:

  • Switching the eID function on and off,
  • Change of residential address and thus, if applicable, of the official municipality code,
  • Resetting of the secret number (possible on the citizen's PC or in the identity card authority).

Other data, such as a new name after the marriage, cannot be changed in the identity card. In these cases, a new identity card must be issued.

Not sovereign functions

eID function

The new identity card can provide the same proof of identity on the Internet as the function as a visual document offers outside the Internet. The user has the opportunity to identify himself clearly and authentically to third parties (public authorities or private third parties). This is made possible by an application that citizens can download free of charge and with which the eID function can be used on the Internet. The first version was called AusweisApp (original name: “Citizen Client”) and was delivered in 2010 by the Swiss company OpenLimit SignCubes AG from Baar (Canton Zug) on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior . In 2014, AusweisApp was replaced by the successor software AusweisApp2 , an open source application that was developed by the Bremen company Governikus KG, also on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior. AusweisApp2 is available for Windows , macOS , Android and iOS .

Service providers who offer their customers the option of authentication using an electronic identity card must first authenticate themselves to the new identity card and prove authorization to access certain data fields on the new identity card. For this purpose, the service provider receives an electronic authorization certificate from a central federal agency. The data fields that the service provider is allowed to read out are defined in this certificate. This certificate is transferred to the user's electronic identity card and checked internally in the identity card. After the new identity card has subsequently also proven to be authentic to the service provider, the user has the option of releasing and transmitting the data requested by the service provider with his personal secret PIN.

When applying for the new identity card, the applicant receives information on electronic proof of identity. The receipt of the information material must be confirmed in writing.

With the application, the applicant must be informed that the ID card manufacturer will send him a PIN letter by post after the ID card has been produced. The ID card holder must confirm receipt of the PIN letter in writing. This letter contains a provisional transport PIN (five-digit number) that the ID card holder needs in order to be able to set a new PIN known only to him (six-digit secret number) before using the electronic ID for the first time. The secret number can be created on the home PC with the help of a reader, by smartphone or in any ID card authority. A PUK is also sent with the letter , which the ID card holder needs to unblock the PIN after entering it incorrectly three times.

In addition, the ID card holder receives a blocking password so that the eID function can be blocked at a central location. He can use it to initiate immediate blocking at any time for no particular reason ( § 10 ). The identity card authority must inform the applicant of the possibility of this blocking. It saves the blocking password in the identity card register so that the eID can be blocked even if the password or the PIN letter is lost.

All identity cards are delivered with the eID function switched on if the holder is 16 years of age or older at the time of application. On May 18, 2017, the Bundestag decided that the eID function should be activated by default and can no longer be deactivated (amendment to Section 10 PAuswG). In the past, when the ID card was issued, the holder could decide whether he wanted to switch the eID function on or leave it off. He had to make this declaration in writing. The online identification function can only be used from the age of 16. Young people who are under 15 years and nine months old on the day of application will therefore not receive a PIN letter. However, if you turn 16 during the period of validity of your ID card, you can activate the online ID function in your ID card authority and set a PIN.

The then project manager of the ID card introduction at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Andreas Reisen, announced that the AusweisApp will only be supported for three years and plans that by then the private sector will bring its own access programs for ID cards onto the market.

Since the amendment to Section 5 PAuswG with effect from November 1, 2019, it has been possible to register an address abroad and thus use digital administrative services even if you are domiciled abroad.

Non-German nationals of a Member State of the European Union or a State party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area , in Germany reporting requirements are can, for these purposes, eID card will be issued.

Access from service providers

Service providers who offer their customers the option of authentication using an electronic identity card must first authenticate themselves to the new identity card with their authorization certificate and prove authorization to access certain data fields on the new identity card. To get an authorization certificate, the service provider submits an application to the registration office for authorization certificates (VfB) with the attributes that he would like to read and the reason why he needs access to this information.

After the application has been approved, the service provider can contact a private authorization certificate provider (BerCA) with the positive decision from the issuing office for authorization certificates and purchase an authorization certificate there.

eID server infrastructure

The service provider now needs an eID server that establishes communication with the identity card. The service provider can either operate this himself and integrate it into his application or rent it from external service providers and address it via SAML or the eID web service.

