8 FAM 402

8 FAM 402.1

Passport Photographs

(CT:CITZ-50;   01-21-2021)
(Office of Origin:  CA/PPT/S/A)

8 FAM 402.1-1  Introduction

(CT:CITZ-50;   01-21-2021)

a. This subchapter provides policy for consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad (posts), and passport specialists at passport agencies and centers, hereinafter referred to as "you" unless otherwise specified, regarding specifications for passport photographs.  It also provides policy regarding commercial photographers.

b. You must determine whether the photographs submitted meet passport requirements.

c.  Photograph standards:

(1)  22 CFR 51.26 contains the regulatory requirements for photographs for use in U.S. passports:  i.e., that they be a "good likeness" and "satisfactorily identify the applicant;"

(2)  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set international specifications for machine-readable passports, including the placement and size of the passport photograph;

(3)  The ICAO standards and Department requirements are intended to ensure that the photograph adequately identifies the passport bearer and thereby prevents difficulties or delays to the bearer during his or her foreign travels;

(4)  While the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Public Law 108-458, and the REAL ID Act of 2005, Division B of Public Law 109-13, HR1268, do not deal with U.S. passport photographs, the Department of State digitizes passport photographs, consistent with the REAL ID standards; and

(5)  You are referred to the following sources for valuable information on passport photographs:

(a)  Passport photographs (available on travel.state.gov); and

(b)  ICAO Machine Readable Travel Document 9303.

d. Infants pose a particular challenge.  The goal is the best likeness that can reasonably be obtained:

(1)  It is acceptable if the infant's eyes, particularly a newborn's, are partially or completely closed;

(2)  The infant's head may be discreetly supported, e.g., a car seat with a white or off-white blanket behind the childHead tilt is acceptable for infants; and

(3)  A parent’s face cannot be in the photograph of the infant.

e. Because minors do not typically submit identification, at the public counter you should verify with the applying parent(s)/legal guardian(s) that the biographic information matches the attached photograph to avoid accidentally switching photos:

(1)  Switched photographs sometimes occur when siblings apply at the same time.  If it is obvious that the photographs for minor applicants (under age 16) were switched--based on ACRQ records, etc.--and you have both applications available, you must suspend the passport applications to be re-scanned with the correct photographs.  (If a photograph is switched on a form DS-11, passport specialists should also notify the customer service manager (see 8 FAM 105.3).); or

(2)  If you do not have both passport applications or it is not obvious that the photographs were switched, you should suspend the passport application to request that the applicant re-execute the passport application with the correct photograph or refer the passport application to the fraud prevention unit, as appropriate.

8 FAM 402.1-2  Passport Photograph Requirements

(CT:CITZ-14;   12-08-2018)

You must request a new photograph if the photograph submitted does not meet the following requirements:

(1)  The photograph submitted by the applicant must be in color;

(2)  The photograph must be taken within the past six months (ICAO 9303 Section 3.9), be a good likeness of and satisfactorily identify the applicant at the time of the application (see 22 CFR 51.26).  A photograph showing a change in hair or facial hair from the identification document submitted is acceptable if it still is a good likeness of the applicant;

(3)  The photograph must be 2” x 2” (about 5 cm. x 5 cm.) in overall size.  For example, the following photograph is too small:

Title: Photo that is too small.  - Description: This photo is too small. The facial image must be no less than 1'' (about 2.54 cm.) and no more than 1 3/8" (about 3.5 cm.).

