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Chuck: (about testifying in court) I'm going to say "I'm somebody!"

Emerson: (mockingly) Hey, Somebody, can I see some I.D.?
Pushing Daisies, "Smell of Success"
"Even a manufactured identity requires lots of paperwork. All these contacts from a past I never had."

When the Masquerade of an extranormal person (whether spirit, time traveler, dimension-hopper, Robot Girl or in some cases, immortal) is able to suddenly enter society and seamlessly pose as a normal human despite the major record gaps, lack of official citizenship, or other problems that would arise if it were to occur in real life. Space aliens in disguise and even aliens that don't need a disguise never seem to get the same problems with immigration that regular aliens have.

The character gets an Undead Tax Exemption. It's often implied they use mind control or magic to either brainwash or literally "magic up" an identity for themselves. Usually only a possibility for evil characters/monsters/vampires though; heroic ones will always be a Fish Out of Water, while Villains Blend in Better.

Can occur when the character is not extranormal, as a sleeper government agent or like Michael Knight in Knight Rider. Other mundane means to set up a fake ID usually involve getting a friendly (or bribable) hacker to set up a false identity, or impersonating someone else. A Monsters Anonymous group may have the resources to make one from scratch as well.

Where this is a situation of an immortal or special who has to fashion the normal identity afterward, the reverse, where the normal person came first then had something happen, results in a Secret Identity and likely several Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now? moments.

This is a subtrope of Reality Ensues; most stories give this trope the most basic Hand Wave and be on their way. See also Casual Car Giveaway, which is another situation where ordinarily expected paperwork is unnecessary.

Examples of Undead Tax Exemption include:

Anime & Manga

  • It occurs with Rukia in Bleach (although somewhat justified since the forces of Soul Society are easily comparable to The Men in Black, right down to the Laser-Guided Amnesia).
    • Later in the series Renji does the same. This also works in reverse, since characters who leave again are forgotten by anyone without sufficient power to resist the effect.
  • Ah! My Goddess! spends a small Story Arc on this, but eventually goes the "magic up the papers" route.
    • In the manga, she feels sorry for the teacher who is trying so hard to find her student registration. Being Belldandy, she completely misses the fact that he's trying to out her, suspecting that she's a plant by a rival professor to lure students away from his lectures. When he collapses from exhaustion in the middle of flipping through the paper school records a second time, Belldandy tucks him in and uses her magic to create the paperwork he's trying so hard to find, thinking that it will make him happy. Fortunately for Belldandy, the professor's reaction is never shown.
  • Sousuke in Full Metal Panic infiltrates a Japanese high school with a forged identity provided by Mithril, under orders not to reveal his identity as a special ops sergeant or his objectives. Bureaucratically speaking, he pulls the infiltration off without a hitch as no-one seems to raise questions about his papers, prior education, tax status, social security number, etc (though the huge "donations" from Mithril to the school may have helped with that).Practically... less so.
  • Nicola in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch whipped up an identity for Lucia, and Kaito was a Door Step Baby and passed off as the Doumoto family's natural child from the start, but there's no excuse for Hanon and Rina, each of whom has her own apartment and enters school on her own. Both end up moving in with Lucia eventually, but before then, they didn't even have any human-world connections.
  • Magical Princess Minky Momo, a Magical Girl from another dimension, avoided this problem by picking a childless couple and hypnotizing them into thinking she's their daughter.
  • Explored in Suzumiya Haruhi through Yuki and Ryoko. The two girls can manipulate information, and did so to construct identities for themselves in order to blend in to human society. However, when Haruhi is investigating Ryoko's disappearance, she is justifiably suspicious of the sparse paper trail Ryoko left behind, such as not giving a new address, parents paying cash up front for an apartment, parents untraceable, and so on. Why Canada?
  • In the second season of Sailor Moon, Chibi-Usa pulls off joining Usagi's family through brainwashing. In the next season, the paper trail is somehow faked well enough that she can enroll into school.
    • Likewise, the Ayakashi Sisters are somehow able to function as normal citizens of present-day Tokyo after their Heel Face Turn -- despite coming from the future, and from another planet at that.
    • A good number of the characters can fit as this. The Sailor Star Lights become a famous boy band. Even though they came to Earth from a far-off planet and now are under the media spotlight, no one notices a lack of childhood on Earth. Most of the various villains arrive in the form of being shopkeepers, a traveling circus, a famous medium, or exchange students. Even though almost all of these characters are/become highly successful and get a lot of attention under their disguise, no one notices that they came right the flip out of nowhere. Presumably like Chibi-Usa, they brainwash everyone into not noticing or caring.
  • In Jubei-chan, any spirit who is hit by Jiyu's Healing Sword Technique not only comes back to life and loses their hatred, but immediately develops modern day skills, tastes in clothing, and presumably a Social Security number. That is one hell of a sword technique.
    • Freesia, despite being from a Russian tribe from 300 years ago brought to the present via Human Popsicle, bulldozes her way into the modern world effortlessly. Presumably with the help of talking animals.
  • How Himari from Omamori Himari became a New Transfer Student.
  • Averted at the start of Shakugan no Shana: Shana fits in by borrowing the identity of Hirai Yukari -- a Torch who had gradually ceased to have existed -- the moment she finally vanishes. All memories and records instantly change to accommodate Shana's appearance (Hirai's family had been Torches themselves and already disappeared), though everyone is still surprised by "Hirai's" radical shift in personality.
  • Tenchi Muyo! in its various forms has this in... er, various forms. The original series seems to have the least amount, although the girls do seem to wander into town every so often with little comment. The manga has Mihoshi getting a driver's license (partly after using her high-tech blaster right in front of a cop), and Ryoko tries her hand at it too. The TV series has Kiyone and Mihoshi renting an apartment and working part-time jobs often. And no-one really seems to mind all the aliens hanging around. And think about Katsuhito in the TV series (in the OAV he landed long enough ago to have avoided modern recordkeeping).
    • The third OAV reveals that "Yosho" has ties to the government, possibly going all the way up to the Emperor. In fact, given the relationship between Earth (Japan) and Jurai, it's pretty easy for aliens to establish any long-term identities they like.
  • The Pretty Cure franchise has a ton of these.
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure: Irisawa Kiriya, who has both sudden existence and sudden nonexistence to deal with... and then suddenly exists again in a different identity at the end of the series.
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart: Kujou Hikari.
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star: Kiryuu Michiru and Kiryuu Kaoru. They, like Kiriya, disappear, and no Muggles ever remember they existed... until they come back.
    • Yes! Precure 5: Cocoda Kouji/Coco, who's a teacher, not a student, and actually a teenager passing for an adult; Natsu/Nuts, although he has nothing to do with the school system and runs a jewelry store.
    • Yes! Precure 5GoGo: Mimino Kurumi and Amai Shirou.
    • Fresh Pretty Cure: Higashi Setsuna.
    • Suite Pretty Cure: Kurokawa Eren.
  • In Chocotto Sister, nobody raises any eyebrows when 9-year-old Choco appears out of nowhere.
  • Hikari and Akari in This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.
  • Sonic X averts this by the government eventually taking care of creating real paperwork for Sonic & co. Then again, Sonic never was good at keeping a low profile.
  • Conan Edogawa and Ai Haibara from Detective Conan are actually teen geniuses Shinichi Kudo and Shiho Miyano shrunk by the local Fountain of Youth to the appearance of 6-year-olds. Yet, not only do they have assumed names, they use those identities to attend public schools, and given the show's nature, haven't even had their legal identities suspected by the police officers they met oh-so-frequently...
  • An aversion to this trope is speculated by fans to be the reason that Ed and Al's mother and father never officially married in the manga and second anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, making both Ed and Al Heroic Bastards. Hohenheim is a living, immortal philosopher's stone who is centuries old and probably has no official records, and so Ed and Al had their mother's surname to avoid being associated with him and tracked down by Father, who would use them in his plans.
    • The trope is averted in the first anime, meanwhile, as Hohenheim there was a Body Surfer and probably 'inherited' all the relevant paperwork from the person whose body he took.
  • Many of the immortals of Baccano avoid this issue by living in the criminal underworld, which for the 1711 generation is probably also helpful in avoiding Szilard's attention.
  • Rizel Iwaki of Rizelmine pulls off the Robot Girl variant of this, although it's justified as the government is fully aware of her and uses secret funding and other shady measures to support her.
  • In Yumeria, Mone appears in Tomokazu's bed one morning, and is in school a few days later. Fortunately, his teacher is very accepting of the situation, and lampshades Tomokazu's incredulity:

  You look like an anime fan who's unable to accept this ridiculous premise.

  • Girls Bravo: Miharu and other Human Alien girls enter the school system without any difficulty.
  • In the TV series of Black Rock Shooter, Yuu is introduced as a New Transfer Student despite being the same age as she was when she entered the Otherworld and replaced Strength, 10 years ago. There isn't even a handwave.


  • Subverted Trope in Ultimate Spider-Man when Gwen Stacy comes back to life and a letter from Iron Man to the Vice Principal doesn't immediately clear things up.
  • In The Sandman, immortal Hob Gadling avoids suspicion by faking his death once in awhile and leaving the money to a "relative" with the same name. It still doesn't solve the problem of government records, though, in the modern era.
    • Averted with the long-lived caveman who dies in a modern city - when his modern-day son goes through his father's possessions for the funeral, he finds paperwork for multiple alternate identities and funds to take advantage of them.
    • In World's End we see that the immortals take care of one another when they encounter others in trouble, so if there's an immortal of some sort working in an influential position, they probably give the others a helping hand in getting proper documents.
  • Similar issues for Ethan Kostabi and Solomon Ravne from 2000AD's Caballistics Inc.
  • Actually dealt with early on with The Shadow. In a tale written by Alfred Bester, the Shadow encountered a caveman who gained immunity to aging from a meteor. This caveman decided to aid the Axis in winning World War II by sabotaging the US war effort. He sought the position of War Labor Chief of the country, but since he did not have a birth certificate, he stole Moe Shrevnitz's birth certificate, bringing him in conflict with the Shadow (the caveman had earlier attempted to buy some business interests from Lamont Cranston, and displayed unusual personal knowledge about Cranston).
  • Averted in Icon, as he basically passes his wealth on to his "son", who is himself, over the years. By the time he meets Raquel Ervin, he's Augustus Freeman IV.
  • In the Golden Age, Wonder Woman needed a Secret Identity, but by Contrived Coincidence a woman who was named Diana Prince and who exactly resembled her needed to go overseas to be with her fiance. Wonder Woman gave her the funds to go overseas and took on her identity.

Fan Fiction

Films -- Live-Action

  • Subverted Trope in The Associate: Laurel Ayres' creation that allows her to pass off her ideas becomes so prominent and is so realistic that she is accused of murdering him when she fakes his death.
    • S1m0ne has a similar plot.
  • Averted in Highlander (the first movie): Connor has to keep changing his name every few years and handing his antiques shop down to his new identity. The police find it suspicious that every owner of that property inherited it from the previous owner for at least a century.:

 Nerdy computer guy: So what you've got, Brenda, is a guy who's been creeping around since at least 1700, pretending to croak every once in a while, leaving all his goods to kids who've been corpses for years -- and assuming their identities.

  • In Back to The Future, Marty McFly apparently attends his High School for a week in 1955 with no problems. At the very least, he hangs out at the school for a few scenes, tells George "you weren't at school today" and goes to the High School Dance. The movie is rather vague on the point of whether or not he was officially enrolled, probably to avoid drawing attention to this very problem.
    • It was November when Marty landed, so it's possible the teachers weren't paying attention to who exactly is supposed to be in their classes.
    • Doc Brown nods to the trope a little by having a collection of money from various eras. Imagine spending 2009 money in 1999. Or worse, 1989.
  • Averted in The Man From Earth: The protagonist mentions how it was easy to move around as a hunter-gatherer, harder when villages arose, even more so among city-states with central authority. He even spent a year in jail for forging government papers.
  • Sneakers: After he becomes a fugitive from the Federal government for computer hacking, Martin Bryce changes his name to Martin Bishop. He's only outed when the Mafia (posing as the NSA) discovers who he is and coerces him into helping them.
  • The Skeleton Key the old siblings are actually Hoodoo practitioners who switch into new bodies when the old ones fail, taking over the new identities and inheriting everything.
  • Averted in Coneheads when the INS discovers that Beldar's fake identity ("Donald R. DeCicco") has been used by at least five other illegal immigrants.
    • Beldar is eventually able to coerce a senior INS agent into providing him with legitimate papers.
  • Averted in Dogma; even though Bartleby and Loki have been roaming Wisconsin since ancient times, they don't need food, clothing, shelter, sex, or society, and can comfortably exist outside of the system.
  • Enforced in Thor. Jane just gives Thor the identity of her ex, who isn't even stated as being dead. SHIELD agent Phil Coulson, being Phil Coulson Agent of SHIELD, has a background check done, sees through the alias in seconds, but goes with it anyway in order to see what Thor does.
  • Encino Man tried this, with the defrosted caveman dubbed "Link" and evidently enrolled in the local high school, with paperwork and everything. Until the Jerk Jock uncovers the truth. Seems very unlikely none of the school officials bothered to look at the paperwork (it was medical records for a dog).


  • The eponymous character of Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel is briefly annoyed when, having been reincarnated in France for the umpteenth time since the Roman Empire, her old stash of francs that she hid last go-round is now useless. She steals another woman's purse instead.
  • In the novel Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein, the problems with getting an Undead Tax Exemption are mentioned as one reason why the long-lived Howard Family members are attempting to see if they can end their Masquerade. In Time Enough for Love, it's shown that their descendants throughout the centuries continue to come up with ways to hide the fact that they're much longer lived than their fellow humans. The records of their genealogy, however, are fastidiously maintained in the secret Family files.
  • Averted and touched upon in Douglas Adams' novel The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, in which Dirk Gently realizes that the god Thor would have a huge amount of difficulty if he wanted to use an airplane because he has no passport, no birth certificate...
  • In Spirits That Walk In Shadow, one of the main characters, a witch, has no official ID, but her father just magically creates a driver's license for her (which exists only until she puts it back in her pocket). This is so that she can attend university, something most of her people don't choose to do.
  • In the first two books of Tanya Huff's Blood Books series, policeman Michael Celluci investigates his romantic rival, vampire (and romance writer) Henry Fitzroy -- and, naturally, finds the sort of gaping holes in Henry's ID that you'd expect with someone who was born (and died) well before Social Security numbers and driver's licenses were created. Of course, skeptical as Celluci is, "vampire" is not what he first thinks when he finds those holes and informs Vicki of them; he's rather nonplussed when she laughs at him when he suggests that Henry might be affiliated with the Mafia because of it, though.
  • Repeatedly averted in the Repairman Jack novels, in which Jack expends considerable thought and effort on establishing false identities, through which to obtain credit cards and other conveniences, while remaining off the grid of officialdom. When he does consider becoming a fully-documented citizen, because Gia wants him to legally marry her before their baby comes, the logistics of setting up a sufficiently solid identity for himself are so complex, Jack suspects it'll use up nearly all the gold he's been hoarding from his hired-vigilante work.
  • The Cullen family of Twilight move every few years and are able to assume identities, get jobs and enroll in school -- this seems impossible until Breaking Dawn, when it is revealed that they work with a professional fraudster who can provide them with fake passports, drivers licenses, etc.
    • They have been doing this for a long time and have also amassed a lot of money and contacts to grease the wheels.