The private keys that are required for authentication against the identity card must be created on a certified hardware security module that is managed by the eID server. The private keys must never leave the hardware security module. The eID server requests the hardware security module to generate a new key and then sends the public key to the configured BerCA so that it can sign the certificate. This certificate is only valid for three days and must therefore be automatically renewed beforehand by generating a new key and sending the public key to the BerCA for signing.

It is not possible to withdraw an authorization certificate as it is possible with SSL certificates using the Online Certificate Status Protocol . The ID card saves the date of issue of the last valid certificate it saw and then no longer allows access with certificates that have expired before this date.

Reading out information

Before reading out information from the identity card, the service provider presents the identity card with his authorization certificate and confirms possession with the signature of a challenge that he received from the identity card. The identity card also checks whether there is a valid chain of certificates for the state root certificate.

The identity card itself also presents the service provider with a certificate and signs a "challenge" for the service provider to prove possession of the private key. A batch of ID cards uses the same private and public key so that it is not possible to clearly identify the ID card.

In this process, the user is asked to enter his PIN, which is then communicated to the ID by the eID client or the card reader.

After successful authentication, an encrypted connection is established between the ID card and the eID server, which cannot be intercepted either in the eID client or in the card reader.

The following data can be released by entering the PIN:

Pseudonym function

The pseudonym function integrated in the new ID card is used to identify the ID card holder without personal data having to be transmitted over the Internet. Identification is completed by the ID card holder by entering his six-digit PIN. The pseudonym is linked to the ID card and changes when the same person receives a new ID card. The identity card generates its own pseudonym for each service provider so that two service providers cannot recognize the same person using the pseudonym.

Confirmation of age and place of residence

Vendors of vending machines or internet services can carry out age and place of residence queries via the ePassport without revealing the date of birth or address. The application only confirms or denies the query as to whether the cardholder has passed a certain age or is registered in a town, administrative district or state.

Qualified electronic signature (QES)

The identity card is technically able to offer the function of a contactless signature card . The new identity card is delivered without a certificate for qualified electronic signatures (QES). The possibility of reloading a qualified signature certificate enables the holder of the identity card to choose a certification service provider of his choice. The identity check for the QES can be carried out by the certification service provider using the eID function of the new identity card on the Internet ( Section 3 (1) of the Signature Ordinance). There is currently no such provider (as of October 2017).

The creation of QES using nPA was offered by Bundesdruckerei as a certification body with ReinerSCT as a sales partner until May 2017. In order to use the QES function, a corresponding - commercially available - certificate had to be reloaded. The sign-me page was required for use (as of April 2017). With the sign-me certificates, among other things, PDF documents are qualified electronically.

These certificates from Bundesdruckerei did not comply with the eIDAS Implementation Act, which came into force in July 2017 , so sales were discontinued. This means that it is no longer possible to use the identity card's signature function.


Tests by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) have shown that the basic reading devices initially distributed free of charge by the federal government represent a security gap. Since the basic readers do not have their own keyboard, the PIN for the eID function must be entered via the computer. The Federal Ministry of the Interior recommends using the on-screen keyboard of the AusweisApp so that attackers cannot simply get hold of the PIN by means of a keylogger that quasi “listens” to the keystrokes. Corresponding malware can of course log a PIN entered in this way. Only the more expensive standard and convenience readers have an integrated keyboard for entering the PIN and thus protect against theft of the PIN. Originally, however, this does not represent a security gap in the ID card or the reading devices, but rather in the computer if a keylogger has been installed on it. The use of an operating system with the latest security updates, a firewall and virus scanners can therefore complicate the attack scenario. Furthermore, the attack scenario of the Chaos Computer Club is only effective if there is also physical access to the ID (this must therefore be stolen in addition to the PIN or be on the reader if the attacker accesses it externally). As long as the electronic ID card is in a reader, attackers can take over the identity at age verification services, provided they are in possession of the PIN. The business deal on the Internet is not possible.

In the Chaosradio broadcast on September 29, 2010, it was stated that physical access to the new ID card was not necessary if the victim's computer was compromised so that the reader for the new ID card could be remotely controlled via a network connection.


