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Sources of identification

Aim of this page

This information aims to set out the reasons why you are likely to need identification and the different types of identification that are available.

Why is this important?

Whether you’re trying to open a bank account or apply for a job you’ll need to be able to provide the bank or a potential employer with some form of identification in order to verify that you are who are say you are. Getting ID whilst you’re in prison or just after release can be quite difficult and this page sets out some of the options which may be available to you.

ID required when opening a bank account

If you are looking to open a bank account, you can find further information here.

ID required when seeking a job

Right to work

Employers have a legal obligation to confirm the identity of anybody they are looking to employ as well as their right to work in the UK in order to comply with the requirements of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. If they’re unable to do so then it’s unlikely that they’ll take your application any further.

  • Appearance (for example photo ID)
  • Full name (including forenames, last name and any other name you wish to be legally known by)
  • Signature
  • Date and place of birth
  • Current address

If you are having difficulties providing documents to your employer, see the section below.

If you’re applying for a job which requires a formal criminal record check then in addition to verifying your identity with your employer, you’ll need to provide evidence to the Disclosure and Barring Service. The documents you need will vary depending on the level of check that you are applying for.

Basic criminal record checks

To verify your identity for a basic DBS check you’ll need:

  • Details of your addresses for the last 5 years and the dates you lived there
  • Your National Insurance number
  • A debit or credit card
  • Proof of your identity, for example a passport, valid driving licence or birth certificate.

Further information can be found on our step by step guide to applying for a basic DBS check.

Standard and enhanced criminal record checks

Anybody applying for a standard or enhanced check will need to provide documents from three groups. Primary documents include:

  • Passport
  • Biometric residence permit
  • A valid driving licence (full or provisional)
  • Birth certificate
  • Adoption certificate

Further details can be found here.

ID required when making benefit claims

If you’ve set up an online account to start your Universal Credit claim, you’ll be asked to prove your identity using the government’s ‘Verify’ system. If you have any problems doing this, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity in person at the job centre.

The documents you will need could include:

  • Your passport
  • Driving licence
  • EEA national identity card

A full list can be found here.

Under the list of Secondary ID, the government refer to Form B79, a form used to notify the Department for Work and Pensions staff that a person has been discharged from prison and advised to claim benefit. However, following recent discussions Unlock have had with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) there appears to be uncertainty as to whether this form is still being used by prisons. We are awaiting further clarification around this.

Overcoming problems with ID

Having no photographic ID

If you genuinely can’t provide photographic ID then it may be worth asking your employer if they would accept a counter-signed passport photograph. Your employer may insist that the person signing the form has some standing in the community and has known you personally for say at least two years.

Having no proof of address

If you can’t provide proof of address in your own name, then a check of the electoral register can be carried out with the local authority where you are residing. If you’re officially recognised as homeless and of no fixed abode, then it may be possible to get a referral to Crisis who may be able to support you in getting a copy of your birth certificate or a driving licence as a suitable form of ID.

Documentary evidence for young people

Young people (those aged between 16 – 19) often struggle to provide ID. Employers will often accept:

  • A valid and in-date identity card carrying the ‘PASS’ accreditation logo, for example a UK CitizenCard – see below
  • A photograph counter-signed by a person of some standing in the community

  • A student loan agreement
  • A qualification certificate
  • NI card or letter from HMRC
  • A letter from your headteacher, tutor or college principal verifying your name, address, date of birth etc.

Specific types of ID


CitizenCards were the first ID cards in the UK to bear the hologram issued by PASS (Proof of Age Standards Scheme). This means that it’s recognised as valid ID under the law. The standard cost is £15. However, through a prison or probation officer, it’s possible to get them for £7.50. A prison or probation officer needs to register with CitizenCard, so that they hold a copy of their signature on their records. Then, as part of the individual application process, the person registered counter-signs a photo of you. If you want to apply for one at £7.50, you’ll need to try and find someone is registered with CitizenCard. Alternatively, a prison or probation officer can contact CitizenCard directly if they are interested in registering. There are some specific forms that they need to complete. People on probation are able to make use of the discounted price through their probation officer.

A standard application takes approximately 21 working days although it is possible to pay an additional £15 (£30 in total) for an urgent application which is returned within 2 working days.

