USA Passport Photo FAQ

Navigating the intricacies of passport photos can be daunting, especially when meeting the specific requirements set by the United States. In this comprehensive FAQ, we aim to address the most common questions surrounding photos for a passport application, equipping you with the knowledge to capture that picture-perfect image for your travel document.

USA Passport Photo FAQ

Table of contents

USA passport photo maker

In the U.S., passport photos must follow specific requirements to be accepted. To avoid wasting time and resources, we recommend you trust your photo editing to a professional tool that guarantees that your image will fully satisfy the parameters up to the subtlest technical details.

Visafoto has been processing US passport pictures since 2013 and can also help you. Just upload a portrait of you in decent lighting, with a proper dress code, and properly posed. Visafoto will take care of the rest.

Take an image with a smartphone or camera against any background, upload it here and instantly get a professional photo for your visa, passport or ID.
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Source photo example that you need to take in order to make a passport or visa photo at


Result example: a correct visa or passport photo that you will receive

Take an image with a smartphone or camera against any background, upload it here, and instantly get a professional photo for your visa, passport, or ID.

Passport photo original source

You will get two files from Visafoto: a digital photo for electronic applications and a template ready for printing.

Example of a USA passport photo
USA passport photo for printing
Check our guidelines on printing a passport photo online.

What size should the passport photo be?

The US passport photo should be 2 inches by 2 inches in size. In centimeters, these measurements are equal to 51x51 millimeters.

What are the specific dimensions for a USA passport photo?

In US passport photos, the height of the face (from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head) should measure between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (25 mm to 35 mm). The face should be positioned within the frame so that the eyes are between 1 1/8 inches and 1 3/8 inches (28 mm to 35 mm) from the bottom of the photo.

Here is an example:

US passport photo

Can I wear glasses in my passport photo?

The United States passport photo guidelines generally require applicants to remove their eyeglasses for the photo. However, there are exceptions for specific medical or religious reasons. It's recommended to check the official guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of State or consult with the passport issuing authority for the most up-to-date information regarding wearing glasses in passport photos.

Are there any restrictions on wearing head coverings in a passport photo?

The U.S. Department of State generally advises against wearing any head coverings, including hats or headscarves, in U.S. passport photos. However, there are exceptions for religious or medical reasons.

If a head covering is worn due to religious beliefs, it must not obscure any facial features, and your face should be fully visible from the hairline to the chin and both edges of the face.

It's advisable to consult the official guidelines or contact the passport issuing authority for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding head coverings in passport photos.

Can I smile in my passport photo?

Generally, the U.S. Department of State requires a neutral facial expression in passport photos. Therefore, broad smiles or any other exaggerated facial expressions are generally not permitted. While a slight smile with closed lips is acceptable, it is best to maintain a neutral expression in your passport photo.

What is the acceptable background color for a USA passport photo?

The background required for a USA passport photo is plain white or off-white. The backdrop should be free from patterns, shadows, or other distractions.

Ensure you have a clear contrast between you and the background to enhance the visibility of your face.

Can I use a selfie for my passport photo?

This issue should be approached with caution: selfies often do not meet the necessary standards for passport photos, including factors such as distance, framing, and resolution.

However, you can convert your selfie to a passport photo if it meets the following conditions:

Can I submit a black and white passport photo?

No, the United States passport photo requirements state that the photo must be in color. Black and white photos are not acceptable for US passport applications. The photo should accurately represent your natural skin tone and hair color, which can only be achieved through a color image.

Can I submit a scanned or photocopied passport photo?

No, scanned or photocopied passport photos are unacceptable for US passport applications, as they can’t meet the required clarity, color accuracy, and resolution standards.

You must submit an original, recent photograph taken within the last six months. The photo should be printed on high-quality photo paper with a clear and sharp resolution.

Can I retouch or edit my passport photo to enhance my appearance?

No, it is not permissible to change your appearance anyhow. The photo should provide an authentic and unaltered representation of how you look. This means no digital alterations, such as retouching or editing, that modify your facial features or complexion.

