I am wondernig what is the reason, if any, that in the national identification cards the names (first and last) are written in ALL CAPS?

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  • The reason is, it's the law. The explanation is, majuscule is "basic", minuscule is a fancy add-on. Interpretation errors are reduced when majuscule is used, esp. in handwriting contexts.
    – user6726
    May 11, 2020 at 20:00
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    @user6726 is it the law though? I don't see anything about this in the laws of New York, for example.
    – phoog
    May 11, 2020 at 20:18
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    I think this is a question about standards rather than the law. I don't think there is a law (not in the UK, anyway) that says "names in passports must be in capital letters".
    – Lag
    May 12, 2020 at 13:28
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is extremely diverse globally and not about the law: While there are international treaties about how an international ID, passport or drivers license has to look, to some degree, the actual look is defined in national regulations. There's not even a law about the look usually!
    – Trish
    Jun 10, 2020 at 23:12
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    @Trish International treaties aren't law?! Man, I wish I had known that before I took those classes in law school. Also, like half the legal work I do daily is governed by international treaties. Yes, International Treaties are appropriate for Law.SE.
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2020 at 16:19

3 Answers 3


Some jurisdictions do that. Others don't (see, for example, the Dutch national identity card).

My New York driver's license is in all caps, and I rather suspect that it's a holdover from the days in which licenses were processed using a computer system that had only upper-case characters.

But that's just a guess. The real answer is that the premise of the question is incorrect.

  • Another reason is that case sensitive database entries are more likely to produce false negative results in a search for a name, while is a much more serious problem in the circumstances in which it is usually used, than a false positive result, from the perspective of the government establishing the database.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6, 2023 at 5:15

The League of Nations Passport Conference of 1926 contained suggestions on how christan and surnames should be written:

Various Entries..
The question of the entries to be made on the passport form has given rise to the following observations:

  1. Sufficient space should be provided for the full name of the holder;
  2. Christian names and surnames should be written either in block capitals or in what is known as English roundhand;
  3. The surname should be underlined.

It is agreed that christian names need not be translated.

United States Passports that I have seen, never underlined the surnames. Other countries often did. Sometimes spaces between the letters of the surname were used instead of underlining.

With the introduction of typewritten passports, in the United States since 1931-01-02, all entries were mostly uppercase.

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Note: The typed letters are red. A passport issued in September 1931 (and later) are black.

A 1934 passport of Moritz Feibusch, which was retrieved from the ruins of the Hindenburg, can be seen here:


  • FYI. The terminology "Christian name" used in 1926 is now outdated and has largely been superseded by the terminology "Given name" that lacks a religious affiliation (the term "Christian name" in the context of passports, when a majority of people in the word are not Christian, illustrates why the old terminology is problematic).
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 6, 2023 at 5:11
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    @ohwilleke To be politicaly correct it should be meantioned the use of 'Christian name' is particular to the English language, in the French (Prénome), German (Vorname), Italian (Nome) languages, have through out the 20th (even the 19th as far as I can tell) century, used a term that lacks a religious affiliation in their documents. Feb 6, 2023 at 8:28

In the national identification cards the names (first and last) are written in ALL CAPS

That's incorrect, another example is Thai identity cards, which don't use all caps.

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(image source)

  • Maybe because her real name is written in Thai ("Nikmai" in Thai is "นาคใหม่" that you find above "Suchanan"), and it's a Thai ID card. On a passeport, international document, it's probably all caps for her last name, at least.
    – Déjà vu
    Oct 31, 2020 at 5:55

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