(4)  The facial image must be a clear, close-up of the head and neck (which may include portions of the shoulders--the ears do not have to be visible) (ICAO 9303 Section 3.9).  The facial image size must be no less than 1” (about 2.54 cm.) and no more than 1 3/8” (about 3.5 cm.), measured from the top of the head (not the hairline or the applicant's hair) to the bottom of the chin (not including facial hair).  Photograph templates are available to help you determine the proper size:

(a)  A smaller facial image size will make identification of the bearer difficult in addition to possibly revealing staples and borderline requirements from the passport application.  If the photograph has sufficient resolution, the photograph may be re-sized in the TDIS image review module.  For example, in the following photograph the facial image size is too small (also, the applicant is wearing eyeglasses):

Title: Photo that specifies how the head size should be.  - Description: Use our free photo cropping tool to properly size your photo; head size should be between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm)

(b)  A larger facial image size may make it impossible to crop the photograph to the correct size (45 mm. x 35 mm. as per ICAO specifications) for placement in the passport (see 8 FAM 702.1-4 regarding cropping photographs).  If there is sufficient room to crop the photograph appropriately, the photograph may be re-sized in the TDIS image review module.  For example, in the following photograph the facial image size is too large:

Title: Fish-eye distortion  - Description: In the following photograph the facial image has fish-eye distortionTitle: Example of head size - Description: The head size should be between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm)

(c)  In some cases, a larger facial image size may cause fish-eye distortion.  Fish-eye distortion is when elements in the center of the face are exaggerated in size (especially the nose) and elements on the periphery of the face (especially the ears, if visible), are diminished in size or may not be clear or fully visible.  For example, in the following photograph the facial image has fish-eye distortion:

Title: Facial Image is off-center - Description: In the following photograph the facial image is off-center

(5)  Head position:

(a)  The photograph must be clear with a centered, full frontal view of the applicant’s facial image.  For example, in the following photograph the facial image is off-center.  The photograph should be re-cropped to center the facial image if possible, or the application suspended for a new photograph:

Title: Photo tip-hpw to center the head - Description: Photo tip: Photo should be 2”x2” (51 x 51 mm) with the head centered horizontally and sized between 1” and 1.4” (25 and 35 mm)

(b)  The head must not be tilted in any direction (ICAO 9303 Section 3.9).  For example, in the following photographs the applicants' heads are tilted and/or not facing forward:

Title: Photo about head position while facing the camera - Description: The subject should be sitting or standing straight and directly facing the camera

Title: Photo about proper position when facing the camera - Description: Subject should be sitting or standing straight, facing the camera, and looking straight ahead

Title: Photo about subject's head position  - Description: The subject’s head should be level and directly facing the camera

Title: Photo about position when facing the camera.  - Description: The subject’s head and shoulders should be directly facing the camera

(6)  The photograph must be free of material damage.  Creases, holes, and smudges in the facial area are unacceptable:

(a)  Immaterial damage to the background, e.g., staple holes, is acceptable;

(b)  The applicant does not need to sign the photograph, as this often causes creases or smudges; and

NOTE:  For hand-carry applications, the acceptance agent signs the back of the photograph.

(c)  A photograph that appears acceptable and undamaged in the system may have a defect that is apparent when the passport is printed.  Consequently, the passport application may be returned to adjudication to request a new photograph even though the photograph appeared acceptable.

8 FAM 402.1-3  Quality of Photographs

(CT:CITZ-20;   05-09-2019)

a. Brightness and contrast should accurately reproduce subject’s natural skin tones.  Photographs without proper contrast and color may obscure unique facial features and cause problems in printing, resulting in off-colored facial features (purple/yellow).  For example, in the following photograph the applicant's natural skin tones are not accurately reproduced:

Title: Photo about appropriate skin tones and camera color temperature - Description: Photo must reproduce skin tones accurately and have appropriate contrast; camera color temperature (warm/cool) or printing contrast may need to be corrected

b. Over-exposed or under-exposed photographs are not acceptable.  Photographs without proper exposure may obscure unique facial features and cause problems in printing, resulting in washed out images.  For example, in the following photographs the images are over-and under-exposed (also, the individual in the first photograph is wearing eyeglasses, which is no longer acceptable):

Title: Photo about background ilumination  - Description: Uniform illumination should be used to prevent shadows on face and background; adjust camera exposure

