When a 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.
Most of the time, this trope is dismissed with a handwave. If not, you may have a case of Reality Ensues.
Historically this can be a justified trope. Prior to the twentieth century records tended to be sparse, difficult to retrieve, and even more difficult to verify. Without some overriding need justifying such efforts or a dissenting witness identities and origins had to be taken at face value.
See also Casual Car Giveaway, which is another situation where ordinarily expected paperwork is unnecessary.
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In a 2013 Sprint commercial, a zombie attempts to take advantage of a "lifetime guarantee" on a mobile phone. Commercial here.
Anime & Manga
In Hataraku Maou-sama!, Maou has just enough magic to use hypnosis to get an identity in Japan.
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.
Nicola in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch whipped up an identity for Lucia, and Kaito was a Doorstop 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.
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.
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.
Yes! Precure 5: Kouji Kokoda/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: Kurumi Kurumi and Shirou Amai.
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.
This lack of proper papers does become a plot point when Conan receives and invitation to go to London. He has to travel as Shinichi because Conan doesn't have a passport.
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.
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.
Handled in an unusual manner in YuYu Hakusho: when Yusuke returned to life after being dead for at least a couple weeks (including a public funeral), his mother convinced the school's principal he had actually been mistaken for dead and had remained comatose until then by threatening him with the Yakuza. The other students genuinely believed the tale (after being terrified when he reappeared in spite of being dead), and the authorities never called him up on his death.
In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, nobody seems to bat an eyelash when Mahiro Yasaka has three "cousins from overseas" enroll in the same class over a very short span of time, let alone that the first of the "cousins", Nyarko, claims to be his wife while the second, Cuuko, claims to be Nyarko'swife.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the Wolkenritter, who are Pure Magic Beings that appeared before Hayate one day and who she tries to pass off as distant, foreign relatives. There's also Lindy Harlaown, a Human Alien who decided to have her family take up residence on earth near Nanoha's home, and even enrolls Fate to Nanoha's school.
Subverted 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 (not aware of his father's secret) starts sorting through his father's possessions, he finds paperwork for multiple alternate identities and funds to take advantage of them, with no explanation available for what kind of double life his father may have been leading.
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 2000 AD'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.
Explained and justified with the Samaritan (a loose Superman Captain Ersatz) in Astro City, who came from the future with extensive training to insert himself into late-20th century society so he could change the past to save his own time. After realizing that his success must have changed the future so much he wouldn't belong, he used his training and a 35th century organic computer to create a new identity - which he admits he only needed so he could get a news media job so he could have an easier time keeping tabs on breaking events for his superheroics.
Misfiled Dreams explains how it's done in Misfile (see below). Angels have a kind of obfuscation power that makes normal people not notice the Angel's ears. This is extended to make it so that unless an Angel does something totally unexpected for a person, any story given is accepted. If Rumisiel enters a random house, anyone seeing him doesn't think anything is wrong. But if he does something that's unusual, say entering the girls' locker room, people notice. Since much of Misfiled Dreams is built around exploring Misfile'sFridge Logic, this is nothing new.
Films — Live-Action
Subverted 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.
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 Keythe 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.
Funny enough, the INS agent is less concerned with the Coneheads being aliens (i.e. extraterrestrials) than them being illegal aliens.
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 PhilCoulsonAgent 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).
Averted in Men In Black. When they're not saving the world, much of the MIB's job is acting as ICE for aliens.
Somewhat lampshaded in the first scene of the movive, with Kay using ICE's predecesor INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) as their cover (although that was also because the alien he was looking for was hiding among some Mexican illegal immigrants).
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.
Mentioned in The Dresden Files; the main character "died" but got better. At least a year passed with the world considering him dead. This has, however, happened enough to wizards that the White Council of Wizards has forms to fill out to get "reinstated." (Which makes sense given Wizards Live Longer.)
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.
