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Can You Smile For A Passport Photo?

When you go to get your passport photo taken,  you might be surprised when your photographer neglects to tell you to “smile and say cheese.”  That’s because the government has certain rules about what types of facial expressions are acceptable, and if you break these rules, your passport application could be rejected.  Because there are so many rules, many people are unsure whether or not it’s okay to smile for  a passport photo.

In some countries, such as Great Britain and Canada, smiling for a passport photo is strictly forbidden.  Looking serious, even downright gloomy, is encouraged. This is because these countries use facial recognition software to cut down on passport fraud.  Unfortunately, smiling can make it hard for this software to “read” your face.  For the same reason, Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia have forbidden motorists to smile for driver’s license pictures.

However, in America, it might be okay to smile for your passport photo. Just don’t go overboard. According to the US Department of State,, “unusual expressions” are forbidden. No crossing your eyes or sticking your tongue out.  Also, squinting is forbidden and you don’t want to show your teeth.  So, if you naturally have a big, toothy grin that changes the way your entire face looks, tone it down for the camera.

As of November 1st, 2016, you are no longer allowed to wear glasses in your passport photo.

Before you go out for your big photo shoot, make sure to review the government’s rules for passport photos. Also, to make the passport application process go faster, consider submitting your application through a private passport expediting company. You’ll get personalized customer service from passport professionals, and since your application is delivered by hand to the US Department of State, you’ll get much quicker processing times, too. An expediting company can get your passport application processed in as little as 24 hours!

Order your passport today!

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11 Responses to “Can You Smile For A Passport Photo?”

  1. John

    You can create valid passport photos with website. It uses face detection to set size and position of head. It is free.

  2. Lanie Ree

    I smiled and showed my teeth. And it worked just fine.
    I got my passport back yesterday, with no problems.

    Here, you can see the picture on my blog:

  3. admin

    Thanks, Lanie. That’s a cute picture…I am so jealous. My last passport pic looked like a mug shot! 🙂

  4. Christina

    As of May 02, 2011, the government’s website ( has the following passport photo guideline: “Your
    photos or digital images must be … with a neutral facial expression
    and both eyes open.”

    Also on their website, they define “neutral expression” thus:
    “The subject’s expression should be natural and expressionless, with
    both eyes open.”

    So, no smiling! 🙁

  5. Alison Kroulek

    Thanks, Christina! They must have made it more strict recently, I renewed mine last summer and got away with doing my best Mona Lisa impression. 🙂 I’m SO glad my passport’s good for another 10 years…

  6. Devon

    Your right they don’t tell to smile.

  7. Lilian

    Here’s from the website, examples of photos. The last photo, the girl is smiling with teeth :). I took mine today and smiled with teeth; the photographer told me that only immigration photos can’t have teeth in them. I hope it will be fine!

  8. Alison Kroulek

    Good luck, Lilian!

  9. May Wu

    Yes you can smile for US passports, a neutral expression is preferred but a natural smile is acceptable. check out the link

  10. Sharee A.

    Got my passport back yesterday. I took my own photo AND smiled. It wasn’t overly exuberant or quirky.

  11. Alison Kroulek

    Glad that worked out for you, Sharee! We mostly work with people who are in a hurry and can’t afford to do retakes, which is why we recommend playing it safe. 🙂

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