 Maryann: He’s a century-old immortal, he’s richer than God, and he’s not even bound by the clichés of vampirism to avoid sunlight: he could be doing anything and everything fabulous with his endless, privileged life. Traveling the world. Living like a rock star. Anything. What does he choose to do? Attend high school in the rural Pacific Northwest.

      • Possibly they decide to maintain mundane routine roles since if he did try to gain a high-profile position such as a recording artist, that would draw too much attention.
      • Or not. According to Word of God, Twilight vampires are pretty much indestructible by humans, even saying that an atomic bomb wouldn't kill one if the vampire didn't want it to. Which begs the question of why vampires have to stay hidden at all.
        • It's probably easier to hunt humans when they believe that vampires don't exist.
    • There's also the matter of Edward inheriting his family fortune multiple times. It's not specified how he got away with this, given the fact that he's dead and said fortune, at the very least, contains several very expensive and custom-cut diamonds that would attract attention.
  • Averted in the Sisters Grimm. The ever afters (all characters from fairy tales) are immortal (age only if they want to, can be killed but need a bit more than a normal human). Even though non-humans (e.g. the Three Little Pigs) can appear human, most are unemployed and hide in Ferryport or an underground village in New York City Central Park because they do not have official papers. For those slip ups there is always memory dust.
  • The immortals in Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years' do this. Some more regularly than others. It's occasionally averted when some don a God Guise. The main character plays it the straightest. Changing identities over the years and keeping control over his, eventually rather large, business and financial interests. It's not really primarily a Compound Interest Time Travel Gambit as he's building up his corporate empire to search for other immortals, not purely financial gain. Though the money helps.
  • Explored in the sequel to Paranormalcy, Supernaturally. Lend's father David helps immortal paranormals by giving them fake paperwork so they can function in society.
  • The first-person protagonist in the Time Machine choose-your-own-adventure book The Rings of Saturn is somehow able, after time-travelling into the future, to enroll himself into an elite academy, despite the fact that his address is specifically stated to be years out of date (and it's not like he could have some documents forged before setting out to the future, since there was no way he'd have known what they should look like). Having a powerful senator on his side probably helps though.
  • The title character from The Vampire Tapestry, who got the urge to hibernate for decades every generation or so, was fearful of doing so in modern times, in part because of this trope. (Also because he was worried humanity might not even be around anymore the next time he woke up.)

