In France, it is advisable to carry a copy of your passport or your passport. A passport is not required as proof of identity in France; you must always carry some form of identification citizen card, your U.S. passport is your valid form of identification.

This is a collection of French laws, passport best practices and some stories involving passports in France. 

Does France require you to keep your passport on you?

A recognized ID and evidence of legal status are technically required. A passport fills this requirement. But if you’re obviously American, though, it’s rare that you are asked for your ID or papers. 

Exceptions to this rule are crimes and accidents. Police can place you in custody if you do not have an ID when they ask you for it. In practice, this would mean returning to the hotel to retrieve your passport. Theoretically, it might happen, but I’ve never heard of that happening.

So I generally don’t carry my passport and I know a lot of people do the same, making sure their wallet or passport does not get stolen or lost. I leave it back at my hotel in the safe. No police officer has ever asked to see my passport while I was traveling.

In my experience, I never had to present a passport for police business at a préfecture, just identification. The local police rarely get involved in what are essentially border issues.

Foreigners carrying passports comply with all French requirements. My driver’s license has not been questioned before when I was stopped randomly while driving.

Also, my driver’s license has been enough for ID in stores too.

TIP – You will also need a passport valid for three months beyond the length of your stay in France to enter the country. Doublecheck your expiration date on your passport.

Tips for taking your passport to France

These tips and ideas are important for keeping your passport safe and keeping track of it while you are in France.

Keep a color copy of your passport with you.

I have a friend who was in Cancun for a break from the winter weather in Minnesota. One day, she went to breakfast with friends and she left her passport on the table at the restaurant. She realized she had left it just a few minutes after leaving and ran back but it was too late: her passport had been stolen.

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Leave it in a safe in your hotel

If you’re planning something, like swimming or a scuba dive where you feel like you won’t have a safe place to lock up your passport or keep it on you, you might want to leave it back at the hotel. I would.

Lock it up in the safe in your room. They are typically very safe and secure. Yes, I know they can be broken into if someone is really trying, but they typically are quite safe and unless you have someone who is really out to get you, or you have done something to make the hotel staff grumpy, you will be fine.

Typically, people who try to tell you that hotel safes aren’t secure, are trying to sell you something… or are paranoid. Yes, even if it is a legit website or a close friend.

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

So You Know – You might get hassled by your insurance company if you don’t lock up your ID or passport in the hotel safe.

Carry a color copy of my passport and/or your driver’s license

You could carry another form of ID as well. If you were to lose your passport it could be hard to re-enter the US. It’s doable, but a bit of a hassle. Consider carrying a color copy of the Bio/identity page and the latest entry stamp if you do this.

Keep a digital copy on your phone

This could come in handy as well, especially in combination with the paper one.

If you need to, for any reason, be quickly admitted to the Embassy of your country, then carrying something that can prove your citizenship can be very beneficial for you.

Don’t just leave it in your luggage! 

It is more likely to get stolen there. Either by hotel staff, airport staff or pickpockets.

Be careful if someone starts talking to you in the middle of a busy touristy spot.

It might be fine, but it might not. It could be a distraction ploy by a pickpocket. They work in teams where one distracts, the other steals.

Be careful if a vendor requires you to leave your passport 

They might do it legitimately, with no ill-intent, as security to rent a car boat or scooter. Feel the situation out and see if you can leave them your paper copy. 

I just did that to rent a scooter but they looked pretty legit, and I knew we weren’t going to be rally-driving the scooter so I felt the risk was pretty low. It turned out fine.

Though they could have scammed us by claiming that we damaged their vehicle… or kept it if we legitimately damaged the vehicle.

If it gets stolen, notify the authorities asap

If you do get your passport stolen, it’s important to notify the nearest authority and file a police report with as much information as possible:

The date, time, location (street address if possible), what color was the vehicle, license plate number, details of how you had your belongings (wallet or bag) open, etc.

Photocopy your passport two times

Make sure one of them is kept with someone who can email, text or fax it to you in an emergency, and the other you could keep with you at all times. 

Do the opposite of what I have suggested

Or carry the original passport and leave a copy in the hotel and pic of it on your phone in case you need to replace a lost original.  

To avoid losing any of these documents while traveling, I store copies of all documents, as well as a list of credit card numbers and phone numbers online.

Note – Having a copy of your passport won’t replace the original if your actual passport is lost or stolen and you need the original. But a copy might make things easier for the embassy staff and yourself if you need to get a replacement.

Make sure someone at home has a copy of your passport in case of an emergency

If you have any issues or if there is some unforeseen emergency, having someone who isn’t on the trip but is highly responsive and responsible keep a copy of your passport, digital or hardcopy, can be helpful. 

It certainly isn’t necessary, but for the same reasons that organizations ask for emergency contact on their applications and waivers, it could be good to have someone available to help with proof of your identity back home. 

Put an emergency contact person’s information inside your passport

And on that note, it would be good to paperclip in the back cover of your passport an emergency contact that has critical information about you and backups of your important documents. 

Do you have to carry your passport with you in France?

Yes, the law requires you to carry your passport in France, but people don’t carry their passports with them. I don’t know anyone who has been stopped and asked for their passport, but I have read online of folks who have, and they just call back to the hotel or resort and get things sorted out pretty quickly.

It boils down to personal preference and how much risk you’re willing to take on for yourself and those traveling with you during your trip abroad.

I can’t tell you what to do, but just let you know what French law is and what I do. You can go from there.

Do you have to carry an ID in France?

You do have to carry some form of ID with you in France. French police would prefer you have that ID on you, but you can provide ID documentation at the police station, or Préfecture, within 4 hours of your encounter as well. ID options include passports, photo driving licenses, and other identity documents issued by government agencies. 

Do you have to carry your passport with you in Paris?

As discussed above, you should carry some form of identification on you in France. It is the same for Paris. It’s mandatory to carry some form of ID with you at all times in Paris. This does not need to be a passport. A citizen card or your U.S. passport will work great.

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I hope you enjoyed this article!