Roadblocks to obtaining government-issued ID

Tags: #kyc #identity #inclusion #stateless #undocumented

The state’s monopoly on identity and its KYC regulations exclude millions of people from daily life necessities, such as finances, jobs, apartment rentals, healthcare, mail, sim cards, contracts and more. If the state refuses to print ID for you, there is no way to appeal or get an ID via an alternative method. It is truly a monopolized single point-of-failure that leaves people (who e.g. weren’t registered at birth) no opportunity to enter the system and regularize their situation as an adult, regardless of their skills or efforts.

Standard application

If you weren’t registered at birth or the country of birth is dangerous to you, it’s impossible to get a passport or national ID card via a standard application. If you don’t already exist in the database, the state is very unlikely to add you as an adult.

Skilled work visa

Even a skilled work visa requires an existing passport, regardless of your specialized skills, an invitation from a company, character references, vouches or a highly-paid job offer.

Driver’s license

The state doesn’t only require a passed driving test, but also an existing national ID card or passport in order to get a driver’s license.

Stateless passports, non-citizen passports

Stateless passports technically exist, even with an “identity not verified” stamp for people who don’t have a birth certificate or old passport. However, the state mostly refuses to print stateless passports (legally recognized stateless status) and non-citizen passports (nationality unknown) and even prefers to imprison people indefinitely than to print an ID which would allow them to get a work or marriage visa.

IDs for undocumented people

Some US states offer ID cards for undocumented people, such as the Californian AB 60 driver’s license and a similar program in New York. However, these ID cards require an existing foreign passport, national ID card or birth certificate. While this could help people who have ID but no visa, it can’t help people who don’t have existing state-issued identity documents.

Digital IDs

The planned “Digital IDs” will likely require government ID as a base layer, and will continue to exclude people who don't have an existing national ID card or birth certificate, even if they give their fingerprints or a biometric photo.


Asylum is generally only available in cases of war. People who escape from a war-torn country fortunately may be able to get asylum by only providing fingerprints. For anyone else who is escaping from a dangerous situation (abuse, political persecution, cultural persecution e.g. against women, LGBT people, religion or ethnicity), the state often refuses to grant asylum applications and even forcibly returns the applicant against their will to the country that endangers their life.

Red Cross, United Nations

United Nations used to issue laissez-passer passports and Red Cross used to issue emergency travel documents, but it looks like these are not available anymore. Generally these were only valid for one trip, and not intended for daily life use, such as visas, jobs, apartment rentals or healthcare.

Flag Theory, second passports, jurisdictional arbitrage

All Flag Theory strategies (e.g. St Kitts passports, Estonian digital residency, Panamanian permanent residency, require an existing passport or birth certificate. There is no way to receive an initial proof of identity via investment or skilled work, so these strategies can’t help people who have no identity documents at all.

Shell companies

Many people recommend to make contracts under a business name rather than a personal name. However, even “anonymous off-shore companies” with nominee directors require government ID to open. Maybe this method could provide privacy for people with ID, but it isn’t possible without ID.

Secondary proof of ID, paper trail

In Common Law countries like the US and UK, it may be possible to access services via “secondary proof of ID” or “ID points”, such as letters, medical records, work ID cards, library cards, baptism certificates or other non-government documents, or ask someone who has ID to vouch for you (identity witness). However, in most other countries, only passports or national ID cards are accepted, which strictly require you to be entered in the state’s database at birth (government-issued birth certificate). This means that it isn’t possible to “build an identity” via a daily-life paper trail such as contracts, letters and school/work records.

Non-government ID cards

While Flag Theory offers government-issued ID cards in return for investments (but excludes people without an existing proof of identity), various organizations and companies print non-government ID cards for a fee, no previous ID required. Some examples are Digitalcourage, Bitnation, Liberland and World Passports. However, these non-government IDs are not accepted for KYC purposes (visas, banking, jobs) or even for layman situations like picking up mail, renting an apartment or joining a gym. While you can buy one without an existing government ID, it isn’t accepted in daily life situations.

Paper tripping

Paper tripping was an old strategy that used dead people’s documents or copied living people’s documents, e.g. by buying a birth certificate from one state and using it in another state, as databases weren’t shared. This doesn’t work anymore, at least in the EU, because data is shared between databases, departments and countries (e.g. from a cloned birth certificate, the state can easily find the real person’s photo, address, job and IDs, or if it’s a foreign birth certificate, they can ask the embassy, who will reply if it’s faked or cloned). If you try to apply for a national ID card using a cloned birth certificate, the state will see the real person’s existing ID card and their photo in the database, and will easily determine that you aren’t the same person.

Bribed ID

Bribed ID may work if you find a connection to a corrupt bureaucrat, although it may look suspicious to see that a birth e.g. from the 90s was only entered today. Plus there is a risk if the corrupt bureaucrat would be exposed and the fake ID records would be deleted.

Fake ID

In the US, it’s fairly easy for college students to buy a fake driver’s license for drinking. However in Europe, fake ID sellers are difficult to find. If you can find a fake ID seller, maybe it could work to pickup mail, visit a doctor or rent an apartment and open up more opportunities this way, but it is unlikely that the state would accept this ID to issue a visa or SSN and it may not work for situations that use scanners (e.g. opening a bank account).


As you can see, it’s difficult to access government ID if you weren’t registered at birth, the country of birth is dangerous to you, or many other reasons. The state provides no way to regularize your situation as an adult, e.g. via a daily-life paper trail (school/work records, letters, contracts, medical records), qualifying for a skilled work visa or even providing fingerprints.

There is no way to convince the state to solve problems that it has intentionally created. Even human rights organizations like United Nations, Red Cross, Caritas and Privacy International have tried to persuade the state to print IDs for millions of stateless people, refugees and undocumented people. 1 billion people worldwide have no access to government-issued ID, but instead of printing ID for these people, the state prefers to ignore, blame, exclude or even imprison them.

Instead, the practical solution is to provide more services that don’t require ID, such as under-the-table jobs, informal apartment rentals, cash-in-hand healthcare, anonymous sim cards, and businesses who accept payments in cash or Bitcoin. Proxy merchants are also necessary: people who have ID make contracts or sign up for services on behalf of people who don’t have ID and are paid a fee for their help. This could help people without ID to access jobs, banking, apartment rentals, online shopping or even healthcare.

More information about KYC-free services can be found here: