US Passport Photo Requirements

Published by Travel Visa Pro on Tue Nov 13 2018

Taking a passport photo sounds like it should be simple, right? Just avoid wearing a white shirt, smile for the camera, and send in the print with your application?

That’s not always the case. In addition to a number of requirements concerning clothing and eyewear, the US Department of State has rules governing facial expressions that can be used in passport photos and the type of pictures you need for children. Let’s look over some of the US passport photo requirements.


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If you’re wondering whether or not you’re allowed to smile for your passport photo, the answer is that it depends. Only a slight, natural smile is acceptable in a passport photo, and neutral expressions are actually preferred. You won’t be able to show your teeth when you smile.


Hats and hoods should be removed when taking passport photos, with the exception of headwear that is worn for medical or religious purposes. A signed statement from your doctor should be included with passport photos that include medical headgear, while photos with the applicant wearing religious attire should be submitted alongside a statement verifying that the headwear is customarily worn in public as part of a recognized religion. Regardless of the type of legal headwear in your photo, it must not cast shadows or obscure your face in any way.

Eye contact

All applicants must face the camera directly with their entire face visible, not obstructed by hair or clothing – both eyes should be completely open. It’s acceptable for infants to have their eyes partially or completely closed in their photos, but older children and adults may not have their eyes closed unless there are medical reasons for doing so.

In addition to your eyes being completely open, they must also be completely visible. You may not wear any glasses, including sunglasses, tinted glasses, and prescription glasses.


No uniforms of any kind – this includes members of the US military, or something as innocuous as a janitorial jumpsuit – may be worn in passport photos. It’s also important to note that camouflage print of any kind is grounds for your photo being rejected. Your clothing should be the same as that you would wear on an average day.

Facial hair

If you’re wondering about natural changes like a marked difference in your appearance due to aging (part of the reason passports are renewed every ten years), or something like a new beard, don’t fret; a few wrinkles or longer hair isn’t necessary to update your passport photo, and full ZZ Top beards can be used in photos, though government officials would prefer the entirety of it remain in the picture.

Minor body modifications including dyed hair, piercings, or neck tattoos are no problem either. You will only need to apply for a new passport if you’ve grown to look completely different or have had significant plastic surgery or tattoos placed on your face.

People with disabilities

Not all passport applicants are the same, and while some of the aforementioned requirements may seem straightforward, they may not always be easy for some.

For instance, what if you’re confined to a wheelchair? One solution is to take a white pillowcase and place it over the back of the chair to still achieve a white background in the photo.

What if you have to wear a hearing aid?  Such devices are allowed in passport photos with a note from your doctor, while headphones or any technology not related to a medical condition are not.

Passport photos of babies

Generally, the other requirements are moot when it comes to babies and infants. Though it’s still necessary to get a photo in front of a white or off-white background, parents know it can be difficult to get their child perfectly positioned with the face centered and the eyes open. There is no specific age at which these requirements are rigorously enforced, but newborns and particularly young children do not have to have their eyes open.

Do you have any questions about US passport photo requirements? Leave them in the comments!

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