The US state department's passport and photo requirements are very strict and quite specific to the point. If your passport photo doesn't meet those requirements, it will be rejected straightaway. If your passport photo has been rejected for one reason or another, you should introspect the reasons and get it fixed as soon as possible. Afterall, you've only 90 days to re-apply.
If you haven’t applied for a passport yet and are just wondering what are the top 5 things that can get your passport photo rejected, this article may serve as a handy guide. You can avoid the most common mistakes and get compliance-ready photos.
What happens if your passport photo is rejected?
It depends. If your photo is the only element that doesn't meet the criteria, it is highly likely that your passport application will be put on hold and you will receive a letter by mail at your residence informing you about the decision and the reasons for rejection. You will get a grace period of 90 days to re-submit a new photo that meets the requirements. If you fail to re-submit a new photo within the stipulated time, you will need to re-apply again from scratch with a new application form. You will also be charged again.
If there are other elements apart from your photo that don't meet the passport guidelines, you may be asked to re-submit a new photo alongside other documentation, proofs or explanations that may be required. Again, the exact reason for rejection and the applicable instructions will be sent to you by mail at your home address.
Here are the 5 things that can get your passport photo rejected:
1. Outdated & Wrong Sized Photo
Your photo must be recent and up-to-date (preferably taken within the past three to six months period). If your photo is older than six months, it may be rejected. The accepted photo size is only 2*2 inches. Your photo must be printed on high-quality glossy paper.
2. Photos taken with Glasses, Uniforms, Unacceptable Dressing & Head Coverings
If you apply for a US passport wearing eyeglasses, your passport photo will get rejected. Ever since 2016, the US State Department of State, has changed the passport photo regulations that reject any photos taken with eyeglasses. Unless you have specific medical reasons to always wear glasses (such as physical pain, blindness, etc) and you cannot remove them, you should consult your medical professional to either take your glasses off while taking the photos, or take a written declaration letter from the medical professional with your medical history and reasons. The US State Department of State provides an option to submit a written declaration letter from a reputed doctor in the case of medical reasons. However, it should be noted that this exemption is reserved for only exceptional circumstances. There’s no guarantee that your request for exemption will be accepted.
When taking a photo for your passport, wear any dress except a camouflage or uniform. Don't cover part of the face or head. Don't use hats or head coverings. Neatly brush the hair off your face and face the camera straight with a neutral face.
3. Not Using a Solid Color Background
When taking a photo for your passport, it's important to take it with a green screen so that you can change the photo background later. Your application may be rejected if you don't use an acceptable solid background (only white and off white backgrounds are accepted). While taking a photo, make sure there are no people, chairs, wall cupboards, calendars or any other objects behind you.
4. Using Excessive Lighting, Filters & Post-processing Photo Effects
Avoid photos with excessive lighting. An excessive lighting can cause issues with the shadows. Your photo may appear too bright or too dark. A balance is required.
If you're thinking of re-touching your photos with filter effects, be careful. Although the post-processing photo effects are not banned altogether, red-eyes removal, color enhancements, and other post-processing effects can cause your photos to be rejected. Your photo must look natural, without special filters.
5. Photos with Wide Smile or Emotive Expression
While taking normal photos, a smile can make your photo look better, enjoyable and memorable. However, passport photo regulations require you to keep a strictly neutral face. Photos with a smile or laughter are not approved. Also, make sure that your lips are gently pressed together while looking down straight into the camera lens.
If you've an young toddler who's unable to sit or stand in front of a photographer while taking the photo, you can just lay her on a white sheet and take a picture from overhead. Toddlers are exempted from such regulations.
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