Passports are essential travel documents that allow people to move across borders. One of the crucial requirements for obtaining passports is submitting a passport photo that meets specific guidelines. Passport photos should be taken against a white background and in a position facing forward.
When it comes to putting on a great smile in your passport photo—things might not be as simple as you thought. Since there are strict specifications surrounding acceptable passport photos; people often wonder whether they can flash their pearly whites or if they need to keep their expression neutral throughout the process.
“A smile is the universal welcome.” -Max Eastman
If you want to know more about what entails an accepted passport photo and the rules concerning facial expressions in these documents, read on. In this article, we will help clarify any concerns you may have regarding smiling in passport photos, from general rules to specific country regulations. So let’s get started!
Passport Photo Requirements
Correct Size and Format
In order to obtain a passport, you must have an approved photo for your application. One important aspect of this photo is the correct size and format. The photograph should measure 2 x 2 inches (51mm x 51mm). This measurement includes your face from top of the head down to your chin since this requirement ensures that your entire face is visible.
The background color of the photograph should be white or off-white with no other colors, patterns or objects shown in it. Remember that whatever format your chosen photographer uses has to meet these requirements if not then get someone else who can do it well which means if you do indeed smile, each tooth should be visible without any compromise on its quality. It’s best to check ahead of time to make sure your photographer knows what they’re doing.
Proper Lighting and Background
When taking your passport photo, there are specific lighting and background requirements that need to be met. The image must be taken against a plain white or light-colored background with no shadows present. Soft, natural lighting is best so try to avoid harsh flash photography as it may create unwanted shadows making some areas of the face too dark to see properly. Ideally, the camera would be positioned directly in front of your face at eye level and no more than six feet away.
You might be tempted to show your pearly whites and smile bright but frowning, smirking, grinning, laughing, raising eyebrows, tilting your head, turning your eyes or closing them while having your picture taken won’t work.. You have to look straight into the camera lens with a neutral or serious facial expression; both must show open eyes and mouth closed. This neutral facial expression allows officers to recognize and identify you making security checks a whole lot easier. However, an exception is made to allow people with permanent facial features such as lips or eyes that appear differently when relaxed versus neutral expression but verification and proof documenting the face’s physical abnormality needs to be furnished beforehand.
“It has been a long-standing principle of passport photography that applicants should maintain a neutral expression in their photo” – HM Passport Office
Finally, it’s important to dress appropriately for your passport photo. Avoid wearing hats, headbands, or anything else that covers up any part of your face and shoulders. The embassy advocates you take down hair accessories including earrings, necklaces, scarfs where they might cover parts of the face or pose distracting attention. Instead, opt for a simple outfit that will make it easy to recognize you in the photo, like a plain white shirt or blouse against a solid colored background. With these guidelines in mind, you can have confidence that your passport photo meets all requirements necessary for successful travel!
Facial Expressions Allowed In Passport Photos
In order to obtain a valid passport, it is important to comply with the photograph requirements set by the government. One of these guidelines is regarding facial expression in passport photos. Generally, passport photos require a neutral or serious facial expression.
According to the United States Department of State, “The subject should have a neutral facial expression and both eyes open” (U.S. Department of State).
This means that any excessive smiling, frowning, or other emotional expressions are not allowed when taking passport photos. In addition to this guideline, there are additional specifications such as photo size, background color and clothing restrictions that must also be followed.
Minor Smiling Allowed
While a neutral expression is preferred in passport photos, some authorities allow a slight smile to be shown on the face of the individual being photographed. This type of smile may also be referred to as a “soft smile”. However, the amount of teeth showing cannot exceed 1/4 inch according to the Canadian Government’s website. They describe having a soft smile which, allows natural facial features like dimples but still maintain mostly serious expression which would express most normal emotion at once(Madeleine).
The UK government provides guidance stating that applicants for passports can have a “natural expression”, however they warn that grinning, raised eyebrows or squinting will not be accepted as a passive gesture only minor acceptable variation will be tolerated(UK Government).
It is important to always refer to your country’s specific guidelines before taking or submitting passport photos with any kind of a smile. It’s best to err on the side of caution if you’re unsure what regulations apply to your location.
No Frowning or Pouting
many countries’ passport photo guidelines do not allow any frowning or pouting. A neutral expression is typically required and deviations from this can cause your application to be rejected.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs does not accept “smiling, laughing or frowning” expressions in their recommended guideline which suggest for a blank facial expression(Forbes).
It is important to follow all regulations regarding photograph requirements when applying for passports, no open-mouthed smiles, frowns, raised eyebrows, squinting or other exaggerated displays of emotion. A neutral expression with both eyes open, facing forward and mouth closed according to government’s specifications is the best option. So try hard to keep it simple and clean rather than trying to programatically get more smart!
