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Host wants photocopy of passport. Unusual or the norm?

I am renting a flat in Sevilla through VRBO. I've already made my 30% deposit through Paypal, and per my host's request, will be making full payment for my stay in cash once I arrive. My host has asked me to provide them a photocopy of my passport "per applicable law". I've travelled to Europe many times, and in most cases, hotels and B&Bs have only required that I provide them with my passport number. I find it unusual that someone would want a copy of my passport, and frankly, I feel uneasy about providing them with one. (If that makes me paranoid, then yes I am. It's not fun being a victim of identity theft.) Is there such a law requiring accommodation providers to obtain a copy of their guests' passports? Thanks in advance for your help.

Posted by
6898 posts

Decades ago, you would hand over your passport for the night as it is the law to provide information on your stay to the local police department. But, with today's computers, most of this information is keyed in while you are checking in. Or, in some cases, the hotel may hold on to your passport for an hour or two. But, there is absolutely no need for your passport picture. You only need your passport picture to be in your passport and present it where required. That's the law. This person is out of line. I wouldn't do it.

Posted by
11450 posts

Personally it wouldn't bother me at all, there is nothing useful in your passport remember, only your name and birthdate and place, no address or finicial information at all. It may just be that because he has to have the info for the records its easier for him to take the paper and write it down later ,, so that he doesn't have to sit there once you arrive and copy down the information on check in, or he have someone else doing the check ins so would prefer to not have them responsible for the information being written down ..who khows. /Have you simply asked him why he needs the copy, I mean , you are giving him the same information whethers its a copy or not.. its not like he could create another copy of your passport with a photocopy.And theres not that much black market on passports as people may think. Just ask him if you can provide the information , and then when you arrive you will just show him the actual passport so he can then confirm it.
Many hotels do take photocopies btw,, when they are busy at the desk at check in they just take your pp, make a copy, and hand you back the orginal,, since people want it in hand right away,, and they don't have time to fill out forms right away.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks for your replies. I did some more research into this, and I guess asking for a photocopy of a passport is more common than I thought (though I have never personally experienced it). I understand while it is common practice in mainland Europe, I do still do not see the sense in it. And although at this point I have no choice but to provide it - albeit reluctantly - I guess all I can do is take some precautions. To those of you reading this thread, you might be interested to know that your passport does tell a lot about you, and if it falls in the wrong hands, your identity can easily be stolen. Once an establishment makes a copy of your passport, even if they do not use the information fraudulently, you will never know how they will dispose of that copy. I guess the best thing to do - if one has to provide a copy of one's passport as a condition of one's stay - is to be proactive in protecting one's personal info by asking for the copy back at the end of one's stay. Read more on identity theft and your passport here: http://www.aboutidentitytheft.co.uk/passport-information.html
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes/id-theft-vol-eng.htm

Posted by
2876 posts

In my experience this is a very common practice in European hotels. You hand over your passport, usually you get it back in an hour or two. It has to do with local laws requiring hotels to register their guests with the local gendarmes. At the least they want your passport number on the registration form. This is just one of those things that's different over there than it is here.

Posted by
11450 posts

If the photo upsets you, provide the photocopy but simply write in ink over the photo , "copy". That is impossible to remove , so picture is useless for recopying.

Posted by
2829 posts

Some countries - I'm not sure Spain is one of those - require private persons taking unrelated, or even related, people not from EU as guests to register them with the immigration/police/whatever. Many ignore these requirements (aimed at curbing illegal lodging of illegal alien), some might be more cautious about them.

Posted by
2982 posts

Some incorrect information in this thread. It is pretty normal for them to make a photocopy of your passport - this just happened when I was in Vienna a couple days ago. It's happened at most hotels I've stayed at. It's fine.

Posted by
10 posts

As I have said in my original post, I have provided many establishments my passport number when asked, and I have even shown them my passport so they could confirm my information. I have been to many countries in Europe - Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany (to name only a few) - but not once have I ever been asked for a photocopy of my passport. My concern about providing a photocpy of my passport is the information it contains - date of birth, legal name, nationality, place of birth, signature, etc. All this information could be used as a starting point for identity theft. Again, I have no problems providing my passport number, but I have a problem with providing a photocopy of a legal document that has a lot of my personal information. The chances of a hotelier using my info to commit fraud is probably very slim; hence, my concern is not so much that I have to provide a copy of my passport to my host (although it still bothers me), it is also that I have no control over how they would dispose of that copy. Will they put it through a cross-cut shredder, or will they just put it in the bin for all dumpster divers to see? It is not that hard to be a victim of identity theft, and once you become one, it will haunt you for quite some time. Like I said, I may be paranoid, but I always think it is better to err on the side of caution, which is why I am curious to know what law specifically requires a hotelier or accommodation provider to photocopy my passport.

