Passport Photo Requirements: Complete Checklist for US Pics

Passport Photo Requirements: Complete Checklist for US Pics
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In 2022, the US Department of State issued nearly 22 million US passports (that’s including 3.36 million US passport cards).

That’s the equivalent to roughly the entire population of Australia receiving a new passport in one year! Think of all the passport photos and applications US agents had to approve…Incredible.

If you’re considering getting a new passport in 2023 and want to ensure your picture meets all US passport photo requirements, you’ve scrolled to the right place.

In this blog post, you’ll learn

Passport photo guidelines checklist

After hours of research and countless sleepless nights, PhotoAiD® proudly presents the ultimate passport photo guidelines checklist. Be sure to read through each section carefully before submitting your passport photo to US agents.

✅Attire

Passport photo requirements for clothing allow users a lot of freedom in choosing their attire for passport pictures. Uniforms of any kind are not allowed, nor are individuals permitted to wear clothing that resembles a uniform or camouflage-style military attire.

It’s best to wear everyday clothes such as a shirt, t-shirt, or v-neck that does not obstruct any part of the face. For example, wearing a hoodie with the hood up or a rolled-up turtleneck sweater is not permitted.

✅Background

US passport photos have very strict requirements concerning the background portion of the photo. Passport photo backgrounds may only be white or off-white and cannot display any shadows, textures, lines, or objects. Individuals wishing to DIY their passport photos should use an accredited background removal tool.

✅Glasses

Glasses (of any type) are not permitted* in US passport photos and must be removed prior to snapping your picture–this includes corrective eyewear.

*US citizens who wear glasses worn for significant medical reasons that are supported by a signed doctor’s statement can keep them for a passport photo.

✅Smile

The US is one of the few countries worldwide where smiling in passport photos is permitted. However, there are some rules as to what is allowed: full-blown “toothy” smiles are out of the question, but closed-mouth smiles are okay (it’s even possible for some teeth to be visible as long as the mouth is not open).

✅Makeup

Passport photo requirements for makeup are very liberal; however, there are a few things individuals should avoid. Certainly, any type of makeup that will make the person look shiny or reflect excessive light in a flash photo is not allowed. Using natural-looking makeup or avoiding it altogether is best if you seldom wear it daily.

✅Hair

When it comes to passport photo hair requirements (on your head or on your face), individuals have a lot to consider. For example, is a Santa-style beard permitted? What about bangs? Can a toupee be worn in your snap? All of these questions can be answered in one sentence: if it obstructs or casts a shadow on the face, it’s not permitted.

Thus, beards (of all shapes and sizes) are fine, and bangs are also permitted if they don’t cover the eyes or eyebrows. No passport photo requirement exists that mandates placing one’s hair behind one’s ears; however, hair should be neatly organized (e.g., in a ponytail), and no part of the head or hair can be cut off in the passport picture.

Passport photo requirements for hair showing acceptable bangs and examples of non-compliant hairstyles.

✅Earrings and other jewelry

According to the Department of State, earrings and jewelry are acceptable if they don’t hide the face. As such, facial piercings, earrings, and necklaces can be present in passport photos—the same goes for permanent tattoos on the face, neck, chest, or shoulders.

✅Shadow and lighting

Visible shadows are not permitted in US passport photos. This includes shadows on the face, in the background, or anywhere else in the photo (except for the ears). Lighting should be even in order to prevent shadows from appearing.

✅Head covers

US passport photo requirements for covering one’s head are clear: head coverings are only permitted for religious or medical reasons (a signed statement from the relevant authority must be included) and cannot obstruct or cast a shadow on any part of the face. Non-religious scarves (e.g., around the head or neck) are not permitted.

✅Shoulders

Both shoulders do not have to be visible; however, subjects should face the camera head-on with their face, neck, and chest centered in the picture. Shoulders can be covered or uncovered.