Introductory phase

In the run-up to the introduction of the new identity card, there were a few doubts that the new identity card would be introduced in time for November 1, 2010. The municipalities would have to put in a much higher effort than originally expected. Problems are caused by the change terminals provided by Bundesdruckerei , which are required to apply for the new identity card. Many municipalities would have difficulties integrating the change terminals into their systems. The training of employees and the test operation have so far hardly been possible. Bundesdruckerei was also criticized because it stipulated Microsoft products for the authorities' IT equipment required to apply for and issue the new ID cards - with regard to hardware and software requirements.

The nickname in the machine-readable zone of a similar "old" identity card that can be applied for by October 31, 2010

Difficulties in transferring data between the registration authorities and Bundesdruckerei after the application, as well as those relating to the production and delivery of the new identity card, sometimes result in long waiting times for applicants. The activation of the digitally stored chip data of the new identity card is not always unproblematic.

A problem for some people who applied for the old identity card in September and October 2010 resulted from the use of the software required for issuing the new identity card. This affected applicants with multiple first names whose first name was not the first given name on the birth certificate. They were then issued with an identity card in the machine-readable zone (MRZ) of which was now a different name than the nickname they had chosen.


Since the serial number of the nPA contains alphanumeric characters , i.e. (as a novelty) it can also contain letters, a source of error when transferring them to computer forms is that the selected character set contains a representation of the number " 0 ", followed by the capital letter " O " is almost indistinguishable visually. However, the letter "O" and a few other letters do not appear in the "Instructions for Use".

The serial number of the ID card (like the passport) consists of the digits 0 to 9 and the letters C, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y, Z of the Latin alphabet together. "To avoid meaningful words and to ensure machine readability, vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and certain consonants (B, D, Q, S) were not used."

Leap year problem

In the case of the IDs applied for in the leap year 2012 on February 29th or postponed to February 29th, 2012, software errors resulted in incorrect entries of the validity period. The correct entry for applications on February 29 and March 1, 2012 in the "Valid to" field is February 28, 2022 (or 2018 if the application is submitted before the age of 24). ID cards with an incorrect period of validity February 27th or March 1st are invalid.

Missing nickname

Due to a change in administrative practice, since the end of 2010, the first name (usually determined on a birth certificate) is no longer indicated in German ID cards for people with multiple first names. This has led to considerable legal uncertainty, since in both official and private legal and business transactions only a first name is regularly used in addition to the surname , but it is no longer possible to prove by means of an identification document which of several first names should be the authoritative one. In practice, this has led to the fact that the first name has recently been used as a priority when there are several first names. This effectively counteracts the legal uncertainty that has arisen, but it forces citizens whose nickname is not the first to use a first name that was not intended and with which they neither identify themselves nor are identified by those around them. The current administrative practice that is responsible for this is therefore considered unconstitutional in jurisprudence and, in particular, a violation of the right of personality from Art. 2 Para. 1 GG i. V. with Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, of the principle of equality according to Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, and of the parental rights according to Article 6, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law.

This fact has contributed to the fact that since November 1, 2018 it has been possible to redefine the order of several first names outside of an official name change procedure by declaring the name bearer to the registry office (first name sorting, § 45a PStG ).

Different versions

Since the existence of the electronic identity card, changes to the identity card law have been passed, which meant an adaptation of the RFID chips in the identity cards by the Federal Printing Office. Section 18 PAuswG (3) defines the data that is stored on the chip. Due to the law for the promotion of electronic administration and further regulations from the Federal Law Gazette 43 of July 31, 2013, the feature name at birth (§ 18 PAuswG paragraph 3 number 1a) was added as a data record. The Federal Law Gazette 46 of July 14, 2017, with the law for the promotion of electronic proof of identity, also added the data record of the last day of the period of validity (Section 18 PAuswG paragraph 3 number 7a). As a result, three different versions were in circulation in 2018, although not all services could be used equally by authorities with the different versions. The application procedures at some federal offices require additional written applications if the first and second versions of the electronic identity card are used. Bundesdruckerei cannot update existing RFID chips on ID cards.


The chips built into the identity card correspond to the guideline 03127 "Architecture of the electronic identity card" of the Federal Office for Information Security. Depending on the date of issue, different chip hardware is built into the ID cards and comes from either the manufacturer NXP Semiconductors or Infineon Technologies . The chips have at least 128  kB EEPROM , 384 kB ROM and 9 kB RAM and a 16-bit processor . According to the manufacturer, the chips may only be exposed to temperatures between −25 ° C and +85 ° C.