Live-Action TV

  • Throw in some Lampshade Hanging in Dead Like Me: Something is mentioned in early episodes about switching persona on a semi-regular basis, although this never actually occurs in the series. The series timeframe never got past the point of plausibility for a normal person; presumably, if George kept at it for a decade or so...
    • Reapers also get new "real" identities with the help of reapers who work in the government.
  • Justified Trope in the 2007 series of Doctor Who, where the Master's false identity is supported not only by some token documentation, but by creating a worldwide subliminal signal telling everyone to trust him.
    • The original series didn't go into as much detail as to how the Third Doctor managed to keep covert in 1970s Britain, but it can be safely assumed that UNIT was more than able to provide him with enough documentation to keep Inland Revenue happy. By the time the Doctor reached his Ninth incarnation, his Psychic Paper usually managed to serve this purpose for him - and he's no longer stuck on Earth, anyway.
    • The "John Smith" alias was adopted for this very reason. Mind you, there's a later scene where some big shot visiting UNIT complained that the file on Doctor John Smith is completely empty.
    • In the spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, aliens grow a human boy in a lab; Sarah Jane's Magical Computer is able to fabricate an identity for him so that Sarah Jane can adopt him.
      • Though not without problems -- when his "Real" parents (actually evil aliens) turned up to claim him, she had real problems trying to explain why she hadn't gone to the authorities when she found him. At least she realised that "But they can't be his real parents -- he was constructed by the Bane!" probably wouldn't help her case.
  • Korean drama My Girlfriend Is a Nine Tailed Fox has Gu Mi-Ho able to, with the help from a halfling, falsify records and establish an identity. Before this however, it was an aversion of the trope.
  • Averted in Torchwood, where a young accidental time-traveller is provided with paperwork, gets herself a job, and heads off happily to London for her new life.
  • Averted in one instance by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Buffy is raised from the dead and is able to re-integrate immediately into society, just as if she'd never died at all. In real life, people who have mistakenly been declared dead in some government database can spend years trying to get the bureaucracy to acknowledge and correct the error. But Buffy was never declared dead. The Scoobies actively hid her death through use of the BuffyBot.
    • Although she did get a gravestone. A gravestone in a remote area, so no one other than the Scoobies knew it existed.
    • The social worker handling the paperwork for the Buffy household went a little cuckoo bananas nutcakes after being tormented by an invisible woman. Perils of a Sunnydale life.
    • Anya Christina Emmanuella Jenkins (Lame-Ass Made-Up Maiden Name)? She even goes to high school after losing her powers! Although she did alter reality so that she'd appear to be a normal high school student and not a freaky-ass vengeance demon. She didn't account for the possibility that she'd lose her powers and be stuck that way.
  • Spike and Angel both having learned to drive (and Angel holding a driving license). Not to mention Angel successfully renting property in LA -- how many estate agents do you know will send someone out after dark to arrange a lease?
    • Lampshaded in one episode where someone asks Angel how he can order stuff over the Internet. Fred explains how to hack a company's computer system and steal whatever you want. Angel says he just memorized Cordy's credit card number.
      • Speaking of Fred, she spent a few years in a Hell dimension. Did any government agencies back home wonder where she'd been?
        • They probably were never told she was back. She lives in the Hyperion, gets all her resources from Angel and co, why would any legal documents be needed?
    • Kate also comments in one episode about how real detectives have licenses and surnames.
    • They don't into the details of how Angel acquired his first place in L.A, but the team consulted a millionaire who owed them a big favor for financial advice when they decided to take over the Hyperion Hotel.
      • The deliberately Obstructive Bureaucrat Gavin Park quickly recognizes that they can shut Angel Investigations down simply by pointing out Angel's ID issues to the government. Just to spite Gavin, Lilah gets Angel all the documents he needs.
    • Humorously lampshaded in "The Girl in Question", when Spike's rant reveals that the Immortal had him thrown in prison for tax evasion.
  • In Forever Knight the vampire-cop considers moving on at one point, and visits a vampire whose specialty is providing false identities for this very purpose.
    • At one point he also has to dummy up birth records when someone starts looking into his past.
  • Tsukasa, the eponymous Kamen Rider Decade, nicely skirts around this by instantly adjusting to his new dimension through some cosmic force. He always finds himself with the skills, documentation, equipment and attire for whatever his job may be. This is later explained in the Grand Finale movie: Decade's job is to be whatever a given dimension needs him to be - hero or villain, savior or destroyer. Thus, the job adjustment is simply him being handed his role by The Powers That Be.
  • Jarod of The Pretender presumably has to forge any and all documentation he uses to establish himself in each new identity. Only rarely does this come up in the series -- for example, when he's working as a paramedic and a hospital bureaucrat complains that he can't get ahold of Jarod's tax forms.
    • It is alluded to in the series that his personas are temporary at best and would not stand closer scrutiny. He only has to pass the initial check, find what he is looking for and then leave. He does his research in a very low key position and only then assumes the high profile persona needed to accomplish his mission. Once he 'saves the day' he has to leave really quick before he is stopped or the bad guys find him.
  • Averted in Pushing Daisies, where the protagonists have to go to great lengths to hide the fact that Chuck is alive from just about everybody. She uses an alias in public, and--as the page quote shows--doesn't have any valid ID.
  • Averted by 3rd Rock from the Sun, in which it was made clear that Tommy phonied up their Earth identities and all the required paperwork. When they admit they lost their originals without ever submitting them to the proper authorities, he hurriedly throws new ones together...with some spite thrown in at having to do it again, such as deciding that Sally was a male-to-female Transsexual, much to her chagrin. Subverted in an episode where they get audited and make up several far-out stories to explain why they haven't paid their taxes before. Eventually, they admit to being aliens and the IRS guy looks at them for a Beat before saying "Sorry, I've heard that one too."