✅Ears

Passport photo requirements state that ears do not have to be visible in the photo. They can be covered by the subject’s hair or have the individual’s hair tucked behind them–dealer’s choice. As mentioned in the section about jewelry, earrings are permitted.

✅Technical specifications

Each US passport photo must meet specific technical requirements. These include:

  • The photo must be in color; black and white photos are not accepted.
  • size: 2” x 2” or 51mm by 51 mm;
  • pixels: 600 x 600 px minimum;
  • head: centered and facing the camera; between 1 and 1 3/8” (25-35mm);
  • format: .JPEG format only;
  • minimum size for digital photos: 54kB
  • cropping: head, neck, and top of the chest must be visible with sufficient space between the top of the head and the top border of the photo.
  • time: the photo must have been taken within the last 6 (six) months.

✅Pose

Current US guidelines state that subjects should pose with a neutral expression. The features should be relaxed with eyes open and mouth closed (the best way to reach the desired effect when posing is to pretend to be a little bored). Smiling is also permitted, as noted in the relevant section.

✅Quality

Very specific guidelines exist in regard to the quality of photos submitted for US passport applications and renewals. For example, damaged, punctured, creased, or smudged photos will result in rejection due to non-compliance with photo quality standards.

✅Paper requirements


So you’ve scored the perfect shot and are now ready to print your passport photos. What about paper requirements for passport photos? Should applicants select matte or glossy photo paper? Both types are acceptable as long as high-quality photo paper is used.

Renewing passport photo requirements

All of the requirements mentioned in the preceding section must also be followed for US passport renewals—be they traditional renewals by mail or recently introduced online passport renewals. In the following section, let’s have a look at each renewal method and some additional guidelines that must be followed.

Renew by mail: passport photo requirements

For US passport renewals by mail, 1 (one) 2×2” physical passport photo (adhering to all requirements) must be attached to Form DS-82.

The passport photo must be attached with 4 (four) staples rather than glue or any other kind of adhesive substance (e.g., scotch tape, wax, sticky tack, etc.).

No bends, folds, or creases of any kind can be present in the passport photo after attachment to the form.

Detailed visual instructions regarding the location and method a passport photo must be attached to Form DS-82.

Renew online: passport photo guidelines

The recently-introduced online renewal system has its own special set of guidelines users must follow during the renewal process. As part of the process, applicants must upload a compliant passport photo to their MyTravelGov account. Additionally:

  • The photo must be in .JPEG format. 
  • Applicants cannot submit scans of physical photos.
  • Taking a picture of a printed photo and submitting the digital version is not acceptable. 

The MyTravelGov tool will then crop the photo to the appropriate size (if necessary), perform an initial quality check (to see if said photo complies with all requirements), and either “accept” or “reject” the photo.

If the photo gets rejected, an error code will be generated. Detailed explanations of error codes can be found on the travel.state.gov website.

Baby passport photo requirements

The youngest US citizens (i.e., babies, infants, and toddlers) have their own special guidelines regarding passport photos. The major differences include the following:

  • Newborns and infants may have their eyes partially open or closed and can open their mouths in their passport photos.
  • The infant’s tongue can be visible but should not be explicitly sticking out; no pacifiers or outside objects (that may potentially obscure the newborn’s face) are permitted.
  • The hands and arms can be present in the photo, provided they are not covering the face and are below the shoulders.

Furthermore, only the child may be present in the photo (other people cannot be seen holding them up), and they must be facing the camera in the picture.

Children old enough to understand and follow directions (e.g., most toddlers) should adhere to the standard guidelines set out for adults (i.e., a neutral expression or slight smile with both eyes open).

Meet all passport photo requirements with PhotoAiD®

What if there was a way to tick every passport photo requirement without getting off the couch? What if this method was cheaper than getting passport photos done at national pharmacy chains such as CVS (read more about CVS passport photos) and Walgreens and came with a money-back guarantee?  

With PhotoAiD’s dedicated apps on Android and iOS devices, users get a professional passport photo guidelines checker and photo studio right in their pockets. Once downloaded, users can snap as many photos as they like, and the application will ensure all final photos meet every requirement set out by the Department of State.

