A passport is a government-issued photo ID. Because it is so widely accepted as a valid identification and verification of citizenship, the photograph is an essential aspect. It is what links the paper document to an actual living individual. Though the image is incorporated into the document in a way that is difficult to alter or forge, the Department of State relies on photos provided by passport applicants and verified by those who accept the application, so they impose very specific requirements.
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A valid passport photo must be 2 inches by 2 inches. The photo must be of your full face, looking directly into the camera, and the size of your face in the photo must be between 1 inch and 1... inches from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head, leaving a border on the top and bottom.
Passport photos must have been taken within 6 months of the passport application. They must also show your current appearance. In other words, you can't take a passport photo then change your appearance. Also, you must submit two identical photos.
The most common reason for rejection of passport photos is that they are overexposed and too bright. The passport photo must be of good quality and easily discernible. Other reasons for rejection of photos are shadows on the face, poor focus, a pixelated image or too dark a tint. Also, the background must be plain white or off-white only.
In keeping with the fact that the passport photo must match your current appearance, it should be taken in what you would normally wear on any given day. This means you should not wear any uniforms except for religious items you wear every day. Similarly, you should not wear any glasses unless they are prescription. You should not wear wigs or hearing aids unless you normally wear them. Also, do not wear a hat or anything that covers your head or obscures your hairline. Dark-tinted glasses are allowed only if they are required for a medical reason.
The pictures you get out of photo booths or similar vending machines generally do not meet the requirements for passport photos. If you decide to use a digital photo and print it out yourself, it is still subject to all the regulations described above. The most common disqualification for printed digital photos is pixelation. Most passport applicants find the easiest way to get a valid photo is to have it taken at one of the Passport Acceptance Facilities when they submit their application. See Resources below to search for the nearest location.
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