  • In an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, the Alpha Bitch spends a whole day trapped inside a book. Upon being released, she is convinced that it's still the same day and immediately goes on with her life. Even if we assume she's a total idiot and won't eventually notice that it's a day later, there's still the little issue that there would be an AMBER Alert on her by that point.
  • Both versions of Dark Shadows have this problem for the vampire Barnabas Collins. Pretending to be a cousin from England helps him be accepted by the family, and he can sell his old jewels to get money, but that isn't going to get him a Social Security number or credit card, or let him open up a bank account. Especially since he'll have needed those to buy a wardrobe and renovate the old house.
    • Presumably he had Willie Loomis do most of the shopping for him, as well as bring him up to speed on how to blend in to the 20th century.
  • The Highlander TV series deals with this a few times, although the exact treatment seems to vary Depending on the Writer, or maybe depending on the plot of an episode. Presumably most or all immortals have to do this in modern society, and do so successfully (perhaps relying on black market sources and fraud/forgery of official documents). Some even manage it despite very public deaths (most notable are a guy who made a circus act out of the fact that he couldn't be killed, and Richie, Duncan's Sidekick, who had become a professional motorcycle racer and died on the track). Mostly, this is treated as little more than a bother and having to leave town for awhile, but a few times there have been attempts at justifications, such as Duncan complaining about how hard it is to forge/alter records and documentation for his friend Hugh Fitzcairn, who has not adopted well to new technology like computers.
    • Another episode played with the trope: when a friend of Duncan's shows up on his doorstep with police right behind her she claims it was because she was in the same hotel as a VIP that was killed and afterward the police had realized that her paperwork didn't check out and have been following her since. The truth is that, haunted by her failure to assassinate Hitler and potentially save many lives, she has taken it upon herself to go around assassinating would-be dictators and those who spark off hate crimes so that the world will never go through that again.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Jack O'Neill gets a clone who, due to a screw-up on Loki's part, is a teenager. In the end, the clone decides to go back to high school and make his own way. How they get him the necessary documents to do so is not explained. Of course, this is the same organization that can hide Stargate Command, which is an element at least the size of a few battalions. One kid oughta be easy.
    • This is the US Federal Government we are talking about. They (admittedly a different part) routinely create new identities -- see the Witness Protection Program. If they can't use that apparatus to set up an identity, they are really slacking.
    • In addition to Jack's younger clone, at least half a dozen aliens here and there have been found off-world, presumably brought to earth and integrated into human society, and never seen again. In the Stargate Verse, the Witness Protection Program must have a permanent office set up in Colorado Springs, CO, and/or Stargate Command has a permanent liaison with the WPP.
    • Ba'al would be a better example. He ends up on Earth, as a freaking CEO of a huge high-tech company, and no-one seems to know where he came from, or how he got to be in charge. Of course, one must remember that Ba'al has control of the Trust, a shadow organization that has roots in most major government agencies. No doubt they could manage to forge the relevant documents.
  • In Being Human, all the vampires seem to have jobs. For example, Big Bad Herrick is a local policeman, and the vampire's lair is an undertakers. This is justified as vampire society has centuries of experience in hiding in plain sight, and it is implied there are vampires in high places. Also, Annie (a ghost) got a job as a barmaid. This isn't completely impossible, as Annie can (usually) pass for a normal human, and if she gets paid cash in hand, there wouldn't be the fact she's legally as well as biologically dead to worry about.
    • In Season 2, the system starts coming apart after Herrick's death, and Mitchell has to work to cover up for the rest of the vampires. Especially whenever one of them slips and kills someone.
    • In one of the Expanded Universe Books it's revealed that vampires get normal humans to act as body doubles so they can have passport photos.
      • They also use photoshop. Mitchell's Hospital ID badge is taken from a black and white photo he had back when he was alive.
  • Knight Rider: After being presumed dead, Michael Knight got a shiny new identity from his rich employers, but its limitations come up more than once -- every time someone starts looking into him, they discover that he apparently didn't exist until just recently. Naturally this tends to make them suspicious.
  • Time Trax: A basic premise of the series is that travelers from the future can easily manipulate 20th-century American electronic databases with their advanced 22nd-century computer technology. The protagonist once had to sit tight in a small county jail cell because they didn't check records with computers.
  • Lampshaded with Sophie-Anne, the Vampire Queen of Louisiana. She amassed immense wealth over the years, using undead tax exemption to her advantage. But now that Vampires have come into the open, the IRS is after her.
  • Remington Steele: The eponymous character is actually a made up persona taken over by a con man. He had no problems the first season, but the second season starts out with a visit from the IRS, curious about the lack of about twenty odd years of income tax filings.
  • In the start of The Vampire Diaries, Stefan tries to become a new student and is quizzed on his lack of vaccinations and paperwork. He has to hypnotize the secretary to believe that everything is in order.
  • Played oddly in Power Rangers Time Force, with travelers from the year 3000. Its explicitly stated that their drivers' licenses are invalid in the present... but getting a new one is a simple matter of taking the test, with no problems of legal existence.
  • Averted example in Eureka after a women thought to be dead shows up in town due it having been a clone that died, Carter begins going on and on about how hard it'll be to convince all the bureaucracies that declared her dead that she now alive. Only to find out the town of Eureka has a standard Resurrection Form that takes care of everything.
  • One of Parker's cover identities on Leverage is so thoroughly documented that she got called for jury duty.

Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

  • While not undead, this issue sometimes comes up in ~Werewolf: The Apocalypse~ with wolf-born Garou. The game itself doesn't explain what they do if they want to integrate with human society, it's just taken for granted that the other werewolves and their kinfolk (humans born with the gene recessive) forge identities for them, and possibly teach them reading and other basic skills.
    • Considering the Glass Walkers, it's not hard to figure out how they pull it off...
    • ~Vampire: The Masquerade~ also touches on it. Between being able to create Ghouls and (depending on the clan) other mind-control powers, most vampires have find little intrinsic problems in arranging things. Source material/fluff occasionally mentions both the necessity of ensuring your own Undead Tax Exemption and the effectiveness as a tactic of screwing with your enemies'.
      • However, the fluff (Book of Nod specifically) also says "There will always be Caesar, pay him his due". The notes on that specific line imply that tax evasion is one of the biggest threats to the Masquerade.
    • ~Changeling: The Lost~ also takes into account that characters will likely look a little different due to their time in Faerie, if they're not presumed dead. There's a Merit called New Identity that runs from 1 dot (a forged driver's license that might pass inspection when you're pulled over) to 4 dots (a well-constructed identity that would take some deep probing by a federal agency to dismantle).
    • Similarly, the rare Promethean who manages to become human. While usually one of the Created can operate 'under the radar', when they become fully human their history is going to be rather interesting. "So what did you do before this?" "Oh, I wandered the earth as a monster trying not to fuck up the world too much until I managed to become human, what'd you do?" "I was in banking too."
      • Reborn Prometheans usually have no memory of their former existence, which means even they wonder about the gaps in their past, with occasionally tragic results.
  • Somewhat averted in In Nomine. Angels and demons have to have "Roles" crafted for them to fit into society, get a driver's license, etc. Role creation is an equal mix of metaphysical miracle (a powerful superior convincing the universe that you "belong there") and of having celestials in their own Roles (in the DMV, Social Security Office, etc.) manipulating records to make this possible.
    • In Nomine Satanis/MagnaVeritas completely averts the problem by having angels and demons incarnate into an existing person. Demons incarnate when a person dies with few enough witnesses, while angels incarnate in very pious people who donate their body. Archangels' (and demon princes') Avatars just pop into existence, but they vanish within a few minutes so it's not a problem either.
  • King Kaius III of Karrnath in the Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron was known as King Kaius I when he was turned into a vampire. He faked his death, returning years later posing as his own grandson. Since he's the King he doesn't have to worry about paying taxes, but he is concerned with keeping the truth about his identity secret from his people.
    • He should take a page from Strahd, of Ravenloft fame. Strahd has for almost a dozen generations taken a wife, had a son named Strahd who looks just like him, and passed from the world just in time for his adult son to take over his realm. You may wonder why no one catches on, but the peasants do know of the 'Devil Strahd' and perhaps the setting helps him out for its own reasons.
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign adventure The Fungi from Yuggoth. Baron Hauptmann transfers his mind into a new body every few decades and assumes the victim's identity, then kills his old body (with the victim's mind in it) and produces a will that transfers his property to his "heir". He gets away with it for two reasons: as a Baron he's the highest authority in the local area, and the local peasants are too scared of him to protest.
  • In the Legend of the Five Rings module Ryoko Owari there is a foreign mage hidden in the city who 'rebirths' himself every so often. After the first few generations he realized he was becoming inbred and modified the spell with the 'donated' sexual organs of a female. He also raised a fanatic slave to run his business and take care of his young body when he's reborn.


  • You Can't Take It With You presents Martin Vanderhoff (or Grampa, as he's usually referred to in the play). Throughout the play he is hounded by an I.R.S. agent for not having paid his income taxes (Martin doesn't believe in it). This plot is resolved when the agent discovers that Martin Vanderhoff has been legally dead for years and therefore cannot owe taxes. Martin Vanderhoff and his family had a man living with them for years whom they never learned the name of (it was impolite to ask after a while), and when he died, they decided to give him Martin's name for the death certificate (since it was such a nice name and all). Thus, according to the government's records, Martin Vanderhoff was dead and therefore exempt from owing taxes.

Video Games

  • Aigis in Persona 3 seems to blend in with society quite well with just a simple wardrobe change, despite being a robot. Being backed by a considerably powerful organization helps justify this.
    • There's also Ryoji, who appears out of nowhere as an exchange student. As the Anthropomorphic Personification and Avatar of Death, questions like where he spends his off-school hours and where his transfer records came from are left unanswered.
  • Teddy from Persona 4, who is a being from beyond the TV, also manages to slip into society quite easy (well, at least he looks very human underneath that bear layer.), despite lacking any social security numbers, ID, and any attempts at scanning his body with X-rays or similar medical equipment automatically fails.
    • Probably because the Hospital is the only time he really had a need to deal with any officials, presumably he either used cash or had the others take care of things for him.
    • He immediately moved in with Yosuke, who put him up in his room and got him a job working for his own father. It's quite possible Yosuke's dad pays Teddie under the table.
  • Arcueid the True Ancestor vampire from Tsukihime is magically-self sufficient enough to not require food (her drinking blood would be bad), shelter, or sleep and just wanders Tokyo all day and all night; since she doesn't rely on society's infrastructure, she doesn't need an official identity. When necessary, she presumably hypnotizes her way into getting a hotel room should she need to recover from damage. She actually has a special ability to psychically absorb cultural knowledge so that she instantly knows the language and general customs of any place or time she wakes up in. (Although there is a funny gap between theory and practice.) She's fairly rich, though, as she has a friend in the Clock Tower who sells her fairy gold for her.
    • I believe it's mentioned that she does the equivalent of "pay in cash up front", and yeah, she possesses the same Mystic Eyes as Ciel. (Gold, brainwash).
    • Also averted with Ciel, who blatantly states that she just brainwashes everyone, with a standard 'trust what Ciel says' command, and lets their brains fill things in (in fact, she doesn't have to attend classes! She just hangs around the tea ceremony room; well, except when she attends classes for the fun of it).
    • Very much the case for the Back-Alley Alliance; Satsuki, Sion, and Riesbyfe. They're not old enough or powerful enough for the shenanigans Ciel and Arcueid do; and while Sion could hack people's minds for an identity, she doesn't. Sion spends most of the first Melty Blood game sleeping in an alley, and them being homeless is a bit of a Memetic Mutation.
  • In Fallout 3, Harkness is an android from the Commonwealth named A3-21 who had his face altered and his memories as A3-21 repressed by Dr. Pinkerton. He's now in charge of Rivet City's security and is on their leadership council. Arguably a Justified Trope case, what with the whole post-nuclear apocalypse thing -- people are no longer likely to be very concerned with paperwork. Hell, as long as you can shoot something reliably, most places will take you no questions asked.
  • Averted in Mass Effect 2. When Shepard visits the Citadel for the first time after being brought back to life, C-Sec records still list him/her as dead. A brief chat with Captain Bailey has the latter explain that rectifying this sort of thing would usually require about nine days of running around various Citadel bureaucratic offices but he handily fixes everything with a push of a button (it helps that Shepard is a legendary hero and that the C-Sec DNA scanners have verified that it's truly him/her).
  • Count Janus Hassildor of Skingrad in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion maintains the illusion that he's a very crowd shy noble who never makes public appearances and rarely meets with visitors in person. It turns out that he's a vampire trying very hard to conceal his identity. If his secret were to get out, he'd likely be hunted down and killed. His longevity is attributed by the populace to the fact that he is (or has at least cultivated a reputation as) a powerful wizard.