Posted by
16723 posts

I believe when the hotel holds your passport for a couple of hours at checkin, they are making a photocopy of the identity page.

Posted by
18296 posts

I must be doing something wrong. In twelve years, over a hundred nights in about forty places, I have never been asked for my passport (nor a photocopy). I think the only time I ever show it is when I arrive and when I leave.

Posted by
1957 posts

We had to show it in the two hotels in Italy and once when rented skis in Austria but other than that, no other places. I thought it was fairly normal to have to show passport in hotels in Italy. We rented apartments in numerous countries and never had to show them passports or give a copy.

Posted by
11450 posts

I have always had to show it in France, and this time ( our first visit) we had to show it in both hotels we stayed at.

Posted by
31465 posts

Trish, I was asked to supply a copy of my Passport when booking a trip to the Greek Islands with a Greek Travel Agency. I was also a bit reluctant to provide that, but I checked with an expert on travel in Greece, and he said that it's fairly common there. I scanned the documents and sent them via E-mail. As it turned out, there were no problems and so far no one has stolen my identity (AFAIK). I vaguely recall that they returned the copies to me when they handed over all the ticket vouchers. Happy travels!

Posted by
2982 posts

Identity theft is rather difficult to pull off without an SSN, which the passport does not contain (maybe in like, a microchip or something, I'm not up with the technology). This link outlines the laws: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:018:0025:01:EN:HTML The gist seems to be, in many European countries, you're supposed to "register" your stay with local authorities or government of some kind. But because this is a hassle, hotels tend to do it "for you" at least by having your passport info on hand, the authorities can verify when you came to that area, how long you stayed, etc in case there is an issue. Pensions and places that are essentially near-private homes may not do this because they're operating in a more casual manner or are maybe not subject to the same local laws that larger hotels are. It varies slightly from country to country but I haven't shown my passport once when taking a train or a plane within Europe, but I always carry mine because I am invariably asked for it at a hotel. They will either just ask me to show it and write down the passport number as I check in, or they will take it and make a photocopy of it. I can only think of one or two times I haven't been asked for it. If it really bothers you, perhaps staying at more casual, less "official" lodging is the way to go, i.e. grandma's spare room.

Posted by
4534 posts

I'm always about telling people do what they feel most comfortable doing, but that is different than dissemenating erroneous information. There is nothing in a passport alone that someone can use or sell or steal. Passports are only valuable to a thief if they have the document itself or lots of other personal information (which if they have that, they wouldn't need the basics in a passport). While it's not as common anymore with open borders, it was pretty standard in days past for hotels to record passport information of guests (required by law). Some areas still require it. Some hotels just take down all the info while you wait, some used to hold them overnight until they weren't busy, and some now just make a copy. Conductors on overnight trains used to hold passports all night and some still do.

Posted by
4534 posts

"Read more on identity theft and your passport here:
http://www.aboutidentitytheft.co.uk/passport-information.html" A careful read of this link will tell you that the risk of identify theft from a passport is related to someone actually stealing or obtainting the physical passport itself. Nowhere does it say to never give a photocoppy of the identity page so they can register you with local authorities. In fact, it suggests providing people with a copy instead of giving them the passport itself.

Posted by
10 posts

Sarah - Thanks for the link you provided. It certainly clarifies laws regarding registering with local authorities; yet, I see no mention of a requirement to obtain a photocopy of a guest's passport. I've stayed at many hotels and B&Bs in Europe, and not once has my passport been photocopied. I've only been asked for my passport number (which I've given), and this probably relates to the points outlined in the link you provided. This time, I am staying at someone's flat, a "less official" lodging, as you put it, and they are the only ones among 7 establishments I've booked that has required a photocopy of my passport.

Posted by
10 posts

Douglas, thanks for your reply. While I value your input, I have to tell you that I really take offence at your suggestion that I am disseminating erroneous information. I am not one to have a lackadaisical attitude about protecting my personal information. Based on my experiences, I can tell you that one could construct a picture of someone with just a name and date of birth as a starting point. Identity theft is big business run not by the 20-year old ne'er-do-well, but by organized crime. If you had carefully read the whole article in the link you quoted, you would have read this part: "All in all it {passport} contains a lot of information on that one page which can be used by any identity thief to build up – perhaps not a full picture – but certainly a working framework on which to find out more about you and also to instigate fraud using you as the person most likely to be blamed for said fraud." To my mind, it does not matter whether or not someone has the passport itself or just a copy, it is the information contained in it that is valuable. ....continued next post...

