Proof of age

There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when the bouncer asks you for ID and you realise you left it at home. Once you reach 18 a whole new world unlocks for you, with a single card. Problem is most of us end up forgetting that ticket to freedom before we lock the door. Let’s figure out the other way to prove your age and the reasons behind IDs.

Why do I need to carry ID to prove my age? 

Basically, until you’re 21, the law restricts you by your age to do many things. If you’re going out for a night, you may be required to show proof of age in the following situations:

  • It is illegal to buy alcohol until you are 18. Except if you’re 16 or over and having a meal in an area of licensed premises, and sitting away from the bar (it’s like they don’t even want you to drink or something)
  • It is illegal to buy cigarettes below the age of 18
  • Some establishments have specific age limits, such as over 21s

It’s important to note that if a venue (such as a bar or club) is not satisfied you are the required age it has the right to refuse you entry, not serve you alcoholic drinks, or ask you to leave the premises. Whatever you do, don’t react with a bad attitude – acting childishly doesn’t help when you’re trying to get into an 18-and-over club.

What kind of ID do they accept as proof of age

Forget that 16 and over oyster card, your safest bet is to use your passport or driving license. Basically any official document with your date of birth. Some other accepted forms of ID are your National Union of Students (NUS) card or International Student Identity Card (ISIC).

Most bars and clubs require proof of age cards to be PASS certified. You can purchase them from organisations such as Citizencard or YoungScot.

Fake ID and the law 

We know what you can do with clipart and sticky-backed plastic, but don’t bother. It is illegal to create a forged identity document in order to claim you’re older than your real age. Especially if you use it with the intention to deceive others into, for example, selling you alcohol or cigarettes, or allowing you entry into an over-18s nightclub.

Using a fake ID can earn you a fine of up to £5000, a criminal record and  a lifetime ban from clubs. Honestly, that’s just scratching the surface. Using fake IDs or even a ‘borrowed’ one (see more below)  is essentially identity fraud. So before you use a fake just because you really wanted that night out, pause and think about what the next ten years could look like for you (cause that’s the maximum sentence).

We won’t bore you with all the types of fake IDs and how to spot them, but if you want to find out more you can click here. The official government guidance on fake IDs is probably the best place to get informed on the topic.

But I’ve seen companies that sell fake ID cards?  

You will probably find that companies claim to sell these cards as novelties only. They often state that the cards hold no official status nor entitle the bearer to any rights or privileges whatsoever. They’ll also say that using these cards to lie about your age, identity or status for any purpose is illegal.

However, these companies don’t produce forgeries i.e. they don’t make exact copies of official ID cards or documents. Any attempt to do this is completely illegal. Many companies advertising a fake driving licence on the internet only make cards that are similar to real ones. For example, they might use the words ‘international student identity’ but not the actual ISIC logo (as this would be a breach of copyright). So what they’re doing isn’t illegal, it’s just you who takes responsibility for how you use the ID cards.

 There are a lot of companies out there offering to sell you fakes and it’s not that difficult to produce your own fake student ID card. Although the added holographic overlay does make it harder to fake one, it’s still not impossible. Either way, it’s honestly no surprise that many establishments now only accept passports, driving licences or PASS accredited cards as proof of ID.

Can I use someone else’s ID? 

It may seem like a great idea to use an older sibling’s ID to sneak into your favourite club; but be aware that it’s illegal to use someone else’s ID and pass it up as your own, that includes your identical twin for you multiples out there. If charges were brought against you (and whoever you ‘borrowed’ the ID from) then it could get you on the wrong side of the home office (and trust us, that’s not somewhere you wanna be) Not to mention the charges you could get if you’re underage. Moral of the story: don’t lose your ID.

Digital IDs

You can now access a free digital ID via an organisation called Yoti, which can be used to prove your identity at the cinema, or when buying age-restricted items. It may also be used for lots of other things in the future as well. Below are some of the potential benefits of using a digital Yoti ID.

The benefits of a digital ID

  • Yoti is a secure digital ID app and it’s free to create
  • It can be used to give us a simpler and safer way of proving our age when buying age-restricted items without having to show physical ID documents
  • A digital ID could also be used to prove our identity to businesses – for example when applying for a job or renting a property
  • All you have to do is create your digital identity once and you can use it time and time again
  • Digital IDs are not only more convenient, they’re also more secure. They let us share specific identity details, instead of disclosing unnecessary, sensitive personal information
  • If you just need to prove you are over 18, that is the only piece of information you share
  • This gives us greater data privacy and ownership to help fight identity fraud
  • Furthermore, some people are socially excluded because they do not have access to a physical document. A young person who doesn’t drive or can’t afford a passport would find it extremely difficult to prove their age to buy energy drinks or to access an age-gated online chat room for young people
  • Money and age should not be barriers to proving who you are. A PASS card (proof of age card), such as CitizenCard, can now be used as an anchor document to set up a Yoti

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 12-Aug-2021