This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

What is a Voter Authority Certificate?

People voting in polling stations in elections for the UK Parliament, police and crime commissioners, and local and mayoral elections in England must show photo ID. Voters in Northern Ireland must show photo ID for all elections. Caseworker article Showing ID when voting gives details, including the types of acceptable ID.

Voter Authority Certificates (VACs) are a new form of photo ID for people who don’t have one of the approved types of ID. It is available from local councils election teams.

The VAC does not display the holders’ date of birth as it is not intended to be used for demonstrating proof of age.

VACs do not expire but voters are encouraged to renew after 10 years.

Applying for a VAC

VAC applications can be made online or by post.

Applicants must be registered to vote to apply.

Applicants are required to provide their name, address, date of birth, national insurance number (NINo) and a passport style photo when applying. The photo can be uploaded digitally as part of the online application.

A constituent can find their NINo on pay slips or other official documents. The Library has provided information on getting a national insurance number for people who need one or have lost theirs.

Providing a photo

The photo must be in a certain format similar to passport photos. The Electoral Commission has provided more information on providing a photo on its page on applying for a Voter Authority Certificate.

The photo must be:

  • In colour
  • at least 45 millimetres in height and 35 millimetres in width and no larger than 297 millimetres in height or 210 millimetres in width
  • Show the applicant’s head and shoulders only
  • Show the applicant facing forward
  • Show the applicant’s face (with a blank expression) clearly.

How much does it cost?

VACs are completely free. There is no fee to pay when applying.

Is there a deadline?  

Constituents can apply for a VAC at any time.

At election time there is a deadline for applying for a VAC. For any given election it is 5pm on the sixth working day before polling day.

What if someone loses a VAC?

Temporary VACs can be issues for a specific polling day if someone loses their VAC or it is not delivered. This can only be done under specific circumstances. Local elections teams are best placed to deal with specific circumstances.

Temporary VACs must be collected in person.

If someone does not qualify for a temporary VAC they may be able to appoint an emergency proxy to vote on their behalf.

Further information

About the author: Neil Johnston is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in elections.


The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.

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