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Photo Requirements


Your passport photo will be a part of your life for ten years, so you may as well try to make it a good one. Now your passport photo is quite different from your drivers license photo. For starters, you have more control over your passport photo. You won’t be waiting ins long, sweaty line of unhappy people only to get your photo snapped at the moment you least expect it. No, with a passport photo, you have a bit more control. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has tighter restrictions on what is permissible for a passport photo. Nevertheless, you can take your own passport photo in the comfort of your own home!

While the U.S. State Department recommends having a professional passport photo service take your photo, they do provide their specific requirements in the event you want to take matters into your own hands. Digital photography is acceptable, but no digital enhancements are allowed. Also, your photo will be rejected if you submit a lo-fi image, anything photoshopped or instagrammed, and absolutely no selfies.


In order to apply for a passport, you must provide one acceptable passport photo that fits all the requirements listed below:

  • In color. Black and white photos will be rejected.
  • Do not digitally enhance the photo. Not at all!
  • Printed on photo quality paper, matte or glossy
  • Exactly 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
  • Sized so that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. You may view the U.S. State Departments Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open. No squinting, smiles, or funny faces allowed. Also, no duckfaces or selfies here.
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis:
    • Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.
    • Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
    • Headphones, wireless hands-free devices or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.
    • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device or similar articles, they may be worn for your photo.
    • Dark glasses or non-prescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)
    • Glare on glasses is not acceptable in your photo. Glare can be avoided with a slight downward tilt of the glasses or by removing the glasses or by turning off the camera flash.

If you’re still confused on what is acceptable, you can refer to the U.S. State Departments page of acceptable and unacceptable passport photos.

Photos for a Child’s Passport

So what about the photo for a child’s passport? Well only the child can be in the photo. Nothing can be used to support the child, including the arms or hands of the parent holding the child. Also, the child’s eyes must be opened and looking straight at the camera. For infants, you can lay the baby on a white sheet, or perhaps even better, in a car seat that is covered by a white sheet. This will provide head support and keep the image free of anyone else.

Passport Photo Updates

The normal aging process is to be expected once you have your passport, but the photo submitted must be current. If your appearance has changed drastically since you’ve received your passport, then it may not be accepted at border crossings. Additionally, if your appearance has changed significantly due to new facial tattoos or piercingly, then you should apply for a new passport. Other reasons may include facial surgery or trauma, significant weight loss or gain, or you’ve made a gender transition. Simply growing a beard or changing your hair color is not reason enough to warrant a new passport to be issued.

So now you can control which photo will represent you for the next ten years. There’s no reason to hate your passport photo nowadays. Just remember to follow the U.S. State Department’s guidelines and you’ll be looking dapper in your new passport in no time!

Traveling in the next 30 days, 14 days or 24 hours? Passport Study Abroad partnered with Fastport Passport, works with the federal government to expedite your passport. Send them the necessary vital documents and they take care of the rest.