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Example: I am a Slovak National living in Austria. I would like to have a Slovak ID card to ease certain chores. The application form for the Slovak ID card asks me, among other things, my address. However, my government does not trust me when I say I live there and there. I need to submit a document issued by the Austrian authorities testifying that I am indeed registered at my address. This document needs to be translated to Slovak by a licensed translator.

People who live in Slovakia also have to submit documents attesting to their address. Usually, this is a deed, a rental agreement, or a written and notary-public-approved written permission by the landlord. I believe many other governments do the same.

Is there any justification for this patronizing and burdensome interrogation?

If I am riding a train, the conductor asks for a ticket. He does not trust me when I tell him I paid the fare. And for good reason. I have a personal financial interest to lie about buying a ticket. Where is the interest to lie to my government about my address?

One thing that comes to mind is municipal elections (I can vote for the MPs and President from abroad, no address needed). However, it seems there is disappointingly little to gain — I could possibly transfer my one vote to a different city.

Are there some other reasons?

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  • 2
    I'm also a European citizen, but from this point of view my government is even worse than yours. But I do not think it is matters of trust, they have many way to verify whether you are telling the truth. It seems bureaucracy created to make things difficult on purpose. It started during the migrant crisis about 5 years ago, before so many burdensome rules did not exist.
    – FluidCode
    Dec 31, 2021 at 9:31
  • 27
    Just because you can't think of a reason to lie to your government doesn't mean they haven't. Your question reads more like an uninformed rant than an actual request for information.
    – chepner
    Dec 31, 2021 at 17:26
  • 29
    As an example: In Austria, the city/district you live in determines which public school(s) you can send your kids to. Claiming to live somewhere else so that you can send your kids to a better school (or to avoid a school with a particularly bad reputation) is a common type of "fraud" here. That's much more important to many parents than, for example, local elections.
    – Heinzi
    Dec 31, 2021 at 18:26
  • 10
    An anecdote: I knew of someone who moved from the US to the UK. She couldn't open a bank account without having proof of address such as a utility bill, and she couldn't sign up for a gas or electricity account without a bank account. She ended up photoshopping a fake gas bill, opening a bank account, and then using that to open a genuine gas account. The sad thing is, these bureaucratic processes can turn honest people into criminals. Jan 1 at 10:24
  • 3
    Not really, no. I stopped at "patronizing and burdensome interrogation", in bold.
    – chepner
    Jan 2 at 17:23

6 Answers 6

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Having the wrong address in a government database could allow many types of fraud, from taxes to welfare. Imagine you tell the Austrians that you live in Slovakia, and the Slovaks that you live in Austria. Or vice versa. When it comes to votes, you might be able to vote twice in European elections.

So the Slovaks want to see documentation. And they demand it in their own language. Imagine you came with a Chinese document, or a Greek one.

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22

There are tons of reasons for this. Since you said any government is welcome, my examples will mostly be in the U.S. where I am.

Identification

I'm not familiar with how it's used in Slovakia, but, in most countries, your government-issued ID is for, well, identification purposes. That is, it's supposed to be one of the things that other sources (including even application for other forms of ID) can check to verify your identity... including where you live. It wouldn't be fit for this purpose if you could just state whatever you want with no verification for where you live.

Voting

Voting, as you mentioned, is a big one. Especially here in the U.S. where we have a federal system and even voting for President and members of Congress is by state. By not verifying which state (and even Congressional district) you live in, you could vote in more contentious states/districts rather than the one you're really supposed to vote in or even vote in more than one district/state.

Taxes and Fees

Tax rules and rates often vary dramatically by location. This is especially true from one country to another, but also can be very much the case within a country or even within a state/province. For example, sales taxes here in the U.S. vary significantly by state and even municipality (city/county,) as do income taxes, wheel taxes (taxes on registered vehicles) and, of course, property taxes. My state, for example, has no state-level income tax on personal income. In most states, it's a few to several percent of your income. Lying about where you live could potentially save you thousands of dollars annually on taxes (or potentially much more if you earn/spend a lot of money.)

Fees can also vary quite dramatically depending on where you live. Where I live, registering a vehicle costs a $25 annual fee. In many other states, it's hundreds.

Employment Law Compliance

Most countries have some form of residency/immigration status requirement for employment. Your ID card wouldn't be useful for providing evidence of this if they didn't verify where you live.

Immigration

ID cards are sometimes valid forms of ID for crossing borders. For example, the driver's licenses of certain U.S. states are valid ID for admission to Canada across land borders. (Driver's licenses are the primary form of "ID card" here in the U.S.) Obviously, immigration requirements are almost always specific to where you live, at least to the level of confirming your nationality.

Census

One important reason why the U.S. government wants to know where people live is to have accurate census information for the populations in each area. This information is, in turn, used for all sorts of important reasons, ranging from allocation of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, and county/city government officials to population-based allocation of federal and state funding for things like education and infrastructure to just having accurate information to publish as an authoritative source of populations for use by others (both other government agencies for purposes like producing accurate statistics by demographic as well as by the public at large for research, statistics, etc.)