Web Comics

  • Justified Trope in El Goonish Shive, where someone in the government is responsible for creating the legal identities.
    • That, and everyone is either a shapeshifter or has access to a transformation device of some sort.
  • Something like this happens in The Wotch with Mingmei, who is a middle-aged Latino man transformed into a teenage Asian girl. A quick memory-altering spell allows her to pass herself off as an exchange student, but the larger problems of lack of paperwork, a real family back in Japan, or any means of support are not addressed... till later.
  • Sharing a Universe. Lynette is still able to get a job, rent an apartment, and otherwise live a perfectly normal life despite being an Elf from a parallel fantasy-themed universe. Lampshaded from time to time with her lack of ID for buying alcohol, and Allison suspecting that she's an illegal immigrant.
  • Mentioned in TRU-Life Adventures as part of the reason Mike Michaels doesn't go back to being Trent Tyrell once he gets his memory back.
  • In Misfile Ash and Em's new identities are justified by the Ret-Gone, but how Rumi and Cassiel get enrolled in the local high school is a bit of a mystery, and how Rumi's brother Vash gets employment in the local med centre and secretary is similarly unexplained. Possibly justified in Cassiel and Vash's case as they are both still in heaven's good graces but Rumi is on semi-permanent suspension.
  • In Kevin and Kell, Catherine and Nigel Aura manage to establish human lives in the human world, but to do so, need to forge some documents.
  • Narbonic: Apparently the Knipl Award committee does no background checks at all on their grant recipients, because in the same year their three winners were a mutant shapeshifter, a battle android, and a weregerbil.
  • In Wapsi Square, Bud and Brandi are able to acquire modern birth certificates and social security numbers despite being immortal clay golems who predate most known civilizations. However, it is made believable in that it was done by Jin, who has been playing political manipulator in multiple countries for over a thousand years, and probably has more than enough contacts to make someone exist (or cease to exist).
  • Inverted in Sluggy Freelance with Aylee, who mentions she has problems surviving in society because she doesn't have photo ID. So apparently if she had that, it'd be no problem she's an alien who looks like the alien from Alien.

Western Animation

  • Code Lyoko is an aversion. The heroes go to great lengths to give Aelita a plausible identity ("Aelita Stones, transfer student from Canada"), Jérémie even creating false ID papers for her. And the cover almost gets blown several times, mostly because of Sissi's snooping. From where they got the money for her tuition at Kadic -- as well as clothes, cell phone and computer -- is left unexplained, however.
    • Kadic is in France. Since most schools (except colleges) are state-financed in France, the school staff probably assumes her family pays taxes.
      • Actually, even if you fraud taxes, your children will be admitted in French schools.
      • Including boarding schools?
      • Schools are free (state-financed), boarding isn't. In some case, it can be free if your are an orphan or your parents have very little revenue; so Jérémie would have to also create false papers justifying financial aid. And the fact that a child who benefits financial aid has her own laptop would raise much attention.
      • The most likely explanation is that one of the heroes is rich but it never comes up. If so, it's most likely Ulrich - his father seems to be a successful businessman and their house in "Holiday In The Fog" seems very ornate (plus they can afford maths tutoring for a whole week!)
  • Averted in Transformers Animated. Sari Sumdac quickly loses any say in how her father's company is run because there's no proof she legally exists. Since she was born from a Cybertronian protoform and Issac's DNA, he had no way to claim her as his actual daughter, instead just raising her himself.

Real Life

  • In most nations that keep track of citizens' identities, forging bogus credentials for fugitives and illegal immigrants is a major criminal industry.
  • Individuals whose original identities are unknown, such as abandoned infants or the occasional amnesiac, may need to have fresh identity documentation issued if their names can't be determined.
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