When I moved to Germany back in 1991 I didn’t really speak any German. I was working straight away and I was vaguely aware that there were various forms to fill out but I had somebody to help me so it didn’t seem too bad. One of the first things I must have done is go to the local town hall / council office to register as a resident. You have to do this within two weeks of moving to a new place in Germany. You show your passport and a form either from your landlord, or whoever you bought your house from and then you register at that new address. A confirmation letter gets sent and once that is returned you are registered. You get a document confirming you live there, and you hand in your old Ausweis (Identity Card) and get a new one with your new address on it.
The Ausweis is a plastic laminated identity document, which is also enough to use as a passport to certain countries. In fact, now that I think of it, it is really just like the one useful page of the passport with all the rubbish bits torn away. Most Germans will also have a separate, full-blown passport which they keep safe unless they are flying out of the continent. Most Germans will have their Ausweis in their wallet. Although all German residents over the age of 16 must posess either an Ausweis or a Passport, you don’t have to carry one with you all the time. The good thing about the Ausweis is that is a really convenient form of identification. It’s the universal document whether you want to open a bank account, start a company, register with some or other authority or leave a deposit for something. It’s really convenient and seems to be more secure than the UK system of bringing in a couple of utility bills to prove residence.
Things seemed to have died down a bit now, but about 10 years ago there was talk of a British Identity Card being introduced. Some of the rhetoric was ridiculous – “it’s Big Brother watching you”, “prisoners in our own land” and various other nonsense. Having lived for 25 years in a country where nearly everyone has an Ausweis, I can report that it is a very good idea and saves a lot of time and hassle. Unless you are an illegal immigrant, a benefits cheat or a criminal trying to go underground. In that case the whole Ausweis thing is a bit of an inconvenience.
I write that “nearly” everyone has an Ausweis, because I am one of the nearly. I never gave up my British Passport (you can’t have dual citizenship within the EU so I would have to give it up to get a German passport). So I am still a British citizen, although I am a resident of Germany. That means I don’t get an Ausweis. If Britain leaves the EU, then I will probably be able to have dual citizenship and then I’ll apply for a German passport and Ausweis. So I now have two good reasons to support the Brexit! (1) I might get an Ausweis and (2) I just want to see what happens.