If you don’t have any official documentation confirming your identify then you’ll need to get a referee to countersign a passport sized photograph and your application form. Referees should be over the age of 25, in full time education and be on the permitted list (see below)

  • Your doctor / dentist / nurse / administrator at your GP or dental surgery
  • Your teacher / tutor / head of year /administrator at your school, college or university
  • Your social worker
  • Your certified solicitor
  • A bank or building society staff member at your branch
  • Your prison or probation officer
  • Your Jobcentre Plus work coach

National Insurance Number (NINO)

  • you need claim benefits and/or tax credits
  • you have the right to work in the UK
  • you are entitled to and have applied for a student loan and require a National Insurance number

NINOs are issued automatically to UK born residents at the age of 15 years and 9 months as a result of a sucessful claim for Child Benefit. Any adults who have not received a NINO through this process are required to attend a Jobcentre Plus Evidence of Identity interview in order for a NINO to be application. As the vast majority of the UK born adult population already have a NINO from age 16 onward. the adult NINO allocation process applies predominantly to people entering the UK from abroad. In addition to establishing identity, if applying for a employment-related NINO you also have to prove your right to work in the UK.

The primary purpose of a NINO is to provide an internal reference number which enables the correct link to be made between an indvidual and their social security, child support, tax or contribution record. For benefit purposes, an individual is required to either provide their NINO, or sufficient information for one to be traced or allocated.

For employment purposes an individual is required to obtain a NINO to ensure your contribution records can be accurated maintained. There is however no requirement for an individual to obtain a NINO prior to taking up employment. Employees are required by law to provide their NINO to their employer, but no specific time limit is set. Where an individual does not have a NINO, the employer should ensure they record the individuals full name and date of birth so that contributions can be recorded and linked to the individuals account when the NIN is received. It is in the interests of both the employers and employee that they do obtain a NINO at the earliest opportunity.

Applying for a National Insurance number

Jobcentre Plus will arrange an Evidence of Identity (EOI) interview for you or send you a postal application. They will confirm the date, time and location of your interview. They will also tell you what information and documentation is required to support your application.

What to expect at the ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview

The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, you need an interpreter). You will be asked questions about who you are, why you need an National Insurance number, your background and circumstances. During the interview an application for an National Insurance number form will be completed and you will be asked to sign this form.

If you don’t have any official documents you still have to go to the interview. The information you are able to provide might be enough to prove your identity.

Proving your identity

You will need to prove your identity to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if:

  • you are starting work or looking for work and need an National Insurance number
  • you need an National Insurance number in order to claim benefit, pension or allowance

DWP will accept a range of documents (originals, not photocopies) when you are proving your identity. The following list is not exhaustive and you should always bring as many identity documents as you can to your interview.

  • valid passport (UK or foreign)
  • national identity card (UK or foreign)
  • residence permit or residence card (including biometric immigration residency documents)
  • full birth certificate
  • adoption certificate
  • full marriage certificate
  • civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence (UK or foreign)

If you do not have any of these (or any other) identity documents, then you can still apply for a National Insurance number and the information you supply will be checked and may be sufficient to prove your identity.

What happens after the interview

If you were asked to provide additional information you will need to do this by the agreed date. Jobcentre Plus will then write to you letting you know whether your application has been successful or not and notifying you of your National Insurance number where appropriate.

You should tell your employer your National Insurance number as soon as you know it.

However you obtain your National Insurance number normally you’ll get a plastic National Insurance number card too. This may take up to 12 weeks from when you applied.

The card is a useful reminder of your National Insurance number but it is not proof of your identity and you don’t need to have one to start work. It’s your National Insurance number that’s important not the card.

If you’ve lost or can’t remember your National Insurance number

If you think you already have a number but can’t remember it, you might be able to find it on official paperwork like:

  • your P60 (end of year tax statement, given to you by your employer)
  • a payslip
  • a copy of your annual tax return
  • other official correspondence

If you still can’t find your number, you can ask HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to confirm it by contacting the National Insurance Registrations Helpline on 0845 915 7006.

If you are in prison and need to know your existing National Insurance Number:

You will need to write a letter requesting your National Insurance Number.

  • Full Name
  • D.O.B
  • Last Residential Address
  • Current Address

The letter should be sent to HMRC NI, Contributions Office, Benton Park View, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE18 1ZZ

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on looking for (and keeping) volunteering and employment and financial issues.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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