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    What you did not get living in the US is that until few years ago the procedures to verify your claims were much simpler. In the last few years the bureaucratic procedures became unnecessary complicated and intrusive.
    – FluidCode
    Jan 1 at 8:34
  • No ID is needed for the U.S. census. Indeed, they encourage people to fill it out on-line, without any interaction from census workers. It is entirely an honor system.
    – DrSheldon
    Jan 2 at 17:15
  • @DrSheldon True. I just mentioned that as another important reason for why the government wants to know precisely where people live.
    – reirab
    Jan 2 at 17:21
  • 1
    I carry a US passport card because it shows my name and age but not my address. So far, no one has rejected it as “identification” on that grounds. Jan 3 at 1:48
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    A key point regarding "Identification" is that the address is listed on the Slovak ID card, which then becomes the main proof of your address to be used for all other purposes with third parties (opening a bank account, getting a loan, entering all kinds of contracts, etc.).
    – TooTea
    Jan 3 at 10:41
15

If the government only wants an address to post the document to, they won't be asking for this kind of evidence. However, your address, and history of addresses, is part of your identity, and so assumed fake until proven otherwise.

When you are applying for an identity document, the assumption is that, until you prove otherwise, you are trying to commit some kind of identity fraud. For example, "Joe Bloggs" has a criminal record, and this means he can't find a job. He wants to obtain a fake identity so he can get a document saying that he has a clean record. An ID card with a fake address might enable him to get this (and potentially put vulnerable people at risk)

Moreover, in the UK, you can be barred from working with children if the person you live with is a convicted pædophile.

Or Joe wants to have two identities so he can avoid tax. That means setting up two bank accounts, but to do that, he needs two identity documents, giving a fake address might be an easy way to do that.

Or you commit a crime, and the police identify you. The first place they will go to arrest you is at your home. If you have given them a fake address you will have made the task of the police harder

An advantage of having a verified address is that it can be tied to something that can't move. When establishing your identity, it is more than a name. You are not just "someone called Martin Drozdik", You are the Martin Drozdik born on {date} who lives at {address} and looks like {photograph}. The government will want proof of each aspect.

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    Presumption of guilt is not part of the European legal system.
    – FluidCode
    Dec 31, 2021 at 9:39
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    Not a presumption of guilt. Not part of the legal system. But when you apply for an ID document you have to prove the facts that you claim. It is the applicant who must submit proof, not the government who must prove that they are lying. Hence there is an assumption that your claim (of name, dob, address etc) is false, unless you provide evidence.
    – James K
    Dec 31, 2021 at 9:47
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    @FluidCode the presumption of innocence concerns the prosecutor's burden of proof in a criminal trial. It does not have any bearing on non-criminal court actions nor on administrative procedures such as issuance of identification documents, where the applicant bears the burden of proof.
    – phoog
    Dec 31, 2021 at 12:22
  • 3
    The OP seems to think it's less intrusive for governments to constantly be exchanging data between themselves and with private companies to track your every movement, than to have occasional requirements for proof of address. That doesn't seem obvious to me. Isn't tracking and surveilling someone normally done to those suspected of crimes, not the blameless?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 31, 2021 at 19:12
  • 2
    @StuartF: Indeed, a lot of the bureaucracy in Germany is due to data protection laws. Most agencies are not allowed to exchange information directly. Thus, as a citizen, I have to supply (and proof) the same information over and over again.
    – Gogowitsch
    Jan 1 at 13:21
7

In France, as a French, I am always asked for a "certificate of residency" (justificatif de domicile). This can be pretty much anything more or less official but usually a bill is what is expected (traditionally your electricity bill).

This is because you are entitled to several things (free membership at the library, regional money for cultural expenses for children, ...) depending on where you live.

And since this is France, there are also documents that require this certificate, but nobody knows why.

1
  • So might work any other utility, aka GWS (Gas Water Sewage), or a landline.
    – Trish
    Jan 1 at 14:13
6

Germany actually did trust its citizens when registering their address in the past (between 2002 and 2015). This did result in some of the problems described in the other answers. Specifically, credit card fraud and tamperimg with school districts were mentioned in media reports from that time (example).

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These rules prevent other people from pretending they live at your place which can put some burden on the actual residents.

Unfourtunately, Latvia does trust people on this. You can select that the legal basis of declaring that address is an oral agreement with the owner and you're done.

We had this happen to our address, so I am qualified to tell about the problems from one of the involved viewpoints — the people who actually live at the wrongly declared address.

  • Some bills increase. We noticed the additional fellow because our garbage collection bill increased.
  • It's hard to "evict" a person. It takes multiple interactions with the authorities. Government wants to know where they are so a policeman comes to check if they're here. Naturally, all the government letters about the impending eviction and after the fact of eviction are sent to us, which is annoying.
  • Phone companies and payday loan companies send us letters asking to pay back the debt.
  • Eventually the debt collectors start sending letters. At that point we contact them and ask to stop bothering us, because we don't want any debt collector visits.
  • The police sends his fines to us. Once again, we have to contact them and explain the situation because we don't want them here and looking for the guy. By the way, one of the fines was for not having a declared address. Yes, they send it to the last declared address.

We noticed and "undeclared" the person within 2 months of them declaring themselves here, but even after 4 or so years we're getting about a letter per week from various organizations. I really wish Latvia did require a better proof of basis for this.

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  • "Yes, they send it to the last declared address." :D Jan 3 at 0:46
  • You got bills at your address for garbage collected elsewhere? Jan 3 at 1:52
  • @AntonSherwood we live in an appartment house and we have four large containers for the whole house. Individual garbage input is not tracked, each appartment just gets billed a fixed amount per every individual declared there.
    – Džuris
    Jan 3 at 2:07
  • 1
    @Džuris Ah. When I have lived in apartments, I never paid directly for trash service. Jan 3 at 2:53

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