How to get a Card

What is the Archives Card?

The Archives Card is a single archive reader’s ticket which gives you access to a wealth of original archive material held in archives across the UK. You need to apply for a Card if you wish to view original documents in any of the archives participating in the scheme.

The Archives Card scheme is operated by ARA Commercial, which is a subsidiary of the Archives and Records Association, the leading body for archives in the UK and Ireland.

Who can register for an Archives Card?

Anyone aged 14 or over can apply for an Archives Card, which is free of charge and valid for five years.

How do I get an Archives Card?

You can start the simple registration process today by clicking Sign Up which takes you straight to the application form.

To complete your registration, you need to visit one of the participating archives within three months of submitting your form with two forms of identity, one taken from each of the lists below. A member of archives staff will check these are valid and, if so, issue your Card.

To save time on arrival, we recommend that you start your registration online before your visit. Then all you have to do when you visit is prove your ID.

A recent passport-style photograph (head and shoulders only) in electronic form is an essential part of the registration process. You can either add this yourself to your registration form or wait until you visit your chosen archive to complete registration, where a member of staff will take your photograph.

You need to complete the registration process within three months of submitting your form, otherwise your form will be deleted and you will have to enter your details again.

How do I add my own photograph to my form?

Step 3 of the registration form allows you to select an image file from your own files. If you are going to add your own photograph, it’s worthwhile having this ready to load as a separate image file before you start filling in the form.

If your chosen image file is larger than 100Kb in size you will need to resize your image. If you are not sure how to resize an image file, there is plenty of guidance available online, for example at

Please remember that your chosen picture should be of your head and shoulders only and should clearly show your face.

What ID documents do I need to show?

The required identity documents to show to archives staff when you complete your registration are listed below and you should choose one from List A and one from List B.

All documents you use to prove your identity must be the current and/or most recent versions at the time you show them.

Please note that, where the same document (such as a driving licence) appears in both List A and List B, you can’t use the same document as both your proof of your identity and proof of your address.

A. Proof of identity (must include a valid signature):

  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • Bank card
  • Credit card
  • Government / local council staff ID
  • National ID card
  • Police / Customs / Home Office warrant card
  • HM Forces ID card
  • Sea/Air Master’s licence
  • NUJ pass

B. Proof of address:

  • Driving licence with address
  • TV licence
  • Utility bill (issued within the last three months) 
  • Bank / building society statement (issued within the last three months)
  • Credit card statement (issued within the last three months)
  • Council tax bill / Council rent book (most recent bill)
  • HM Revenue and Customs statement
  • Passports with address (where the address has been officially entered by the issuing authority)
  • National ID card with address
  • Home Office permit to stay
  • University certificate for hall of residence (stamped and signed by institution)
  • UK Firearms licence
  • Home insurance policy (policy must be in force)
  • International student photo card

What if I don't have the required identity documents?

If you are unable to produce one or both of the required documents on the day you visit, please speak to a member of archive staff there, who will normally be able to provide you with a temporary ticket which is valid only for the day in the archive you are visiting.
If you do not have any of the identity documents on the list, or if you do not have a fixed home address, please speak to a member of archive staff when you visit, who will help you to find a way to use the service there. We regret we can’t issue you with an Archives Card without adequate means of identification.

If you are aged 14 or over and still at school or college, should you not be able to provide one or both of the required documents from the above list, you can instead bring a letter on headed paper signed by your teacher or tutor, together with evidence of your identity which includes your name and a portrait photograph, such as a passport, Citizen Card or student card.

How do I use my card?

When you are issued with your Card, you should first print your name clearly on the signature strip on the reverse.

All participating archives will ask you to show your Card at some point when you visit their office and for most archives this will be at the reception desk when you arrive. The archive will then record your visit on the system by scanning the Card for you or asking you to do it.

Once this is done, the way you use your Card will vary according to the procedures of the archive you are visiting. Please follow the guidance of the staff there as to what to do next.

Some archives may ask you to hand in your Card while you are using their service, while others will merely ask you to keep it handy during your visit.

Some may ask you to use it for ordering documents. If this is your first visit to the archive, this will be explained to you along with any other rules and procedures you need to follow during your visit.

What happens if I lose my card?

If you lose your card or it is stolen, please email a participating archive immediately, or phone them during office hours, so that they can cancel your Card and prevent somebody else using it. When you next attend a participating archive you can ask them for a replacement Card. Please take two forms of ID with you to verify your identity again. The participating archive may make a £5 charge to cover their administrative costs.

What happens when my card expires?

Your Archives Card is valid for five years from date of issue. You won’t need a new Card when it expires, however it will cease to be recognised on our system and you will need to reactivate it in one of the participating archives by bringing in two forms of identity again for staff to check the documents again. We may also update your photograph at the same time.

Where you have provided us with your email address, you will receive an automated email shortly before expiry, asking you to renew your card and bring two forms of ID when you next visit one of the participating archives.

Your privacy

The Archives Card scheme is operated by ARA Commercial, a subsidiary of the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland). ARA Commercial is registered as a data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office. For further details as to how and why we process your personal data, including your rights regarding your data, please see our full privacy notice.