Posted by
10 posts

...continued from previous post....@Douglas Furthermore, re you point @ 6:51AM, perhaps you should read the article again. It was suggested that rather than sending the original passport – as proof of ID for a bank or building society – through the post, one should take it personally to them where a copy could be made. These institutions are likely mandated to have measures in place to securely store and dispose of their clients' info, as opposed to Mrs Smith who rents out her flat to tourists to earn some extra cash. I can see and understand the points you have made; at the same time, I think it is irresponsible to suggest that the info contained in one`s passport is not valuable to an identity thief. If that were the case, I wonder how many people would be willing to post their personal info on this forum to test that theory? Read up on the value of your personal info to ID thieves here: http://tinyurl.com/86bsrmw http://tinyurl.com/cytcud8

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks everyone for your input and contribution to this conversation/debate. You've certainly given me a lot to consider. Im sure everyones input will also prove valuable to someone who may stumble upon this thread.

Posted by
4534 posts

Well as I said at first, eveyone has to do what they feel most comfortable with. If the possibility of identity theft using passport info concerns you, you can make decisions based on that. And perhaps Canadian passports have more personal information than US passports. There is more personal information in my Illinois drivers license than there is on my US passport, but people hand those over, get them copied and give that information all the time.

Posted by
9363 posts

When I traveled in Spain in May, I had to show my passport at every hotel (and to buy a SIM card for my phone). In two cases they made a photocopy, the rest just wrote down the number and whatever other information they needed. I wouldn't worry about it.

Posted by
11450 posts

Trish,, I am still a bit confused by the identity theft thing,, I am not trying to be difficult, but my pp only has my name and place of birth,,and birth date, it does not have my address, my SIN number or and credit or bank information.. so basically the information in a passport isn't too difficult for a crimminal to find without even looking at my passport. As you say, these are sophisticated crimminals, not just dumb punks.
I read that most identity theft is easy to do once they get any mail of yours,, stuff like bills from utility companies, or worse your credit card or bank statement..those things I do understand should be shredded. I have had CC replaced a few times in last few years, and when I phone in, one of the first things they ask about on phone to confirm my identity is to name last few transactions on invoice, and if I have any automatic debits on it,, pretty easy info for a person holding your old credit card bill I'd think . Anyways, if you are not comfortable with the copy thing then don't do it, not all places ask for a copy, but many will.. especially hotels .( oh and you need to show passport for a new sim card or to use an internet cafe)

Posted by
4682 posts

Trish, This information comes from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office under their "Spain travel advice" section. (www.fco.gov.uk/content/en/travel-advice/europe/spain/fco_trv_ca_spain) "Hotels have a legal duty to register the passport details of tourists when they check-in. Wait until the hotel staff have registered your passport details or taken a photocopy of your passport, rather than leaving it in reception to collect later. It may help to take your own photocopy." Like many others, I have been asked to provide my passport details at hotel check-in in a number of countries. I know I've provided my passport at check-in to hotels in Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Poland, and other countries.

Posted by
10 posts

Pat - Your passport has your DOB, your full legal name, your nationality, place of birth. These are personal info that will prove to be valuable as a good starting point to construct a picture of your identity. With so many resources at someone's finger tips, one could find out a lot more about you even if they only knew your name and your DOB. I could do credit check using your name and DOB and get a whole slew of financial info. A bit of internet search on someone could get me some info on who their friends are, what they do for a living, what they look like, where they live, which clubs they belong to, etc. From this, it wouldn't be too hard to contact their friends and ask a few questions. You would never believe how easy it is to get people to open up. Providing your passport number or showing your passport is probably not that risky. However, providing someone a copy of your passport with all your personal details could be, especially if there are no measures in place to protect that information. Once that copy leaves your hand, you have no control over how that copy is handled. It could be thrown in the bin without shredding it, and a professional dumpster diver could get hold of it. On the other hand, it could be disposed of properly (using a cross-cut shredder or better yet, by a document shredding specialist). But you never know. One just needs to learn to take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risks. The bottom line is that the less information one disseminates about oneself, the better one is at protecting one's identity. Provide information if you must, but not unnecessary information. Read the links I posted, and educate yourself about privacy laws - perhaps you'll understand why I value my privacy.

Posted by
1525 posts

Trish; While I'll agree that a person should always be a bit careful about such things in general, you have nothing to worry about here. NOTHING. We recently returned from five weeks in Italy and had to show passport information a number of times, including having it out of our possession for several hours on a train. I also had to have my passport photocopied just to use the internet in northern Italy. While a photocopy seems like something different than a glance, it isn't. Think about it; A photocopy is just a convenient way of record keeping. There is absolutely nothing that can be seen on a photocopy that cannot be written down with a pencil in less than a minute. What's the difference to you? We often over-think things like this. I have "old-school" in-laws who absolutely refuse to use their credit card numbers via the phone or internet because "strangers could get our numbers" but will gladly hand any minimum-wage clerk a bank check with their account numbers printed on the bottom without giving it a 2nd thought. It's completely illogical. After reading your most recent post, if you still retain the same worries, you may want to reconsider your trip. This may only be the tip of the iceberg of things to over-think.

