Can You Smile in Passport Photos?

Smiling in passport photos.
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Smile for a passport photo or not to smile? That is the question.

And we’ve got the answer!

Whether you’re simply curious or looking to avoid another bad photo in your travel document, we’re here to help. Read this article from the start to find out how much of a smile you can crack in official ID photos, or jump to a specific section:

Looking for more passport-related articles? Check out these:

How much CAN you smile in a passport photo?

The US is one of the countries that didn’t entirely ban smiling in passport photos. They did, however, adjust their rules. Since 2004, applicants are no longer allowed to show teeth in their passport photos—but a gentle smile (with your eyes open and mouth closed) is perfectly acceptable. 

So how should you smile for passport photos to avoid them being rejected?

Here’s what not to do:

❌ Smile broadly, lifting the corners of your eyes

❌ Open your mouth so that your teeth are visible

❌ Smirk or grin

To better visualize how you can smile in a passport photo, look at the examples below!

Acceptable & Unacceptable Smiles in Passport Photos

Smiles in passport photos—acceptable and unacceptable examples.

Did you know? Back in the day, smiling in passport photos wasn’t the most unusual thing people were allowed to do! Read a brief history of passport photos in this article.

Not sure if your smile is acceptable? No need to keep guessing! Our biometric photo experts will verify your image against this and all the remaining US passport photo guidelines—all you need to do is upload a photo!

A photo uploaded to Passport Photo Online’s web app via an internet browser on a laptop and turned into a compliant passport photograph in 3 seconds.

Passport photo smile—rules for children

When it comes to children, the US Department of State fully understands that telling your child to hold still and keep a “neutral facial expression” may be challenging, especially with younger kids. 

For this reason, children are allowed to smile in passport photos, too—as long as their facial expression is natural, i.e., facing the camera with their eyes open. See the examples below!

Pro tip: Taking your baby to a professional photographer may turn into a stressful event. Instead, take your child’s picture at home with a reliable baby passport photo app! No need to rush, take as many photos as you need without any hassle.

Examples of Acceptable Passport Photos With Children Smiling

Children smiling in passport photos—examples.

Smiling in passport photos: Why are open-mouth smiles banned?

Not every smile will get a green light from a passport agent. But why? 

The reason for banning open-mouth smiles isn’t the authorities trying to make us all look unflattering. It’s because of advancing technology and biometry. 

Biometric passport photos (or those for other official documents) serve a specific purpose—that of capturing one’s unique facial features. Such features include the distance between your eyes, nose and mouth, and many other points unique to every individual. Now—

When you smile, those features change, making it difficult for facial recognition software to compare your passport photo to your face, for example, at a border control checkpoint using such technology.

To save yourself the trouble during your travels, opt for a natural smile or drop it completely! You can still avoid ending up with an ugly passport photo by following our many tips.


Can you smile in a US passport photo?

According to government officials, smiling in passport photos is acceptable. However, you can only do so with your mouth closed and eyes fully open.

Can you smile with your teeth in a passport photo?

No, you can’t. Passport agents won’t accept a photo with a smile showing teeth. 

How much of a smile is allowed in a passport photo?

A gentle smile with your mouth closed, eyes fully open, and no teeth visible is acceptable for passport photos. Children are allowed to have a broader smile, although the general rules (open eyes) are still to be followed. 

Why can’t you smile in passport photos anymore?

While the US lets passport applicants smile gently in photos, most countries don’t. The reason behind it is the use of biometric technology and facial recognition software that scans passport holders’ photos. Smiling, as it changes your biometric features, may result in the system not recognizing you as the person in the picture.

Passport photo smile: recap

If you’re about to get a new photograph for your passport application, one thing is certain: you need to ensure your photo meets all passport photo rules. Smiling in biometric passport photos is allowed, however:

  • Your eyes must be fully visible
  • You must keep your mouth closed
  • You can’t smile with your teeth

To avoid issues, it’s best to either keep a neutral expression (no smile at all) or opt for a gentle, natural smile. Not sure which version will look better? Test them out!

Use our Passport Photo Booth App for iOS or Passport Photo Maker App for Android and take as many pictures as you want until you snap the perfect passport photo! Our advanced face recognition software and biometric photo experts will ensure your image will be accepted by passport authorities.

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