Title: Photo about over/under exposed and supplemental illumination - Description: Photo should not be over-exposed or underexposed;  adjust camera exposure or use supplemental illumination.

c.  The lighting should be uniform with no reflections on the face and no shadows on the face which obscure the facial features.

d. Computer-generated photographs are acceptable as long as the image is sharp and clear.  Images composed of grain-like particles are not acceptable.  Photographs with visible pixels are not acceptable.  For example, in the following photograph the image is grainy:

Title: Photo about printer's resolution requirements.  - Description: Use a higher quality printer ink, paper, or print setting, or increase printer’s resolution (dots per inch (DPI) setting)

e. The photograph should have a plain light-colored background with no large, dark shadows, reflections, or objects in the background (ICAO 9303, Section 3.9).  For example, in the following photographs there are shadows or objects in the background:

Title: No shadow on face and background.  - Description: Uniform illumination should be used to prevent shadows on face and background

Title: Background requirements.  - Description: The background should be uniform, plain and white or off-white, and free of shadows

NOTE:  Medical equipment and supports for the shoulders, head, and neck may be visible in the background for applicants with medical conditions or disabilities.  A medical statement by a medical professional/health practitioner may be requested in questionable cases information request letter ((IRL) 677-33).

f.  Photographs should be printed on photo-quality paper.

g. Digital manipulation and/or retouching of photographs is not acceptable.

h. The red-eye effect is not acceptable in passport photographs (ICAO Document 9303 Appendix 11 to section IV paragraph 2.2).

i.  Brightness, contrast, image resolution, and proper exposure are particularly important for passport card photographs because the photograph is printed in grayscale.

8 FAM 402.1-4  Attire

(CT:CITZ-50;   01-21-2021)

a. Uniforms:

(1)  Photographs in which the applicant is wearing a uniform of one of the U.S. Uniformed Services (10 U.S.C. 101(a)(5)) or military/law enforcement-style clothing (which usually includes camouflage clothing) are not acceptable for regular passport books and passport cards.  Reasonable exceptions may be made for photographs:

(a)  Of infants; or

(b)  Taken in the uniform of a civilian organization when it will aid in identification (e.g., a commercial airline pilot who will be traveling abroad in uniform);

(2)  Although the Department has no objection, the U.S. Uniformed Services' regulations and/or policies do not permit uniforms in special issuance passports.

b. Religious attire that does not obscure any part of the face or head is acceptable in passport photographs.

c.  Hats or other head coverings:

(1)  Hats or other head coverings are acceptable if they do not obscure any part of the face, hairline, or the composition of the photograph (the hat or head covering lies flat against the head and only covers the hair), e.g., a very thin headband; and

(2)  Unless a religious or medical exception applies, hats or other head coverings, such as wide headbands, scarves, turbans, large skullcaps, etc., are not acceptable if it:

(a)  Does not lie flat on the head; and/or

(b)  Mostly or completely obscures the hairline (ICAO 9303 Section 3.9)

(3)  The applicant can establish that the hat or head covering is part of recognized, traditional religious attire which is customarily or required to be worn continuously when in public.  A signed statement from the applicant regarding the religious nature, the customary practice, and/or requirement of continuous public use of the hat or head covering should be required in questionable cases, e.g., the applicant's submitted documentation (ID or citizenship evidence, if applicable) does not depict the applicant in a religious hat or head covering, or the covering does not appear to be recognized as traditional religious attire (e.g., baseball caps and other hats or head covering that serve a different purpose);

NOTE:  If the applicant submits a seemingly spurious statement regarding the religious nature of a hat or head covering, scan and e-mail the passport application and statement to AskPPTAdjudication@state.gov for a determination.  (This is not a public-facing e-mail address and public inquiries will not be replied to.)