However, it’s permitted to use Photoshop or other photo editing tools to correct the image format or background.

Are there any specific guidelines for lighting in a passport photo?

The passport picture must be even and free from shadows, glares, or harsh contrasts. It should provide a clear and accurate representation of your facial features.

To achieve this, it's recommended to use soft, diffused lighting that evenly illuminates your face without causing any harsh shadows or reflections. It's essential to ensure that the lighting does not distort your appearance or create unintended effects.

Can I wear a uniform in my passport photo?

No uniform, camouflage, or anything resembling a military or government outfit is officially prohibited for a passport photo. It's best to choose regular clothing that you would typically wear in your daily life.

If you are required to wear a uniform for religious purposes daily, you may be allowed to do so. Still, it's advisable to consult the specific guidelines the U.S. Department of State provides.

In this article, we provide tips on what to wear for a passport photo.

How recent should my passport photo be?

According to the US Department of State, your passport photo should be taken within the last six months. The photo must reflect your current appearance at the time of your application.

Your photo may be rejected if it is too old or does not resemble your current look. Therefore, having a recent picture explicitly taken for your passport application is recommended.

Can I wear jewelry or accessories in my passport photo?

Regarding accessories in your passport photo, it's generally best to keep them to a minimum. You should avoid wearing large or distracting jewelry items, excessive piercings, or accessories that cover a significant part of your face.

Acceptable jewelry might include small earrings, simple necklaces, or rings.

Are there any specific guidelines for the quality of the passport photo?

Yes, surely. The photo should have a high resolution with a minimum of 600 pixels per inch (ppi) and be in color. You must print it on thin, high-quality photo paper.

Can I use a digital passport photo for my application?

The United States Department of State does not accept digital passport photos for first-time applications. The requirement is to submit printed hard copies.

However, a new online renewal option exists for eligible people, and a digital photo is required in this case.

Are there any specific requirements for infant or child passport photos?

The format, size, and background requirements for children's passport photos are identical to those for adult passports. However, there are some allowances:

Check this guideline to take a compliant baby passport photo at home.

Can I wear makeup in my passport photo?

Yes, makeup is allowed. However, it's important to remember that the passport photo's purpose is to represent your everyday appearance accurately. So, if you typically wear makeup as part of your daily routine, wearing it in your passport photo is also acceptable.

When applying makeup for your passport photo, it's recommended to use natural and minimal makeup that enhances your features without altering your look. Avoid heavy or dramatic style that may significantly change your facial characteristics.

Check this link for passport photo makeup tips.

Is it necessary to get a professional photographer to take my passport photo?

Taking your passport photo in a professional studio is not strictly necessary, but it can be beneficial, as skilled photographers are familiar with the specific requirements and guidelines the US Department of State sets.

However, you can take a passport picture at home, as modern smartphones have cameras with sufficient resolution. This is not forbidden by the authorities: on the contrary, the state-owned U.S. Photo Tool is intended especcialy for self-editing passport photos. However, Photo Tool does not edit the background and can also make minor formatting errors, which are detailed in this article.

You can print your photo at your nearest chain store like Walgreens or Rite Aid: for less than 50 cents you'll get a printout on quality photo paper.

For the best result, check this guideline on DIY passport photos.

What should I do if my appearance has changed significantly since my last passport photo?

You may not need to update your passport photo if it is a minor change, such as a beard, new hairstyle or glasses. However, if the difference is significant, such as a drastic change in weight or facial features, it's advisable to get a new picture: otherwise, you may encounter difficulties at border control.

How many copies of the passport photo do I need to submit with my application?

When submitting your passport application in the United States, you must provide one copy of your passport photo.

To ensure a smooth application process, it's advisable to have additional copies of your passport photo available, just in case they are requested.

Can I have a beard or facial hair in my passport photo?

If you regularly wear a beard, it is even advisable to take a passport photo with it to accurately represent your everyday appearance. Keep your beard neatly groomed and trimmed, ensuring that it does not obscure your facial features.

Are there any specific requirements for the printing of a passport photo?

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

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