Posted by
10 posts

Laura - thanks for the link. I guess it sort-of answers my question - asking for a photocopy IS common practice. Unfortunately, it still does not say whether they are required by law to obtain a photocopy of the passport. Thanks anyway.

Posted by
10 posts

Randy - thanks for the condescending bit there about telling me to reconsider my trip. Real helpful. And arrogant. I have travelled to many countries in 5 different continents, and made my way just fine despite me apparently "over-thinking" things. If you read my earlier posts, you'd see that while I've conceded that I may have to provide the photocopy, I will take some precautions. Or I may just do what Ralph did - say no thanks and move on. Either way, I did not post here expecting that I would have to defend myself. What a great forum this is. Never again.

Posted by
1525 posts

You asked a question for which there was a fairly difinitive answer. You received that answer in one form or another from multiple people here. I would suggest this forum has functioned fairly well for you. Yet you persist in expressing how uneasy you are about the answer. It is not unreasonable for one to wonder what other discomforts you might have. Happy travels.

Posted by
12040 posts

Survey here: anyone besides me notice that hoteliers in certain countries are more likely to ask for the passport than in others? Specifically, I don't think I've ever been asked in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands or Belgium, but I needed to present the passport every time in France. And of course, don't get me started on all the documentation you must provide in Russia...

Posted by
591 posts

At the bottom of all this is the different attitudes to passports adopted in different countries. I can only speak for the U.K. , but here the passport is the standard identity document. It is commonly used when making important financial transactions like buying a house, opening a bank account or applying for probaate, and it is normal for a photocopy to be made for the organisation's records. It is used in applications for other identity documents, and sometimes even when applying for a job. If you are out of your home country, it is the easiest way to ensure that your name is spelt c0orrectly. Do you know the alphabet in Portugese? Not everyone has a passport, so there are ways around if you don't have one, but for the majority of people a passport is an ordinary personal document used both for travel and for proving identity. It has to be looked after, but no special care is taken with it, and it is shown to anyone who has a need to see it. Dogmatically refusing to show someone your passport would immediately arouse suspicion.

Posted by
11450 posts

Trish, there is an old saying "don't cut off your nose to spite your face" A few posts offended you because they did not agree with your thinking. And since everyone did not agree with you , you now feel "attacked" and are running away.
I asked for more information, I just didn't grasp all your concerns, I was not berating or scolding you, but still for some reason you find the thread and forum unhelpful( even though many people did in fact answer your question as well as they could siting their own examples) Good luck to you. Happy travels.

Posted by
2982 posts

Trish, you asked a question, got many polite and informative answers that happened to contradict your already-made-up mind about the issue, at which point you continually started to lecture US about identity theft and privacy and such. The negative attitude in this thread started with you. For the record, you're also just fundamentally incorrect in a lot of your assertions. You need much more than a date of birth and name to run a credit check on someone - you need a social security number (or social insurance number if you're Canadian). The SSN or SIN is the key to the vast majority of cases of identity theft. Without it, there's not much a person can do. You can do what you want, but you are going to have a far more difficult time finding places to stay in Europe if you do like Ralph. You say you've stayed at 7 hotels in Europe. I've stayed at least 30 in Germany, Austria, Spain, and France all within the last year and a half, and providing the information on my passport that you are so concerned about has been the norm at the vast majority of them. That's just the reality. What you chose to do with that reality and your own over-thinking of this issue is up to you, but don't get snitty at the messengers.

Posted by
11212 posts

I love these debates. They just get sillier and sillier with the arguments all based on "your personal experience so that must be the rule." For non-Europeans, the law is simple. In most Schengen countries, the hotel/apartment landlord/accommodation owner is supposed to register you. To do that, they need to see your passport. However, there are many small, family run establishments who don't bother. If they are in a smaller town, rent out only a few rooms, and you pay in cash, they are not going to bother with the paperwork. Especially if you are only there a few days. If they don't report you as staying with them, and don't report the money as income, they don't have to pay taxes either. (I'm not saying these people are crooks or run bad establishments, they are just doing what they can to make ends meet.) On the other hand, it could be a town where the police don't want to be bothered with the paperwork so they tell the landlords to ignore the rule. If sending a copy of your passport makes you feel uncomfortable, tell the landlord and say you'll be happy to show it to him upon your arrival. If you still feel uncomfortable, see if his apartment is reviewed on Trip Advisor. If it is, you can see if anyone else had a problem with it.