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No residence in Germany? Or in the Czech Republic?

As of 1 November 2019, foreign addresses of expatriate Germans may be entered in their identity cards...

The article is taken from the German original for the portal www.weka.de, which you can find on this link.

Up to five million German citizens are estimated to live permanently abroad, of which approx. three million live in other EU member states (though reliable statistical data is not available); reliable data on Czech citizens do not exist, but there could be several ten thousands. However, up until 2009, those expatriate Germans who had "deregistered" in Germany could not apply for personal identity cards (Personalausweise) at all; with this in mind, many German expats decided to remain formally registered in Germany. In the wake of the 2009 Identity Card Law (PersAuswG), it became possible also for those Germans who had cut ties with the German registry offices to apply for an identity card. However, the address field in their case merely contains the note: "Keine Wohnung in Deutschland": “No residence in Germany” (cf. Sec. 5 (2) No. 9 PersAuswG: "address; if address lies in a foreign country, state 'no residence in Germany' instead"). Many countries within the EU in fact do not specify addresses in their national identity cards at all, but in Germany, the address is still an obligatory part of the information contained in identity cards. The same is the rule in some other EU-countries, for example in the Czech Republic.

But if your German identity card says you have "no residence in Germany"- and no other address is displayed -, not only will the public authorities, or businesses, or indeed the general public get the impression that you are a homeless person. The entry carries tangible disadvantages: you cannot use all the electronic features of the chip that is embedded in the German identity card; the postal identification procedure in Germany won’t work because the chip does not contain any deposit address (for the details, see the identity card portal of the Federal Ministry of the Interior); some business partners will refuse to enter into contracts with you if you cannot give evidence of a proper address, etc.

The petition of an expat German from Antibes (France) to the Bundestag in 2018 was unsuccessful, and the lawsuit brought by an attorney from the Czech Republic (and his daughter) to enforce the entry of their Czech address was dismissed at the end of February 2019 by the Administrative Court in Berlin in a judgment that has not yet attained final legal force (Case reference: VG 23 K 777.17 of 28 February 2019, cf. press release No. 8/2019 of the Administrative Court in Berlin). In this latter case, the complainant invoked the incompatibility of Sec. 5 (2) No. 9 PersAuswG with EU law, i.e., in particular, the principle of non-discrimination and the fundamental freedoms of establishment and movement for workers guaranteed under EU law – thus far without success.

Section 5 (2) No. 9 of the Identity Card Law has now been changed, effective as of 1 November 2019, as follows: No. 9: “... if the ID card holder maintains no domicile within Germany, the note 'no residence in Germany' may be entered, ...". You need to read twice to realize that this change ought to make it possible to enter a foreign address in the identity card: if the applicant has no residence in Germany, then the note 'no residence in Germany' may be entered (which implies that it does not have to be entered). It is thus upon the individual German diplomatic mission (which is in charge of processing such applications) to enter a foreign address.

However, so far, the German diplomatic missions have published no information what documentation they will require in various countries before they’ll make such an entry (see, for instance, the information of the German Embassy in the United Kingdom, obviously requiring a "council tax/utility bill" or "bank statement"; last accessed end October 2019); till September 2019 they informed:"Please note that your foreign address will not be entered in the identity card for which you applied abroad. If you are no longer registered in Germany, then your German address will be changed to 'No primary residence in Germany'". Also, no implementation guidelines have been issued so far with respect to this issue. The German Embassy in Prague does not have any information on this topic on its website.

This means that after 1 November 2019, you may be successful when applying for a German identity card at a German diplomatic mission with, say, a Czech or Austrian address, provided that you can produce the required documentation (local certificates of registration, etc.). In countries with no residence registry (such as the U.S. or the UK, possibly requiring council tax/utility bill bank statement) or with poorly functioning systems (Greece, Cyprus, Kosovo, and most countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central or South America), however, all depends on the demands (and the discretion) of the German diplomatic mission whether a foreign address may be entered in the identity card or whether they will have to continue to revert to the note "no residence in Germany".

Interestingly enough, the situation of Czech citizens, residing permanently abroad and having themselves permanently deregistered in the Czech Republic, is even worse: in their personal identity cards (so called „občanka“ or officially „občanský průkaz“ according to the law No. 328/1991 Sb.), an address of a permanent residence beyond the Czech Republic is not incorporated at all (§ 3 (2) lit. a) of this law); common practice is, that as an address the registered seat of the City or Community Office is incorporated for those citizens. However, if a Czech citizen will be for a longer time abroad, he has to return his residence permit or hand it in to deposit it (§ 9 (1) lit. e) of this law); otherwise the validity of the Czech identity card will expire automatically „upon the end of long term residence in the Czech Republic“ (§ 11 (1) lit. f) of this law). It has to be seen, whether such a rule is in line with the regulation (EU) 2019/1157 „on strengthening the security of identity cards of Union citizens and of residence documents issued to Union citizens and their family members exercising their right of free movement, which will take effect as of 2nd August 2021. Stripping Czech citizens residing abroad, including within the EU, of their Czech identity cards, or incorporating into them addresses of State offices as their residence in the Czech Republic, seems to be a strange solution, as not all other EU-states are issuing personal identity cards to foreign EU-citizens residing permanently within the EU and as such addresses are only fictitious: nobody lives at a City or Community Office.

some business partners will refuse to enter into contracts with you if you cannot give evidence of a proper address, etc.