Are you planning to take a photo for your US passport? You need to know what to avoid so that the State Department does not reject your application. Check what you can and cannot wear so that your photo meets all the formal requirements.
Taking the American passport photo correctly is important for at least 2 reasons. First of all, it will increase your chance of having your application accepted. Secondly, having a nice passport photo is a reason to be happy, especially since you will have to look at it for the next 10 years, because that is how long American passports are issued for.
You will be happier to take a nice and properly taken passport picture with you on your trips around the world. As long as you follow the State Department’s guidelines (the department responsible for issuing passports), you will have a wonderful passport picture.
In today’s blog, we explain what to wear and what not to wear when taking your American passport picture so that your passport application is not refused.
American passport photo – guidelines
When applying for an US passport, you must attach one passport photo in your application, printed on photographic paper. The photo must be in color and taken not earlier than within the last 6 months. You cannot put any filters on the photo so that the picture is as “clean” as possible and reflects your natural look. Moreover, the photo for an American passport must have a white, clean background without any decorations or shadows.
If you are not sure if your photo meets these requirements, use a special program that removes the background from photos.
Can the passport photo be a selfie? On the US State Department’s website, it states that your photo should not be a selfie. However, it is really just about keeping the right facial proportions on the picture, which is something that the selfie does not fulfill.
To take the photo correctly, you can always ask someone from your family to take a picture of you with your own smartphone. There are online programs that allow you to take the correct picture for your passport yourself. For example, the Passport Photo Online app instructs the user how to and where to hold the phone while taking a photo for your documents.
After uploading it to the server, it verifies how in-line the photo is with the US State Department photo guidelines. If the photo meets the requirements, the application removes the background and sends back the finished photo.
Looking for more tips to get that perfect passport photo? Try reading our other articles:
- What to Wear in a Passport Photo [And Get It Accepted]?
- Can You Wear Glasses in Passport Photos? [Visual Examples Included]
- Can a Baby Wear a Bow in a Passport Photo? – A Definitive Answer
- Passport Photo Size in the US [Template & Guide]
- Best Mobile Apps for 2×2 Passport Photos [Free & Paid]
- Passport Photo Hair: Tips & Requirements
- How to Resize a Photo to a Passport Size: Tools, Tips, and Examples
What should I wear for the passport photo?
Let’s move on to the question of clothing. It seems to be irrelevant, but it is not. On the contrary! The reason it is important is not only that, when you choose the wrong articles of clothing, you will have to look at the hated image for a decade. The point is that everything you wear from the waist upwards may have an impact as to whether your passport application will be rejected or not.
What should I wear then? Above all, the clothes and accessories you decide to wear should be tidy. There are no special guidelines concerning the color or style of the clothes you should wear for your US passport photo. In fact, the State Department officials do not care if you are in casual sportswear or boho.
There is also no requirement to wear a suit or special formal clothing when taking a photo for an American passport. However, you should avoid plunging necklines and sleeveless shirts because the frame makes the person in the photo look as if they were naked. Therefore, it is best to wear a blouse with a collar or high neckline at the neck.
Additionally, we recommend putting something on that is not black or white, but a different colour. Why is that? It is because a white blouse can merge with the white background and cause what is called a “flying head” effect. A black item of clothing can also disturb the way the passport photo looks.
What not to wear when taking an American passport photo?
In comparison to the can-wear list, the list of accessories and jewelry that should not be worn when taking your American passport photos is much longer. Any photo that contains one or more elements from this list will most likely be rejected by the government official verifying the application.
If you want to avoid having to reapply and double the cost of taking a photo, check out this list below which details exactly what not to wear when taking an American passport photo.
Take off your glasses for the picture. It does not matter whether the glasses are corrective or not (like sunglasses for example). As highlighted in the requirements published on a special subpage of the State Department’s website the face must be completely visible and unobstructed. All this is done in order to be able to quickly and flawlessly identify the person visible in the photograph.
When posing for a photograph, you must not wear any uniform. This applies to all types of uniforms – military, aviation, scouting, police, medical etc. You have to wear daily and neutral clothes.
The issue of head covering is quite controversial because it is often a religious symbol. The State Department generally forbids wearing head covering in a photo, but there are exceptions. It is allowed to stay in a yarmulke or a hijab as long as the applicant wears it on a daily basis and has written reasons. What is important, however, is that the exemption does not include head covering that completely obscures the face (e.g. nikab, chador or burqa).
For the photo to be accepted, you must meet some passport photo guidelines regarding hairstyle. First and foremost, make sure that your hair does not obscure your face. If you have a very long fringe covering your eyebrows, you should pull it back and pin it up. If your hair is loose, it shouldn’t be around your cheeks – it is best to put it behind your ears. There is no requirement stating that your ears must be visible, but the requirements do state that your face must be fully exposed.
Hair bands and other accessories
You need to take off all hair accessories such as hair bands, hair clips, hair pins, bows etc. You should not wear any scarves, shawls or velvets.
Makeup in US passport photos is allowed, but you should avoid using heavy cosmetics. It is better not to use a strong red lipstick or to highlight the eyes with a thick layer of black crayon. You can, however, put on gentle make-up that you do daily.
What can I wear for a US passport photo?
Apart from the above mentioned head covering, you can also wear piercings in the passport photo. There are no explicit rules concerning the removal of small earrings from eyebrows, ears, nose, lips etc. However, the photo may be rejected if you wear large hanging earrings. Generally, you should avoid large jewelry that could cover part of your face.
US passport photos for children and adults
Are there separate regulations governing what correct US child and adult passport photos should look like? Generally no. The above mentioned accessories should also be removed when taking a child’s passport photo.
However, there are other restrictions that may be more difficult for small children to keep. For example, an infant should not be smiling. Parents must ensure that the toddler has as neutral a face as possible. Moreover, if it is necessary to keep the child’s face still, it is best to grab their shirt from the back using your fingers and make sure that no part of the parent’s hand or face is visible.
As you can see, preparing your clothing for the American passport is not a difficult task. Tidy, clean and slightly conservative clothing will be the best choice, increasing the chance of acceptance. Moreover, if you remember to remove your accessories and don’t get too mad with your hairstyle, you are almost 100% sure that the photo will meet the guidelines and the chance of its acceptance by the US State Department will be much higher.
Karolina’s passion for law, technology and photography led her to PhotoAiD S.A., where for the past 3 years she has been an expert in the implementation of passport photo compliance procedures in +80 countries around the world.