Harry Potter: Wizards and muggles generally live in two separate societies, but in the times when the two worlds must interact this trope can come into play. Wizard children born to magical parents are presumably never registered to receive birth certificates given wizards' general ignorance of muggle custom, yet Ron receives a drivers license in Deathly Hallows. Muggle-borns could cause problems as well, given that at the age of eleven they suddenly disappear from the muggle society for ten months out of the year. Possibly hand-waved with the parents explaining to other muggles that the children are at a muggle boarding school, but even then they wouldn't be able to produce official records, and this could still look suspicious in an era where boarding schools are quite out of fashion, especially of the family is of middle or low socio-economic status.
The Ministry of Magic maintains a staff of "Obliviators", wizards and witches who specialize in memory charms. Usually their job is to cover up public displays of magic or appearances by magical beings. However, it is quite reasonable to imagine that they also perform the necessary manipulations of muggle authorities to manage children who seemingly drop out of sight. At one point the Ministry even arranges to have the president of a foreign country "forget" to call the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and reschedules for them to do so the following day, thus showing the extent of their reach.
In Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, newly-turned vampires usually just carry on pretending to be regular citizens for as long as reasonably possible. Older ones are shown to use a complex web of lawyers, front companies and multinational bank accounts to allow them to openly own property and engage in similar affairs. Of course, most supplement their income with assets taken from victims. Armand amasses a huge fortune very quickly by slaughtering drug smugglers in large numbers and then having the cash he takes laundered. The fact that they possess telepathic powers also goes a long way in enabling them to maintain the upper hand in dealings with mortals and modifying any memories as needed. Lestat selects his first attorney based at least partly on the fact that the man's mind is very easy to read.
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. Another minor character has spent over a millennium in the Byzantine/Ottoman/Turkish civil service, giving him the ability to create a false paper trail for his next identity.
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 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.)
Animorphs has a crash-landed Andalite posing as a college math teacher. His lack of contact with others (like getting out of sight to morph/demorph every two hours) is handwaved as being a loner.
Also the Chee, nigh-immortal androids who use holograms to imitate humans and have each lived numerous lives going back to ancient Egypt. Of course, they're advanced enough to easily take control of every computer on Earth if they wanted to, so forging a new birth certificate every couple of decades is probably no big deal.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, averted. Miranda contemplates the difficulty in getting her id updated nowadays after she slips by one guard only because she has white hair; a century ago, a letter of introduction was enough to establish someone. Later in the series, we learn that they are trying to establish identities for lots and lots of people. They finally came to the conclusion that they would have to forge them in sequence. Even with the ability to compel people to issue birth certificates, etc, and the help of an extensive extended family, it's rough.
Deconstructed in The Unmasqued World of Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novels. Dan's partner Robin is a civil rights lawyer who's made a career out of helping the newly-undead re-enter society and reclaim their legal status as citizens, spouses, and property-holders. As the Big Uneasy happened only a decade ago, courts are still hashing out how to apply the law to people who come back from the grave... but Dan does have to pay taxes, so doesn't get a literal Undead Tax Exemption.
One of the SERRAted Edge novels by Mercedes Lackey mentions that an elven protagonist carries a magically-created driver's license (copied with alterations from a human friend's license). The novel in question predates the REAL ID Act, so the forged license not being in any official databases is a moot point. Besides, all three protagonists are deliberately living "off the record" to hide from enemies.
The Rings of Saturn: Very noticeable in its future setting—at one point, the time traveller protagonist gets in trouble because the address he gives is years out of date. Nevertheless, he's able to enroll into an elite academy later on and become a full-fledged astronaut (though it's implied he had the backing of a politician).
In the Lee Nez series the eponymous vampiric state trooper lampshades it to himself at one point, noting that he's just lucky nobody's noticed that he's been in the New Mexico state police off and on since World War II. He also doesn't know how much longer he can keep it up, considering the increasing use of electronic records and the like.
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 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.
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 realized that "But they can't be his real parents — he was constructed by the Bane!" probably wouldn't help her case.
Although her UNIT contacts did at least keep her out of prison on a kidnapping charge while things played out.
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.
It might not have been just to spite Gavin. For one thing, Lilah knew that Wolfram & Hart wanted to corrupt Angel, not get rid of him, so he had to be somewhat active. But more importantly she had already seen the effects of taunting an ensouled vampire.
