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I am due to start a job in the EU this August. Fortunately, I have recently acquired citizenship in an EU country, and so (I would think) have the right to work in the EU. Unfortunately, I do not yet have an EU passport or ID card -- and getting one would probably take several months.

Question: Do I need a EU passport or EU ID card to legally work in the EU (or establish that I have the right to work in the EU)? Or is a certificate of citizenship sufficient?

Addendum: in fact, the document that I have is not exactly a certificate of citizenship. Rather, it is a "Notification of the acquisition of citizenship" (there is a separate citizenship certificate that I can apply for). I'm not sure if this makes any difference.

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    This is going to vary by country. It will also vary depending on whether your job is in your country of citizenship. EU law provides that you have the right to work in other EU countries, but the administrative details vary somewhat. EU law allows countries to require you to have a valid passport or ID card, but not all do. In Germany, for example, you're not even supposed to be present on German territory without a passport or EU/EEA/Swiss ID card (but a non-EU passport might satisfy that requirement; I haven't looked at that fact pattern specifically).
    – phoog
    Jun 16 at 12:49
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    You might be able to get a temporary identification document, which takes minutes instead of months.
    – amon
    Jun 16 at 15:03
  • The main problem is more that the employer is required to make sure that their employee is allow to work or face stiff fines. In countries where residence registration is required, some form of ID is needed. In Germany the residence registration includes voter registration, so some form of proof of citizenship is required. Getting at least a temporary identification document avoids these problems. Jun 17 at 17:09

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Question: Do I need a EU passport or EU ID card to legally work in the EU (or establish that I have the right to work in the EU)? Or is a certificate of citizenship sufficient?

Legally, your right to work is not contingent on this and there is no Europe-wide rule that makes holding any document mandatory. Importantly, if you do start working anyway, you are not committing a crime and cannot possibly be banned or forced to leave the country. You do have the right to work from the day you became an EU citizen and if any doubt arises down the line, you should be able to clear it up later.

In practice, employers are sometimes supposed to check you are allowed to work (and for that would require some proof of your citizenship) but they don't necessarily need a passport or ID. What's typical on the other hand is that you have to provide an official proof of address (in the countries where you have to register your address with the authorities) and the local social security, insurance, or national tax number. Both of these will require dealing with the authorities and will be considerably more difficult, if not downright impossible, without a national ID card or passport (in fact it can even be difficult with a passport).

I worked in multiple EU countries and I don't recall always having to present my ID to employers. I recall at least one instance (in Germany) where I could start working without one (it had just been stolen) and another one (in the Netherlands) where I started on the day after I arrived, without official address nor tax number (BSN). In both cases, I was expected to solve these issues within the first month and you risk a fine if you don't register within a week or two but it was neither illegal nor impossible to start working before all the formalities were completed.

None of this means I would be completely comfortable about being months without a passport. But the main issue for you will be entering the country and what your employer's HR department is prepared to tolerate, not any sort of legal obligation to hold a passport to work.

Note that in one of the cases I described above I went to the local consulate to get an emergency passport. It wouldn't have been possible back in my country of citizenship but there are some special procedures when you reside abroad. These rules change all the time and depend on your country of citizenship but that could be worth a try.

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I agree with most of what Relaxed has answered, but I want to highlight that individual EU countries can make administrative requirements for EU citizens, as long as the requirements and penalties are not substantially higher than those for their own citizens. These can include:

  • The requirement to register the place of residence with the municipal authorities.
  • The requirement to have a passport or identity card, even if that card does not have to be carried all the time.
  • The requirement to carry ID near border areas, even if there are no systematic passport controls within Schengen.
  • The requirement to carry proof of health and social security coverage at all times on the workplace, possibly only for fraud-afflicted sectors like construction.

So it comes down to exactly where you are going. Some of those requirements are arguably stretching what the EU treaties permit, but arguing that as an individual is an uphill battle.

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  • (+1) In fact, there is at least one country (the Netherlands) where carrying ID is technically mandatory at all times. As you explained, that's fine under European law as long as there is a similar obligation for citizens. This also means that it's not a condition to the right to work and reside and cannot impact it as such.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17 at 21:35
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In principle, having citizenship in one EU country gives you the right to work in any country.

The problem is that in many countries there are laws that employers need to check that you have the right to work. I’ve done that in the past by showing my EU passport, and people who were actual citizens had to do the same thing. There will likely be laws what is acceptable proof of EU citizenship. And the company will decide what proof they accept (because there may be huge fines if they don’t check it right).

In the end it is up to the country to hire you or not. A document that says you acquired citizenship should be enough. But get your passport as soon as possible.

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The problem in your question is that you assume that citizenship and right of residence with the related working permit are almost the same thing. But actually you don't get EU citizenship, you get the citizenship of a member country and as a consequence you become a EU citizen, but the two things come with different rights. Therefore there are two different answers.

  1. You become a citizen of a member country and you want to work in the same member country. In this case the ID is a formality, you already have the right to live and work in that country and the EU citizenship does not matter. However your employer in that country might have to register your employment and might need your ID. You better ask your employer. In this case any obstacle would be bureaucratic, legally you would not break any laws.

  2. You become citizen of a member country and you want to work in the another member country. In this case the right to reside is only temporary and for 90 days without work (this probably can be absolved with such contractor work that provides for sufficient income), the EU citizenship includes the right to work. In this case you have to register as a resident in the second country, the requirements to register and get a tax ID or social before or shortly after you started to work depending on the member state, but in this case you do need an ID, however the ID would be just a small part of the formalities you have to complete to be able to work.

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    Actually, EU citizens do not need a work permit, the right to work is really automatic and entailed by their EU citizenship. You may need to complete some formalities to be effectively able to satisfy an employer and start working but you do not need any to be allowed to work. It doesn't mean everything is always easy (you can encounter problems even with a fully valid passport) but the main obstacles are equally bureaucratic in nature. Where the passport or ID card are most helpful is in establishing your citizenship in the first place.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17 at 12:47
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    So I don't think the way you present the distinction is accurate or helpful. One situation in which the distinction could matter is if you start working regardless, neither you nor your employer could possibly be charged with any crime related to illegal work or some such. At most you could be found guilty of some insurance or tax offense but you cannot be forced to leave the country or lose your right to work because you disregarded some of the formalities you mentioned.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17 at 12:50
  • @Relaxed The problem is that the ideals as they were written down have not been implemented in a clear manner. You can work as a contractor while being resident in another state, but it is not easy to put in practice around all the bureaucratic obstacles. The problem was created by shrewd employers using the right to move and work to circumvent local labour laws and taxes. Trouble is that the bureaucratic rules designed to prevent it did not stop the shrewd employers, but created obstacles for private citizens moving on their own.
    – FluidCode
    Jun 17 at 13:08
  • That's definitely true. As I said you can run into significant hurdles even if you do have a passport. That applies even more to contracting / services situation where rules are very complex compared to a bona fide local work contract. But the sharp distinction you describe does not exist in quite that way and is not helpful to think through what the practical issues and consequences might be.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17 at 13:10
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    In particular, you got the rules on residence exactly backwards: There can be no restriction on working, there are restriction on residence without working. One way to go around most formalities and restricitons is in fact to establish you are working.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 17 at 13:11

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