A little bit of yes and a little bit of no. A passport is the must have accessory of any traveler, but there are a few things which can stand in the way of getting one. The first hurdle: a picture with a smile. While your pearly whites are very welcomed on social media, they have no place on your passport. Here’s why…

a man's face on a passportIs It Ok To Smile In Passport Photos?

The answer is, NO. You cannot smile in passport photos. Just don’t. A neutral face not smirking, smiling or looking miserable is suggested. Look at the camera, keep your mouth closed and think intelligent thoughts. If you wear glasses, there must be no reflection from the lenses. You must be able to see your eyes through the glasses.  The photo must also be recent, within the last six months. Just think “Jason Bourne”, while they snap away.

a group of people standing in front of a signBiometrics Are The Key…

Virtually all newly issued passports contain “biometric” technology. Using advanced software, airport scanners can match a persons face to biometric data in their passport, confirming their identity. Apparently – a toothy smile can distort the biometric data enough that false or negative readings can occur. Who’s smiling after a long flight, anyway?

a passport with a picture of a manWhat You Should Do

Every country has strict guidelines about what qualifies for an appropriate passport photo. Stick to a straight face or at most, a non toothy smirk. Be sure to get your photo taken at an accredited place, which can certify that their photos will comply with government standards. Size does matter, and each country may be different. Probably best to leave your acting head shots for another time. Here’s a link to guidelines for the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, China, India, Argentina, Spain and Germany.

Now you officially know, you just can’t smile in passport photos.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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