“A picture says a thousand words”
This well-known quote by an unknown author rings true in the case of passport photos. The photo that is submitted will represent you on an official document for years to come so it’s always better to play it safe and comply with the strict guidelines given to ensure its acceptance.
- Madeleine, via e-mail,”Soft smile in passport proposals.” 24 September, 2021
- U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, Photograph Requirements.https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html. Accessed 28 September, 2021
- The UK Government, “Photos for British passports”. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/photos-for-passports/making-a-photo-meet-the-standards. Accessed 28 September, 2021.
- Forbes, “passport photo rules in ten countries”.https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2019/07/08/passport-photos-new-rules-in-ten-countries-with-huge-travel-markets/?sh=261dcf3e62b5 Accessed 29 September, 2021
Impact Of Smiling In Passport Photos
Can Cause Glare or Shadows
One of the main reasons why smiling is not allowed in passport photos is that it can cause glare or shadows. According to the United States Department of State, “the subject must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile with both eyes open.” If the person smiles too broadly, their teeth may reflect light and create a glare that obscures important details such as the iris and pupil of the eyes, which are used for identification purposes. Furthermore, if the lighting is not properly adjusted, the smile may cast shadows on certain parts of the face, making it difficult for border officials to verify the identity of the applicant.
May Alter Facial Features
Another reason why smiling is discouraged in passport photos is that it may alter the person’s facial features. When someone smiles, their cheeks rise and their mouth widens, changing the shape of their face. This can make it more challenging for border officials to evaluate whether the photo matches the applicant’s appearance at the time of travel. It is especially relevant when considering that passports can be valid for up to ten years. Therefore, smiling could lead to confusion if the traveler changes over time. On this matter, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) states that people should avoid smiling since it might interfere with biometric matching and exceed capture tolerances.
Can Make Photo Look Unprofessional
Beyond issues related to security and accuracy, another potential problem with smiling in passport photos is that it can make them look unprofessional. Given that these documents are ubiquitous forms of identification used worldwide, they need to maintain strict standards regarding how applicants present themselves. For example, wearing hats or glasses can lead to rejection, and so can being distracted or laughing during the photoshoot. Therefore, smiling might convey a casual or unserious attitude that does not align with the formal and official nature of passport images.
May Not Meet Regulations
Finally, there is also a possibility that smiling in passport photos can disqualify people from getting their documents approved if they fail to adhere to specific regulations. Depending on the country and its rules for passport issuance, smiling could be considered an infraction leading to fines or delays. For instance, in Canada, applicants who smile too broadly may have to redo their photo-taking session since it could exceed Canadian government specifications. According to this governmental source “your expression should be neutral (neither frowning nor smiling) with your mouth closed.” Other countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, India, China among others similarly require citizens applying for passports to maintain neutral facial expressions while taking photographs.
“Officials recommend a neutral expression when you take your photograph” -U.S. Department Of State
While a smile might seem like a natural way to pose for any picture, attempting to grin during a passport photo isn’t advisable. Whereas some believe that making a face change could jeopardize tourist safety by making it harder for border authorities to recognize them, another argument has to do with devaluating the seriousness of the document. So next time you’re asked “can I smile in passport photo?” stick to a professional pose and flash your best-looking mug instead.
Consequences Of Not Following Passport Photo Guidelines
If you do not follow the passport photo guidelines, your application may get rejected. This can cause frustration and delay in getting your passport on time. Some common reasons why an application may be rejected include wrong photo size or format, incorrect background color, poor image quality, or any facial features that are obscured.
The U.S. Department of State provides clear instructions on how to take a compliant passport photo. It is important to follow these instructions correctly to avoid any issues with your passport application. If your photo gets rejected, you will have to start the whole process over again, losing both time and money in the process.
Delays in Processing Time
Even if your application does not get rejected due to non-compliant photos, it can still face delays in processing. The processing of your passport application requires several steps and verification procedures. If your photo does not meet the standard requirements, it may need additional scrutiny causing your application to experience further delays.
You also risk facing delays if you try to take shortcuts or ignore certain rules due to lack of understanding. Taking poor-quality photos, for instance, could mean redoing them several times before finally receiving a passport. With the current backlogs and wait times experienced by most governments’ passport offices worldwide, even small complications like this could make waiting for a new passport frustratingly long.
Additional Fees for Resubmission
If your passport application is rejected due to non-compliant photos, you will have to resubmit new photographs and pay additional fees. The fee for taking another photograph might seem nominal or negligible at first glance, but once you factor in transportation costs and loss of wages (if missing a workday), the actual cost can become substantial.