Chip version Manufacturer. First exhibition
NXP_P5CD128 NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH November 2, 2010
IFX_SLE78CLX1440P Infineon Technologies AG April 8, 2011
NXP_P60D144 NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH 23rd August 2013
IFX_SLE78CLX1280P Infineon Technologies AG 21st October 2013
IFX_SLC52 Infineon Technologies AG from May 2020
NXP_P60D145 NXP Semiconductors Germany GmbH from Q2 2020


  • In the whole of Berlin and the GDR , an identity card was required to be carried until German reunification , which was based on the legal ordinances of the victorious powers of the Second World War and GDR laws. However, authorities that are authorized to establish identity in a specific situation (primarily the police) may still detain a person under certain circumstances if the person cannot identify themselves and their identity cannot be established in any other way ( Section 163b StPO ).
    Old identity card until October 2010 under UV light
  • Cutting off a corner or making the identity card number unrecognizable by punching it will make the identity card invalid. In this way, ID cards are invalidated by the competent authorities, such as after expiry or after the death of the holder. Invalid or invalid identity cards that were issued after October 31, 2010 - so-called new identity cards (nPA) - and electronic residence permits must be withdrawn by the authorities and must not be given to the owner in an invalidated manner. The reason for this is that, due to production tolerances, it cannot be guaranteed that “invalidated” ID documents do not still contain functional chips.
  • The predetermined breaking punchings are visible as fine lines in the form of slot perforations in the ID card.
  • The last digit of the ID card number is a checksum of all digits in this line, it does not contain any further information.
  • Since September 1, 2011, foreigners living in Germany who do not belong to the EU have received an electronic residence permit , a national identity document that corresponds to the German identity card in order to meet the requirements of the ICAO with regard to its design. In addition to the type of residence permit , all personal data and the address of the person concerned in Germany are listed there. The electronic residence permit contains - like the German identity card - a contactless memory chip.
  • According to a study in 2015 around 41% of the 1000 Internet users surveyed over the age of 18 had a new identity card. 32% of these had activated the eID function. 38% of the nPA owners with eID activation had a reader and thus the ability to use the eID function. This is a total of 50 of the 1000 users surveyed, or 5%.

Word origin

The adjective 'personal', derived from the Latin ' personalis ' =  personal , is used in word compositions, e.g. B. 'Identity Card'. The term 'identity card' stands for 'personal identity card'. See the German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm . In English , ' personal ' also means 'personal'.

The term 'identity card' is already mentioned in the Reichsgesetzblatt from 1916 in issue no. 143 (law no. 5291, pp. 601-609) “Announcement, regarding implementing regulations for the passport ordinance”, on p. 603 as a “passport substitute” the template is shown on p. 609. On page 602 the term 'personal description' is used, which also stands for 'personal description' (of the passport holder or identity card holder) following the origin of the word given. The word 'personal description' is documented in the German dictionary under the entry 'personal'.

See also


  • Andreas Reisen: The Passport Expedition: History of passports and identity documents - from the Middle Ages to identity cards in credit card format. Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2012.
  • Thomas Claes: Passport Control! A critical story of identifying yourself and being recognized. Past Publishing House, Berlin, 2010.
  • Andreas Reisen: Digital identity in credit card format - data protection precautions for electronic identity cards. In: Data protection and data security. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden, ISSN  0724-4371 . Vol. 32 (2008), Issue 3, pp. 164-167.
  • Andreas Reisen: Identity Management and the electronic ID card. In: Handbook E-Government. Fraunhofer-IRB-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2007, pp. 165-168.
  • Jens Fromm, Petra Hoepner, Jonas Pattberg, Christian Welzel: 3 years online identification function - lessons learned. (PDF) Published by Competence Center Public IT - Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS, Berlin 2013.

Web links

Commons : Identity papers in Germany  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Identity card  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

New identity card

Check digits on ID cards

Provisions for the photograph

Information on AusweisApp2 / authentication on the Internet

Publisher: Governikus GmbH & Co. KG

Individual evidence

  1. Appendix 1 of the regulation on identity cards and electronic proof of identity (identity card regulation - PAuswV)
  2. Appendix 1 of the Federal Government's draft law of June 3, 2020 to strengthen security in passport, ID and immigration law documents.
  3. Reichs-Gesetzblatt 1916 No. 143, Law No. 5291, p. 603
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