12 Things to Know About Passport Photos

passport-photoIn 2015, the U.S. Department of State received more than 200,000 unacceptable passport photos. Denied passport photos can mean major delays in getting your passport because you’ll have to retake the photo and resubmit the application, not to mention you could even miss that special trip in the long process. Here are a few tips to ensure you’ll be able to get on that airplane and avoid having yours become one of those 200,000 unacceptable photos this year.

1. Photo must be recently taken within the past 6 months.

2. No glasses as of November 1, 2016. (If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, include a signed note from your doctor.)

3. The photo background can only be white or off-white. Since the background needs to be white, it’s probably not a good idea to wear a white shirt if you can help it since you might blend into the background.

4. It’s okay to smile but it needs to be a natural smile (not an over-exaggerated, forced smile). If you are unsure, just take the photo with a neutral facial expression to avoid having the photo rejected.

5. Wear clothing you wear on a regular basis. No hats or head coverings, unless you wear it daily for religious purposes.

6. Your full face must be visible and your head covering or hair cannot cast shadows on your face. Some have even needed to push back their hair to ensure eyebrows weren’t covered.

7. This should go without saying but no headphones or wireless hands-free devices.

More tips specifically if you plan to take the photo yourself:

8. Print photo on matte or glossy photo quality paper only.

9. The image must be in color in “sRGB color space”, which is the common output for most digital cameras.

10. The image dimensions must be in a square aspect ratio (the height must be equal to the width). Minimum acceptable dimensions are 600 x 600 pixels. Maximum acceptable dimensions are 1200 x 1200 pixels.

11. Size of passport photos should be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) and size of head must be between 1 and 1 3/8 inches (25-35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. The head must be directly facing camera (not to the side). Use the State Department’s photo template to help size, if you already have a photo here.

12. Places like Costco and AAA do passport photos for relatively cheap. You can also use the MyPassportPhotos app, which we reviewed here. And a reader submitted a tip to us that there is an app that will let you print your own passport photos called Passport Booth. We haven’t tested this one ourselves yet but it’s worth checking out.

Passport Photo Examples
Sometimes examples can help — especially on what is an “acceptable” smile and an “unacceptable” smile. Check out the State Department’s examples of acceptable and unacceptable passport photos here.

And if you are still unsure, here’s a YouTube video on the perfect photo, complete with dos and don’ts! Here’s to happy passport photo taking!

Caitlin Martin

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12 Things to Know About Passport Photos
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About the Author

Caitlin Martin
Taking the path less traveled has been Caitlin's mantra and now it describes her travels as a contributor for Johnny Jet. From representing her dream clients in travel and hospitality at a top global marketing and PR agency and spending 10 years on the agency side, she's uncovering inspiration on the other side of the table. She's an east coaster at heart but enjoys living the beach life in Los Angeles, laughing loudly and singing in her Mini convertible. Follow Caitlin as she chronicles inspirational places and faces she meets along the way. She can be found on Twitter at @caitlinlmartin or email caitwrites@gmail.com.

9 Comments on "12 Things to Know About Passport Photos"

  1. Great article, but i would like to comment on something about passports people have had for years. Many people don’t check them often and plan a trip. The problem is they don’t check their expiration date and often find out the country they are traveling to won’t let them in if the passport expires even a month after their return to home date. The reason is they don’t want to deal with the problem of someone having something happen to them causing them to maybe be in the hospital till past their expiration date. So always check your dates before you have any problems.

  2. Question: My passport expires in 2020. I AM wearing glasses in the photo. Will that bespectacled passport be accepted up until its expiration date 4 years from now?

  3. I was specifically advised by a passport agent that the subject cannot wear any jewelry with religious connotations, such as a cross necklace. The agent insisted we retake my daughter’s photo for that reason. This was explained as being for the safety of the traveler, to reduce the possibility of becoming a target due to religion under some horrible circumstance. The agent was emphatic that this was a strict requirement and would not issue the passport until we returned with new photos.

    • Great tip! We will add it.

      • I don’t doubt that BGW had the experience where the passport clerk refused to accept an image with “religious” jewelry–presumably Christian jewelry. However it is absolutely not the case that you are forbidden from wearing religious jewelry in a passport photo. Does it seem logical to you that the State Dept issues this statement: “No hats or head coverings, unless you wear it daily for religious purposes” but they won’t allow you to wear a small cross on a necklace? So the daughter doesn’t have the jewelry in the photo but wears it (wears it!) every day anyway? Does that sound logical? Here’s what you should actually do: (1) get a Canadian passport to travel under, (2) remove all jewelry (including wedding rings which have a religious connotation), (3) remove labels from all clothing and (4) do not speak English. You should then be fine.

  4. All great things to know. I didn’t realize it was this detailed. Thanks for the great info. What you think about ours? We are just starting out.

  5. Thank you for the article. All that info about photos is useful, I need to change my passport after few months and was good to know that things.

  6. Great tips! I hope these tips will helpful for viewers to take a decent passport photo. All the tips look very impressive.

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