The fees associated with passport resubmissions can run into several hundred dollars, and this could be even more if reapplying because you tried to expedite the process. So it is crucial that you comply with all of the photo requirements in one go so as not to incur additional costs.
Travel Delays or Denial
If your passport application gets rejected multiple times due to non-compliant photos, or bad quality photographs delay processing, then there’s a good chance you may experience travel delays or denial resulting from passport issues. This poses a serious challenge, especially when traveling for business reasons and risks ruining trips which have been planned months in advance.
Frustratingly, getting a new passport quickly can also be expensive, stressful, and confusing if additional documents or explanations are necessary.
“Passports generally represent what country issuing them represents… If they look diminished, damaged or lack strength, it reflects poorly on the symbolic power of the nation itself.” – Kate Coyer, an assistant professor of media studies at The New School in New York City.
Taking compliant passport photos is essential to avoid rejection, minimize processing time, save on extra charges, eliminate frustration, ensure smooth travels, and safeguard national reputation symbolized by the design of the document. Always carefully read guidelines before submitting passport applications, maintain compliance throughout the process, and track your progress regularly to stay on top of any requests for additional information or requirements. Finally, don’t forget to wipe your smile till you clear border control!
Tips To Get The Perfect Passport Photo
When taking a passport photo, dressing appropriately can make all the difference. First and foremost, choose clothing that contrasts with your skin tone to avoid blending in with the background. Avoid wearing white or light-colored tops as they may contribute to overexposure of the picture, leading to rejection.
Additionally, it is best to dress conservatively, avoiding strapless or sports tops. Revealing clothes could be interpreted as offensive in some cultures and may lead to your application being rejected. A head covering should not be worn unless for religious reasons. If you have a medical need for a hat or headwear, contact the Passport Customer Service Center before booking your appointment to ensure appropriate accommodations are made.
Get a Professional Photographer
The quality of your passport photo is critical when applying for a passport. Considering going to a professional photographer rather than attempting to take the photograph yourself using a cell phone camera.
A specialist at a retail store or post office will know how to create ideal lighting angles emphasizing your features while reducing any shadows and correcting undesirable reflections. They will also properly confirm if the size, resolution, and dimensions match the requirements for international passports. All of which increases your likelihood of having your application approved without issue.
“A bad photo is one of the most common reasons we reject passport applications.”
If you’re still uncertain about who to use, reach out to family and friends who have recently taken passport photos themselves. Alternatively, check online reviews to see feedback from previous clients or ask your local government offices who they recommend.
Can I Smile In Passport Photo?
One common question people often ask when taking their passport photo is whether they can smile. Unfortunately, many countries have specific guidelines for passport photos that may prohibit smiling. This is due to facial recognition technology being used to identify individuals more accurately.
Even in the US, there are strict photo requirements including no smiles and a neutral expression. According to the US Department of State, you must “have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile with both eyes open.” But beware, keep your mouth closed because grinning, raising eyebrows, squinting, tilted head posture, and wearing glasses (except under special circumstances) all contribute to having a poor quality photograph.
“Your application will be delayed if your photos do not meet our rules”
The last thing you want is a rejected application based on something as nonthreatening as posing for your best shot. Therefore, it’s recommended to refrain from any intentionally exaggerated facial expressions during your photo-taking session. Keep the focus firm, and remember, a perfect passport photo requires careful consideration at every stage to get it right.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I show my teeth when smiling in a passport photo?
It depends on the guidelines of your country. Some countries allow a natural smile showing teeth, while others require a closed mouth smile. Check with your passport agency or consulate for specific requirements.
Can I wear lipstick or makeup while smiling in a passport photo?
Yes, you can wear lipstick or makeup in your passport photo as long as it does not alter your natural appearance. Avoid heavy makeup or bold colors that can distort your features and always follow your country’s guidelines.
Can I take a passport photo with a smile if I have missing teeth?
Yes, you can take a passport photo with a missing tooth or teeth. Your smile should look natural, and the gap should not be exaggerated or covered by your lips. Follow your country’s guidelines on smiling in passport photos.
Can I smile with my eyes closed in a passport photo?
No, you should keep your eyes open in a passport photo. Your face should be fully visible, and your eyes should not be covered by hair, glasses, or closed. Follow your country’s guidelines to ensure your photo is accepted.
Can I take a passport photo with a natural smile or do I need to force a smile?
You can take a passport photo with a natural smile as long as it meets your country’s guidelines. Avoid forcing a smile, as it can look unnatural and distort your features. Follow your country’s requirements for smiling in passport photos.