What if I get stopped by immigration officers and I have no ID on me? I am a British citizen.

2 Answers 2


There is no general duty to carry your identity with you when inside the UK, nor to identify yourself to any official. Many UK citizens have no photographic proof of identity at all. (My parents did not for many years, until they obtained fresh passports.)

I am confused where you could be stopped by immigration officers. If you appear at a UK Border without your passport, it is a real headache, but immigration can find your record on the computer and will, if you satisfy them you are a UK citizen, eventually admit you. (They have no power to deny entry to a British Citizen, and must be satisfied you are not a British citizen to deny you entry.) For clarity, in respect of some comments, I am not advising that anyone should do this, but I am saying in the worse case scenario if somehow you end up without documents you can still be looked up in the computer, and your identity can be checked at the UK Border without a passport.

In general you are not required to identify yourself to a police officer, unless you are arrested. http://www.findlaw.co.uk/law/criminal/your_rights/500109.html

If I am stopped and searched, do I have to give my name and address?

Although the police will likely ask for your name and address, you are not required to give it unless the police arrest you or are reporting you for an offence.

There are a small number of occasions when you may be required (by law) to identify yourself when you are simply going about your private business. If you are driving a vehicle the police may stop you and require you to identify yourself. If you do not have your driving licence, you may produce it at court at a later date; in the mean time the police can check your status by computer. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52/part/VII/crossheading/powers-of-constables-and-other-authorised-persons/enacted?view=plain

If you are travelling domestically inside the UK by air, the police can stop you and require photographic identification at or after the security check point under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/11/schedule/7?view=plain) However, I travel within Great Britain by air several times a month and usually do not bring anything more than a credit card and a change of clothes, and I have never had any problems. Most airlines will "advise" you to bring photographic ID.

If however you do travel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, immigration staff are often interested in your status then. It is wise to have photographic ID on such a journey.

  • In the case of a person at the border without a passport, isn't the burden of proof on the traveler?
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 20:00
  • @phoog Yes, in general terms. But the UK cannot deport someone with no documents, because he will not be admitted to the foreign state unless his valid status there is established. You will sometimes see passengers deemed at risk of destroying their documents will be required to surrender them to the airline before travel. Anyway, the point is that it is possible to enter the UK without a passport, but you can expect to spend several hours waiting.
    – Calchas
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 20:05
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    Sure, but "until the Border Force was satisfied..." effectively means detained indefinitely for not being able to provide identification, meaning the law can require such from you under certain circumstances. I was interested in this because I'm not a U.K.or E.U. citizen, but I was subject to such an "indefinite detention" upon entering the UK via ferry with no ID (lost it in NL) and threatened with criminal charges if my (true) story did not pan out (which it did, after an "indefinite" period of time).
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 23:52
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    Ok. I liked your answer to start with, just thought it might be a bit much to suggest one can saunter through UK customs and say, "Sorry, lost my ID -- you guys can't require me by law to provide it, can you?" ;)
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 0:31
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    Even if the police arrest you or wish to report you for an offence then as far as I know you aren't required to give your name or address, but of course refusing that information changes the process of dealing with the alleged offence and may mean you get detained for a lot longer that would happen otherwise. However that detention would be for some other alleged crime, not for failing to give details. I have personally refused to give any details after being arrested, and at least once I was released within about 20 minutes with no further consequences.
    – bdsl
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 13:10

I've yet to find any source for this, but no: to the best of my knowledge, there's no requirement to carry any form of ID at all times in the UK. It's purely used for specific situations, e.g. buying alcohol. I certainly don't carry my passport on me at all times, and I don't think I know anyone else who does. There certainly seems to be no statute requiring British citizens to carry ID.

Should you encounter a situation where identification of some kind is required - speeding when you don't have a copy of your driver's licence to hand is the most common example - you have 7 days to show your documentation to the police.

  • It seems to me that for a speeding stop the license is at least as important as evidence of being qualified to drive as it is as identification. That is, having a passport in that situation would be of no help.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 19:57
  • Granted. I was using it more as a parallel case: a situation in which you might need an official document. The wider point is that there's no requirement to carry such a document with you at all times.
    – lc9315
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 20:02
  • @phoog Entirely correct, indeed the RTA 1988 doesn't allow any document except a licence to be provided; and of course many old driving licences are insufficient of proving identity because they are paper licences without any photocard.
    – Calchas
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 20:08
  • For what it's worth, when buying alcohol one is not so much required to provide proof of identity, but rather proof of age. (Hypothetically at least) one could have a proof-of-age card with a photo but no name, and shops might choose to accept it.
    – owjburnham
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 9:10
  • You are correct, because there is no formal ID document in the UK. Things like passports, driving licences and gym cards are all discretionary - there is no obligation to have one. Commented May 4, 2020 at 8:00

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