Passport Photo Rejected—Now What?

Passport Photo Rejected–Now What?
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You want to travel internationally soon, so you apply for a new U.S. passport.  The application is filled out, the supporting documents are all there, and the appropriate fees have been paid. Now, all that’s left is to wait the necessary 8 (eight) to 11 (eleven) weeks for the new passport to arrive.

You wait patiently for several weeks, only to receive a letter from the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) informing you that your passport application is “on hold” due to non-compliant passport photos. You’ve never heard of a passport application being rejected before; what can you do now?

Keep reading to find all the information U.S. citizens need about resubmitting government-compliant passport photos and what you can do to avoid having your passport photo rejected.

Rejected passport photo—common mistakes

You might be tempted to show your beautiful smile, dim the lighting, or pose as you would for your social media profile pictures, as we associate these details with amazing photos. Unfortunately, this mentality does not apply to passport photos.

If you want your passport photos to be accepted by the relevant authorities, you must follow the State Department’s official requirements. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common mistakes applicants make when taking passport photos.

Hair, clothes and accessories

There is no specification on what you should wear for your clothes, but you definitely can’t wear uniforms or camouflage patterns.

As for the accessories, you can’t wear some that might cover your face; they have to be discreet (including face piercings). Glasses are not accepted in passport photos. As for hats, caps, headbands, etc., they are prohibited. Suppose you wear a headcover such as a hijab, yarmulke, or turban for religious, cultural, or medical reasons. You will need to provide a signed statement to wear it. 

Lastly, hair should fit the frame and not obstruct the visibility of your face. It’s preferable to tie your hair if necessary and make sure it doesn’t cover your face. 


The position is crucial for your passport photo to be accepted. You have to sit (or stand) straight and look directly at the camera. You can’t tilt your head, and your face has to be in the center of the picture, taking about 50 to 69% of the image’s height. Smiling is prohibited; your expression has to be neutral. 

Light and background 

The exposure to your photo needs to be optimal. Your face shouldn’t be over-lit or under-lit, not letting any disrupting shadows appear. Natural light is best for a passport photo, and because natural is best, do not use any filter that could tamper with the photo’s colors. 

As for the background, it should be a uniform, plain white background. The background should feature no objects, patterns, or people for a passport photo. 

Passport Photo Shadows: U.S. Regulations Explained

Size and dimensions 

U.S. passport photos should be 2” x 2” in size, and the face should take about 1” to 1 ⅜” of space from the top of your head to the tip of the chin, leaving the remaining space on the upper and side edges of the photo.

To avoid your application being rejected a second time or turned down completely, you should follow all of the above requirements when taking your passport photos.

To do so, you can take passport photos at a professional studio or ask for help from a passport agency (especially for infant or child passport photos), but the cost will be higher. Post offices can also often take passport photos for $15, but you’ll have to make an appointment beforehand. Additionally, local drug stores sometimes provide passport photo services.

Finally, you can avoid costly or inconvenient solutions by taking your own passport photos with the help of online photo apps.

Rejected passport photos: can I retake them?

If your passport application was rejected because your passport photos did not comply with government regulations, you must resubmit new photos within the next 90 days. Failure to do so within the given time period will result in forfeiture of the application, and you will have to reapply (and re-pay the fees) to get a new U.S. passport. 

PhotoAiD®—rejected passport photos won’t happen again 

Never have any passport photo rejected again by using the passport photo editor tool available on our website or by downloading the PhotoAiD® app. Send your photo, and our A.I. technology will evaluate photo quality and suitability for use as a passport photo.

Once your best photo is sent and evaluated, the image will be modified to fit the official U.S. requirements for passport photos. Our tool will resize, reframe and even replace the background, and we guarantee you will receive quality prints that will definitely be accepted on your passport application.

You can save time by receiving the JPEG format via email, then getting your photos printed at your local drugstore.

We also guarantee that if the passport office does not accept your passport photos, we’ll provide you with a full 200% refund.


Passport applications can sometimes be harder than you think, and you should make sure to follow the requirements, so images don’t get rejected. To save time and money, apply properly for your passport and make sure to take the best passport photo you can.

Finally, don’t sweat if your initial passport application gets rejected due to a non-compliant photo. You have 90 (ninety) days to resubmit an appropriate passport photo that meets the State Department’s regulations.


Read through the following questions carefully, they just might have the answers you seek.

Can a scout uniform be worn on a passport photo?

Uniforms are strictly prohibited on passport photos. Any uniform, including a scout uniform, will cause your passport application to be rejected. 

Can I wear my eyepatch on my passport photo?

An eyepatch will have to be removed if worn for esthetic reasons and can be removed. But if for medical reasons, you have to wear it at all times, then you’ll be able to wear it on your passport photo. Just make sure to provide a letter from your doctor. 

Do I need to shave off my beard?

Shaving your beard is unnecessary, and it might even be better not to if you usually wear one. The passport photo must reflect your appearance as well as possible. However, it might be better to have your beard well cut so it won’t obstruct the visibility of your face.

Baby passport photo rejected—what now?

Submit a new baby passport photo within the 90-day time period. It often helps to cover a car seat in a plain white or off-white sheet, then place your baby in the car seat and snap the passport photo (the baby doesn’t have to be awake, but their face cannot be obstructed in any way).

What happens if my passport photo is rejected?

You will have a maximum of 90 (ninety) days to submit new passport photos that comply with the requirements set out by the State Department.

Do I have to pay again if my passport photo is rejected?

The necessity for additional payment depends on where you took your initial passport photos. Most professional studios will provide users with free passport photos if they provide sufficient proof their photos (which were provided by the studio) were rejected by passport agents. 

Post office passport photo rejected—now what?

You will need to submit new passport photos within the 90-day time period. It may be possible to receive new passport photos free of charge or to get a full refund if you provide the post office with the original receipt for the photos.

Child passport photo rejected—what can be done?

Submit new passport photos within 90 days of notification. Children must directly face the camera, have a neutral expression, and have their eyes open in their passport photos. Infants can have their eyes partially open or closed.

Online passport renewal photo rejectedwhat now?

You will need to submit a new digital passport photo that satisfies all government regulations. The online photo tool will provide you with a basic explanation justifying the photo’s rejection. More detailed explanations are available on the U.S. government’s website.

Will my passport photo be rejected if I smile?

It depends on your definition of a smile. The U.S. government formally states that passport photos should show the applicant with a neutral expression or a natural smile. It is best to stick to a neutral expression as a “natural smile” can be open to interpretation.

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