Why the Photo Tool of the US Dept of State website incorrectly validates your photo
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December 02 2016
Why the Photo Tool on the US Department of State website is not fit to validate your US passport or visa photo
Note: the Photo Tool is not related to the internal software that is used by US Department of State to validate US
passport and visa photos. It does not share code with that internal software. Thus 'failing' in the Photo Tool does
not mean your photo is incorrect and will be rejected.
Why the Photo Tool fails
Fact: the Photo Tool doesn't validate lots of correct photos that fully meet the requirements.
We noticed this from complaints of our users, and over time we have accumulated many photos that passed
the US visa and passport application, yet they looked incorrect in the Photo Tool.
Moreover, if we use the best photo settings with the head size just below the allowed maximum,
then it is pretty likely to 'fail' validation in the Photo Tool.
The Photo Tool uses an oversimplified approach with 2 green ovals.
But it misses a big thing: it does not have a notion of eyes at all, and thus it lacks a vital part of validation.
In fact, if you look at the
photo specification here,
you notice that US authorities define two important parameters for the head layout inside the photo:
head height (defined as 1 - 1 3/8 in)
eyes height (defined as 1 1/8 - 1 3/8 in) - the distance between the eye line and the bottom of the photo
The eyes height parameter defines the vertical offset for the head position on the photo.
Since the Photo Tool misses the eyes altogether, it may only make a guess where the head should be laid out vertically.
On a side note: the Photo Tool is designed in Flash, and thus does not work in webbrowsers that do not support Flash like Apple iOS and many others.
Example of Incorrect Work of Photo Tool
In this example the image has head size of 1.29" (allowed 1-1.375") and eyes to bottom of 1.31" (allowed 1.125-1.375").
Yet it doesn't fit the biggest of the green ovals.
Why visafoto.com photos are correct
This is because we follow the guidelines in full. First, we measure the head and scale the photo to make the head just below the allowed maximum (i.e. just below 1 3/8 in).
Then we shift the photo to make sure the eyes are just above the allowed 1 1/8 in from bottom.
And then we crop the photo at 2x2 inches at 300 DPI (to make it 600x600 pixels).
This is why we always pass at US Department of State website.