What is an identity card

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Important information about the electronic identity card

General information

The identity card with the contactless, electronic chip is a multi-function card in credit card format. At the request of the applicant, the fingerprints can be stored on the chip of the identity card - in addition to the photo - as an additional biometric security feature. These biometric security features may only be read by sovereign authorities (e.g. border officials, police). Furthermore, the ID card holder can have the electronic ID function switched on and use the signature function.

Important change to the identity card

On July 8th, 2017, the law for the promotion of electronic proof of identity came into force, with which, among other things, the PAuswG was changed to the effect that an identity card is now always issued with a function for electronic proof of identity (online function), unless the applicant is not yet 16 years old at the time of application (see Section 10 (1) PAuswG).

With this new regulation, the option to receive the ID card with the online function switched on or off will no longer be available with immediate effect. ID cards are only produced and issued with the online function switched on. It is no longer possible to receive an identity card with the online function deactivated.

The identity card with activated eID can only actually be used if the five-digit transport PIN has been replaced by a six-digit personal PIN. This can be done at the passport office of the German representation or using a card reader on your home PC (more information here). Information material, including the current brochure “The new ID card”, can be found here.

When submitting the application, you must submit the following declarations:

  • Whether or not your fingerprints should be stored on the chip of your ID card as an additional biometric security feature. You will not suffer any disadvantages if you do not have fingerprints on your identity card.

The applicant must appear in person for all change requests that require the entry of the secret number (PIN). This includes in particular the resetting of the PIN (this also includes the replacement of the initial transport PIN with a new PIN), as well as the subsequent activation or deactivation of the online identification function.

You can also reset / change the PIN on your own reader at home, if you have one.

Pin letter

Every applicant who is older than 15 years and 9 months at the time of application receives a PIN letter from Bundesdruckerei containing the so-called secret number (PIN), the unlocking number (PUK) and a blocking password. Even if you do not want to use the online identification function, you will receive the letter and should keep it in a safe place.

If you are deregistered in Germany and live in the USA, the PIN letter will be sent directly to your international address.


The identity card may only be issued

  • if you confirm to the passport / identity card office of your diplomatic mission abroad that you have received the aforementioned PIN letter.
    Declaration on receiving the PIN letter PDF / 16 KB
  • if you have not received a PIN letter and decide to issue your identity card with the online identification function switched off (with the option of having the online identification function switched on again later).

If you have not received a PIN letter, you can alternatively insist on ordering a new identity card.

You can collect your identity card in person at the passport / identity card office of the embassy or a consulate general. Please refer to the respective website of the German diplomatic mission for information on the pick-up times. Please bring your previous identity card (or passport, if you do not have an identity card yet) with you when you pick it up.

You can also authorize another person in writing to collect your identity card.

Power of attorney to collect an electronic identity card PDF / 18 KB

You also have the option of having your identity card sent by registered mail to your address. To do this, please bring an envelope addressed to your address with you when submitting the application or pay an additional fee for sending your ID when submitting the application.