(4)  The hat or head covering is worn for medical reasons, including hair loss as a result of medical treatment.  A medical statement signed by a medical professional/health practitioner may be required in questionable cases; and

(5)  Hats or other head coverings that partially or completely obscure the face are not acceptable.  For example, in the following photographs the applicants' head coverings obscure the face (the chin and jaw line in the following photographs):

Title: Entire face has to be visible - Description: Attire should be adjusted so that the entire face is visible

Title: Entire face has to be visible.  - Description: Head coverings worn for religious purposes must be adjusted so that the entire face is visible

d. If bandages or medical equipment, such as medical ventilator tubing and eye patches, obscure the face, a medical statement signed by a medical professional/health practitioner must be requested.  Marks on the face itself caused by a medical condition (e.g., black eyes, swelling, cuts and abrasions) are acceptable--there is no requirement that the medical condition be healed prior to passport issuance.

e. Eyeglasses/contact lenses:

(1)  Eyeglasses are not acceptable unless they cannot be removed for medical reasons, e.g., the applicant has recently had ocular surgery and the eyeglasses are necessary to protect the applicant’s eyes.  A medical statement signed by a medical professional/health practitioner must be requested in these rare circumstances.  If the eyeglasses are accepted for medical reasons:

(a)  The frames of the eyeglasses must not cover the eye(s) (ICAO 9303 section 3.9);

(b)  There must not be glare on eyeglasses that obscures the eye(s);

(c)  There must not be shadows or refraction from the eyeglasses that obscures the eye(s); and

(d)  Dark or tinted lenses are permitted if the medical statement also indicates that they are required.

NOTE:  A limited-validity passport using endorsement 46 should be issued when the medical circumstance that requires eye glasses is temporary and the applicant has urgent or emergency travel.

(2)  Clear contact lenses are acceptable.  Other types of contact lenses, including tinted and novelty contact lenses, that do not obscure the eye, i.e., that do not make the iris appear larger or smaller, are acceptable.

NOTE:  Even if cosmetic contact lenses are normally and consistently worn, the natural eye color must be listed on form DS-11, form DS-82, and form DS-5504.

f.  If a hearing device, wig, facial ornamentation (i.e., facial piercing jewelry), or similar article does not obscure the face, it may be worn when the photograph is taken (ICAO 9303 Section 3.9).

g. One-time facial decorations, e.g., a team logo applied at a sporting event, are not acceptable.

NOTE:  As tattoos and body modifications are permanently applied, and also aid in identification, there is no requirement that tattoos or body modifications be covered with either clothing or makeup.

h. There must be no hair obscuring the eyes (ICAO 9303 section 3.9).  For example, in the following photograph the applicant's hair obscures her eyes:

Title: Entire face has to be visible - Description: Hair should be adjusted so that the entire face is visible

i.  Headphones, “blue tooth,” or other similar devices must not be worn in passport photographs.

j.  Except as detailed above, you may request a signed statement regarding the religious attire or medical necessity in any questionable cases.  An example of a questionable case is one in which the attire does not appear in the identification submitted with the application.

8 FAM 402.1-5  Facial Expression

(CT:CITZ-14;   12-08-2018)

a. The applicant’s expression should be natural.  Normal, unexaggerated smiles are acceptable, but unusual expressions and squinting are not (ICAO 9303 3.9).

b. Both of the applicant’s eyes must be visible and open in the photograph (see the exception for infants in 8 FAM 402.1-1).  If this is not possible, a medical statement signed by a medical professional/health practitioner may be requested in questionable cases.

8 FAM 402.1-6  Religious Objections to Photograph Requirements

(CT:CITZ-14;   12-08-2018)

a. Objections to being photographed:  An ICAO standard for passport photographs requires that every passport contain a full-face photograph to identify the bearer.  The United States complies with this standard.  You may not waive this requirement.

b. Objections to full-face photographs:

(1)  You may receive requests to have passports issued with photographs that show faces completely or partially (only eye area visible) covered.  However, 22 CFR 51.26 requires that the photograph be a good likeness of the applicant, and a photograph with a covered face does not meet this requirement;

(2)  An applicant may have no objection to being photographed, but may request that only persons of the same sex have access to the photograph.  Treat the request respectfully, but advise that it is not feasible to comply with the request; and

(3)  The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) will not write a letter stating that only officials of one sex may view the passport.  Passport agencies/centers and posts may direct their questions to the Office of Adjudication at AskPPTAdjudication@state.gov.

