U.S Passport Photos-- Okay to Smile?

May 13th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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U.S Passport Photos-- Okay to Smile?

It seems like the U.S. Gov't's specifications for passport pictures are up for interpretation. On their website, it says: "Natural Expression - The subject's expression should be natural, with both eyes open." But what exactly does that mean?

My passport needs to be renewed, and when I had my pictures taken yesterday, the photographer told me I wasn't allowed to smile. I had to push my bangs as far out of my face as possible, and just stare blankly into the camera...talk about awkward! I'm already hypersensitive about passport photos after carrying around quite possibly the world's ugliest one for the last nine years, so this came as a real shock.

Does anyone know whether or not you're allowed to smile in U.S. passport photos or not these days? I believe I smiled (albeit a bad one) in my last one, but the photographer yesterday was pretty adamant that it's not allowed, and I'm trying to decide if I should grin and bear it (excuse the pun...) and mail these ones in, or go and have them taken elsewhere.

To me, passports are a semi-permanent fixture, being that they're good for 10 years. So as stupid as it sounds, this is important to me. I've been given a sideways glance by passport control for the last time!

Kyliebaby3 is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 03:50 PM
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I've never met anyone who truly likes their passport photo. It's not meant to be framed and put on the coffee table for all the world to see. It's an ID picture. That's all.

I'm not aware of any such rule that says you can't smile. I wouldn't go in there with a big grin on my face, but there's nothing wrong with having a pleasant expression.

My advice? Mail in the pictures you had taken yesterday. That's what I would do.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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Well, I realize it's not meant to be a glamour shot! But it doesn't need to look like a mugshot either, IMO. I'll probably just mail these in since I already paid for them... probably
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 06:43 PM
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I just had to renew my passport. Went to local Walgreens to take the shots. The best I can describe my look on the picture is a "pleasant casual expression" with a slight smile or perhaps some would call it a "smirk". Mailed the pictures in with the application. This last Monday the new passport was in my mailbox (btw, about 3 weeks turnaround). Still waiting for the passport card and my old passport. The passport card is the culprit. It takes about 5-6 weeks to get the card and only then the old passport, at least that's what I was told.

So, I'm guessing here, but a "full mouth of teeth" smile is probably not acceptable, OTOH a slight, easy smile is fine.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 09:51 PM
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Kyliebaby, the old joke is no matter how awful your current passport photo looks when you renew your passport in ten years and see that passport photo your ten year old photo will look good! And it is true. Just send in the current photo and don't worry about it. You should see mine. It was a rainy day and I look like a drowned rat.
LoveItaly is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 03:22 AM
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They say that if you look like your passport photo then you should see your doctor.

As for smiling, if you are that concerned that you won't be allowed to smile in your passport photo why not get citizenship of a country that does allow it.
alanRow is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 05:27 AM
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We have not been able to smile for our passports in Canada for a few years now, nothing new here.
Cruiseryyc is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 07:50 AM
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DD and I renewed ours a couple months ago. She smiled, I didn't. Both of our renewals came just about 2 weeks later. Mine definitely looks like a mug shot...or worse, if possible.
mms is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 07:51 AM
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Good plan AlanRow...good plan. It's like you can cut the sarcasm with a knife on some of these boards.

Thanks everyone else for the information, namely AAFrequentFlyer for the information on turnaround time. That's something I was curious about too, but since I won't be traveling again until late August, it shouldn't present too much of a problem I don't think.

One question-- are the passport cards something that everyone gets now? I'm not familiar with what those are and how they differ from the passport books.
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 09:44 AM
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Passport cards are good for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, BUT only overland travel, such as car, boat or on foot. They are mainly designed for people that live near the borders and cross it very often either for work or shopping or?

You do not get one automatically. It is extra charge and you need to request it when applying for or renewing your passport book.

The card does not replace the book for any other travel.

The reason I got it was to have it with me at all times for ID purposes during my travels. Some countries still require tourists to carry their passports on the person at all times. The laws are hardly ever enforced but for $25 extra ($45 the first time) and with 10 year validity, it was worth it to me.

The card has all the same information your passport book has, including your picture (btw, when applying you need additional 2 photos together with 2 photos for the book) and it's the size of a DL or CC.

Both, my old book and the card arrived today, just few days after the new book arrived.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 10:09 AM
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Got it-- thanks! That doesn't sound like something that would be very useful to me, so I'll forego it this time. But I appreciate the explanation.
Kyliebaby3 is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 02:23 PM
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I just renewed my US passport for the third time and as usual, I smiled. Smiling IS my natural expression.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 15th, 2009, 01:35 AM
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smiling is my natural expression as well, I always smile.

Is this card he same size as a driver's license? Amd, I guess it serves as official gov't id?
Momliz is offline  
May 17th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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I just got back from a trip with my new passport (renewed, not first issue.) I had my pictures taken at Walgreen's and they let me re-take the photo about seven times before I was satisfied. It was no big deal for them, and I appreciated being able to see which "mug shot" I would be stuck with for the next 10 years. The passport agency in turn must scan the photo for the passport, since it doesn't appear that the photo is actually "affixed." I can actually see the staple holes in the resulting scan and my face appears slightly reddish (which wasn't the case with the original photo.)

I actually found a website to get my passport photo for free and played with it for a few hours. It is http://www.epassportphoto.com/ and I actually created a passport photo which is actually a 4x6" picture that has several 2x2" passport photos. It was free to use although they do have a "premium" service to validate the photo. I ended up using the Walgreen's photos since I had already paid for them. BTW, I am smiling in my picture and had no problem with getting my passport issued.
misterfuss is offline  
May 18th, 2009, 04:45 PM
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In Canada we are not allowed to smile nor wear our glasses for passport photos. Fortunately our passports are only good for five years not ten.
decee is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 11:51 PM
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According to the US Postal Services, "training materials for passport photos state that the applicant should be in normal street attire, without hat or dark glasses against a plain white background. The applicant should have “a natural expression, mouth closed, eyes open and looking directly ahead,” notes the State Department, the issuing agency for US Passports."

So no teeth.
moonbear is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 02:58 PM
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In my passport pic I look dissheveld and annoyed. But this is a good thing since that's exactly the way I look when clearing customs. Please don't smile or try to look very nice, otherwise they won't think the passport belongs to you.
P_M is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 04:16 PM
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It is well known that more than 90% of forged passports have smiling photos. So, if you want to be suspected of wrongdoing, and if you want to be interrogated for hours at airports and border crossings, then smile for you passport photo.

Just don't come back later and complain that you hadn't been warned.
DonTopaz is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 12:27 PM
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In Switzerland, you are not allowed to smile and have your hair away from your face.

Mugshots is indeed an apt word.
kleeblatt is offline  
Aug 13th, 2010, 02:05 PM
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> In Switzerland, you are not allowed to smile

Actually, that rule applies to all activities, and not just to passport photos.
DonTopaz is offline  

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