Can You Smile in a Passport Photo?

A young girl smiling and a text that says "Can you smile in a passport photo?"

Before getting to the heart of the matter, we would like to say something about facial recognition and biometric passport photos.

The main point of biometric photography is to facilitate facial recognition. This kind of software compares the data from your passport photo with a scan of your facial features at the airport, on the basis of precise measurements of your appearance.

Smiling can make it harder for facial recognition software and port officials to confirm your identity, especially if you show your teeth. Only the United States currently allows smiles on passport photos, even with teeth showing. Obviously, only a natural smile is acceptable, silly faces and forced smiles are off the table. 

Biometric passport photos and facial recognition

For humans, facial recognition is an automatic, unconscious process. However, software needs to examine all features separately, making it a much more complex action. Machines need to compare a 2-D image with a 3-D face. They can only do it by analyzing features from an image. For this reason, high precision equipment in airports, metro, and train stations (like in Osaka, Japan), hospitals, and many other high-traffic areas take detailed measurements of people’s facial features – width of the eyes and the mouth, the distance between them, etc.

To make this whole process easier, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) imposes specific rules on biometric passports. Today, all passports are biometric and they contain a chip storing all the information the software needs. This is why the ICAO requirements are now the standard for issuing passports.

Smiling in passport photos – children

As you now know, except for the USA, most countries require adults to have a neutral expression on their passport photos. What about children, though?

Because it’s not generally easy to convince children, babies, in particular, to maintain a neutral expression, they are allowed to smile. It can’t be an exaggerated smile that distorts the features, but, usually, it’s enough for children to keep their eyes open and face the camera for the passport photo to be accepted. It would of course be better if your baby didn’t smile, but government officials do understand that it’s not possible to convince children to keep a straight face, so they are quite tolerant.

Smiling in passport photos in different countries

Not all countries mean the same thing when saying “natural smile”. While most official requirements around the world allow a barely hinted smile, some countries have no leniency on the matter. For instance, the French Government forbids any kind of smiling in passport photos, even the smallest hint. Since 2014, no smiles are allowed on ID or passports issued by France.

The U.K., Canada, and Australia require applicants to maintain a completely neutral expression since their facial recognition software might have problems identifying a smiling face.

In any case, a neutral expression is the preference of most countries around the world. To avoid any issues abroad, even in the United States, applicants are advised to avoid smiles in passport photos.

PhotoAid – take your own passport pictures

PhotoAid is a passport photo editor that can help you obtain professional photos for your passport, visas, and many other official documents from all over the world.

PhotoAiD’s artificial intelligence is based on the same software and algorithms used for facial recognition. Thanks to this feature, you can take photos for your documents from the comfort of your home.

You can pick the best place to take the pictures, and try different combinations. You only pay for the picture you choose, so you have all the tries you need.

Smiling in passport photos – closing thoughts

Passport photos will stay with us for 10 (ten) years and we have to show them to customs officials, flight attendants, and many more people. So, wanting to look the best we can is perfectly understandable. In most countries, a smile on a passport photo will not be accepted, however, in some parts of the world (like the USA) it is allowed.

Even if they require you to maintain a neutral expression, by using PhotoAiD you can take your time and get a picture you’ll be proud of.

Smiling in passport photos-FAQ

Can you smile and show your teeth in a passport photo?

Most countries around the world don’t allow you to smile or show your teeth in a passport photo. However, it is accepted in the United States.

Can you smile for Indian passport photos?

No, Indian authorities require you to maintain a neutral expression when taking a passport photo.

How much can you smile in passport photos?

Smiles are generally not allowed in biometric photos. You don’t need to have a serious expression, though, a neutral one will do. Only the USA allows natural smiles, even with teeth showing, in passport photos.

Can you smile in South Korean passport photos?

No, you can’t smile in a South Korean passport photo. Please, maintain a neutral facial expression.

Can you smile in U.S. passport photos?

Yes, a natural smile, even showing the teeth a little, is acceptable for a U.S. passport photo, without distorting the facial features.