Similarly, users can upload existing photos to the application and have them instantly turned into government-compliant passport photos—all backed by our 100% compliance or double your money back guarantee!

But don’t just take our word for it; with over 1,200 reviews and an average 4.6⭐rating on Trustpilot, our customers clearly feel the same way.

FAQ

Still looking for more information about US passport photo requirements? Read through the following questions and answers for more information on this topic.

What size are passport photos?

US passport photos are 2×2 inches in size.

How many photos must be submitted for a US passport?

Only 1 (one) passport photo must be submitted for new US passport applications or passport renewals. Said photo must comply with all US Department of State guidelines.

Should passport photos be glossy or matte?

US passport photos should be printed on high-quality photo paper that is either glossy or matte.

What size is a passport photo in pixels?

US passport photos must have a minimum resolution of 600 by 600 pixels.

What are passport photo requirements for hair?

For US passport photos, an applicant’s hair cannot obstruct or cast a shadow on any part of the face. Long bangs that cover the subject’s eyebrows or eyes are not permitted. To minimize the chance of non-compliance, it’s best to tie long hair back in a ponytail; the hair tie (or any hair accessory) cannot be visible in the picture.

What are US passport photo printing requirements?

Passport photos must be printed on matte or glossy photo paper with a minimum paper weight of 200 grams per square meter (GSM). The photo must be 2×2 inches, with the subject’s head measuring between 1” and 1 ⅜” in size.

What are US passport photo size requirements in mm?

US passport photos are required to measure 51 by 51 millimeters (mm).

What are US passport photo requirements for teeth?

A toothy or wide-grinned smile is not permitted in US passport photos. However, individuals can show a little teeth in their smile as long as the mouth remains closed. Nevertheless, it’s best to stick to a neutral (bored) expression in your US passport photo to maximize the chances of acceptance.

Are US passport photo requirements the same as citizenship photo requirements?

Yes, they are the same. The only major difference is that UCIS requires 2 (two) 2×2” photos to be submitted, while US passports only require 1 (one) 2 by 2-inch photo to be submitted with each application.

My US passport photo does not meet the requirementswhat now?

Are you trying to upload a photo for a US online passport renewal? Did you receive an error code? Visit the travel.state.gov website for detailed explanations of common error codes. Alternatively, get a passport photo that’s guaranteed to be accepted with PhotoAiD®.

What are US passport photo requirements for PNG files?

PNG files cannot be submitted for US online passport renewals as JPEGs are the only accepted format for image files. Photographers working with PNG files must therefore convert them to the .JPEG file format.

What are US passport photo requirements for eyebrows?

Eyebrows must be visible and cannot be covered (even partially) in US passport photos. Facial piercings, such as eyebrow rings, are permitted.

Can you wear a turtleneck for a passport photo?

Turtlenecks are not recommended for a passport photo. The applicant’s face and neck must be visible, and this piece of clothing can obscure part of them. It’s better to opt for a simple shirt or even a T-shirt.

Can I tape a passport photo to the application?

No, taping or gluing your passport photo to the application form is strictly forbidden. Applicants must staple their passport photos in 4 (four) places.

Can you smile in a passport photo?

Yes, smiling in a passport photo is allowed. However, be careful and do not open your mouth or show a wide, toothy smile. Go with a natural, gentle expression.

Closing thoughts

There are a lot of passport photo guidelines applicants must follow when submitting their passport applications. Besides adhering to technical specifications (e.g., 2×2”, 600 x 600 pixels, etc.), there are more nuanced guidelines that some applicants may find confusing. For example, when are bangs considered too long? Or when is a smile too much?

One surefire way to take the guesswork out of passport photos is to use a trusted service like PhotoAiD®. Since all of our photos are double-checked to ensure compliance with all government regulations, you can rest easy knowing your photos are guaranteed to be approved (or double your money back).

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