Humorously lampshaded in "The Girl in Question", when Spike's rant reveals that the Immortal had him thrown in prison for tax evasion.
To be fair, Spike may have just crashed cars, surviving via his vampire powers, until he learned how to drive. And both of them are depicted as being fairly good at adapting to change, so it is not a stretch to imagine either of them producing "lost" documents at some point in the past few decades. There might still be a problem of a 40-90 year old person looking like Boreanez or James Marsters, but considering how frequently identity theft and fraud occur in reality...
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 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. Of course this rather blatant, ongoing problem is never dealt with by his employers because Tropes Are Tools.
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 on True Blood 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.
Indeed one of the central themes of the series is coming out and becoming taxed and having rights.
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.
This is addressed on White Collar. Neal Caffrey is a conman who regularly uses fake identities. However, he is fully aware that even his best identities cannot survive a thorough investigation. When he considers breaking his parole and fleeing the country, he is referred to a master forger who spent decades creating as set of 'perfect identities'. The man registered a number of fake births with the government and over the years he created fake school, medical and employment records for his 'kids'. He planted those records all over the country in government archives. He made sure that the identities had credit histories and that they all paid their taxes on time. Anyone doing a background check would have to do a very thorough in-person investigation to discover that these people never existed. For obvious reasons, the forger is asking a lot of money for one of these identities.
In general the series presents fake identities only working until someone starts taking a closer look at you. Once the FBI starts investigating, it does not take them long to spot the tell-tale signs of a fake identity.
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/Magna Veritas 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 settinghelps him outfor its ownreasons.
Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Castle Dark". 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.
Averted in the d20 Modern Urban Arcana setting for the Shadowkind, as noted in this article from Wizards.com - if you're an elf or ogre that just arrived from that other world, not having ID in 21st century America is gonna be a problem. This is why so many Shadowkind wind up with the criminal crowd, or simply taken in (whether they like it or not) by a community of their own kind. For those fortunate enough to find one of the Monsters Anonymous organizations, they can get ID through a more benevolent source.
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.
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 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.
Marie in Golden somehow is even worse than Teddie in logistic department; with her previously living in a place between conscious and uncosncious, even less social skill than the previous attendants of the Velvet Room, without identity and memory, said memory turns out to be a part of Anthropomorphic Personification of mankind's desire shaped like a Japanese Goddess tasked to be the garbage bin for the fog her fellow aspects expelled after they were defeated, and disappeared after you kick said Japanese Goddess' ass in final boss fight. Cue a year later, and she becomes a weather forecaster on TV, a quite famous one at that. Porbably justified as after the final battle, said Goddess and her aspects fused with Marie, and she gained their powers. When you can do things such as change the weather on a cheerful whim, you likely don't need to worry about little things such as establishing a paper identity.
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 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.
Averted somewhat in that high level wizards in the Mages Guild are aware of his status. Instead of owing money, he trades favors to the Mages Guild in exchange for them concealing his secret. Eventually the Player Character is let in on the secret by Hassildor himself.
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 as 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 & 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.
Correction, a werehuman.
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).
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.
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.
In the last episode of Teen Titans, Terra is seen going to high school , despite the fact that she is supposed to be dead, a criminal, and (as of her origin story in the tie-in comic), an illegal immigrant.
In most nations that keep track of citizens' identities, forging bogus credentials for fugitives and illegal immigrants is a major criminal industry.
In the U.S. this ends up being the opposite of "tax exemption", as illegal immigrants working jobs while using Social Security numbers from dead people pay Social Security taxes into the Social Security system. Since the identity is forged, they will never collect back the Social Security taxes they paid into the system. One estimate puts the amount of extra Social Security money from illegal immigrants at $7 billion.
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.
There were numerous cases in the Soviet Union after World War II when deserters, Nazi collaborators and other war criminals obtained other persons' IDs using the general chaos of the war zone and successfully reentered the Soviet society, being outed years later.
Also true in most of Central Europe after World War II. Most of government infrastructure and records were destroyed or at least badly disrupted. Practically every country was full of refugees, fugitives, or deserters from many countries. Many people "reinvented" themselves out of whole cloth.