8 FAM 402.1-7  Commercial Photographers

(CT:CITZ-14;   12-08-2018)

It is the policy of the CA not to recommend the services of a specific commercial photographer.  Passport agencies/centers and posts must avoid giving the impression that certain photographers are preferred or certified in some way to provide acceptable photographs.  You may, however, maintain lists of commercial photographers near the passport agency/center or post to provide to applicants when needed in urgent/emergency circumstances.  Refer routine inquiries to the telephone directory or online directory listings of commercial photographers.  To assist commercial photographers concerning the acceptability of photographs, agencies may refer commercial photographs to travel.state.gov or inform photographers of the requirements.

8 FAM 402.1-8  Procedures

(CT:CITZ-20;   05-09-2019)

a. Applications received without photographs:

(1)  Processing and communications/customer service personnel at passport agencies/centers or consular section personnel should refer applications without photographs to their supervisor for guidance on processing passport applications received without photographs;

(2)  You must not accept a form DS-11 or DS-82 received without a photograph at the public counter.  See 8 FAM 1001.2 regarding importing photographs for forms DS-5504;

(3)  Passport specialists must suspend a form DS-11 received without a photograph from an acceptance facility.  The applicant must re-execute the form DS-11 (see IRL 975-04); and

(4)  Passport specialists must suspend a form DS-82 or form DS-5504 received without a photograph (see IRL 1000-05 and IRL 1018-14).

b. You must examine photographs to make sure they meet the requirements listed in this appendix.

c.  You must request a new photograph if the submitted photograph does not meet the requirements.  Passport agencies/centers will send an appropriate IRL.  When a new photograph is received, you must compare both photographs to ensure that they both depict the same person, refer to the FPM as appropriate (see 8 FAM 105.2):

(1)  When the applicant submits an acceptable photograph in response to the IRL, passport agency/center processing or communications/customer service personnel must:

(a)  Remove the unacceptable photograph from the passport application;

(b)  Attach the acceptable photograph to the passport application; and

(c)  Attach the unacceptable photograph to the IRL returned by the applicant (if the applicant does not return the IRL, attach the photograph to the file copy of the IRL or, if no paper IRL was sent, to the photocopy of the ID).

(2)  The passport specialist must retain the IRL with the file (see 8 FAM 705.1); and

(3)  If the applicant does not take any action within 90 days, the application must be denied without further action.  Neither the passport execution fee nor passport application fee will be refunded.  Posts should take similar action.

d. In an emergency, you may accept photographs that do not meet all of the requirements outlined in this appendix.  However, such photographs must still be a clear and current representation of the applicant’s image:

(1)  Passport agencies and centers must limit the validity of the passport to one year, using endorsement 46 (see 8 FAM 505.2);

(2)  Posts must limit the validity of the passport to 1 year, using endorsement 109 (see 8 FAM 505.2);

(3)  You must annotate the application to indicate why the photograph was accepted and the passport was limited in validity; and

(4)  You must advise the applicant that the passport may be replaced with a fully valid passport without charge if an acceptable photograph is presented within a year from the issuance date of the passport.

e. During a crisis abroad, when posts are issuing emergency passports to assist citizens with evacuation, it is not unusual to find that you must accept photographs that do not meet all of the criteria outlined in this appendix.  This is acceptable due to the emergency.  As noted above, the passport should be limited in validity.


Consular Sections are advised to make contingency plans where feasible to have equipment, camera, photograph paper, printer, etc. for use during a crisis.  The U.S. embassies in Bangkok and Colombo found this very useful in the wake of the 2005 South Asia Tsunami.  (See 7 FAM 1800 Consular Crisis Management).