What to Wear for a Passport Photo

Updated on August 11, 2023
At a Glance: The clothes and accessories you wear in your passport photo are important to ensure a hassle-free traveling experience. Formal clothing is recommended, and it’s best to wear darker colors to stand out against the white background. Small, non-distracting jewelry is acceptable, but hats, facial jewelry, and headphones should be avoided. Glasses may be allowed for medical reasons, and certain hats may be exempted for religious or medical purposes. Overall, it’s important to follow the guidelines to avoid any issues with airport authorities and to maintain a clear and recognizable identification in your passport photo.

With the technological age taking over every aspect of our lives more and more every day, one would think that the way we submit our applications for various purposes such as applying for passports would change. But, although the process itself has improved much from the times of our grandparents, the one thing that hasn’t changed at all is the requirement of a “passport photo.”

A passport photo is a specially designated picture used to identify you and on all your travels. It is permanently printed on your passport and carries extreme importance if you are a frequent traveler. While on the subject, did you know that you can’t just wear anything you like in a passport photo? Although you can easily take a passport photo at home, thanks to technology, there is a particular dress code for you to follow to make sure your passport is approved.

Does It Matter What You Wear In A Passport Photo?

Passport photos are the only thing a customs officer has to see if you are the person to whom the passport and visa belong when you enter a new country. Your identification documents from your home countries will not work anywhere else in the world. Only a passport is considered a valid identification international document. If your picture on this passport is not up to standards, you can legally be deported back to the country you came from right from the airport!

Therefore, it is safe to say that you must make sure you wear the right clothes and proper accessories on your passport picture to avoid any misunderstandings with the airport authorities and have a hassle-free traveling experience. You should also watch not to wear certain accessories and other items that could be a problem for you.

What To Wear In Your Passport Photo

Clothing is the most important thing to watch out for in your passport photo. Essentially, your whole body won’t come into the picture, but only your face and part of your neck may be visible. Both your ears and entire jawline must be visible.

While it is not forbidden to wear more casual household clothes, it would be awkward for a foreign employer to take a Xerox copy of your passport, along with your picture, in an attire that would not be suitable for an office file. So, more formal clothing would be ideal for you to wear. Also, a passport photo is taken against a white or an off–white background so, it would be best if you wear a darker color so that your clothes don’t blend in with the background.

You can also wear jewelry if your face isn’t covered in the final image. Small earrings, studs, and necklaces that do not glare would all be acceptable. Just make sure your jewelry isn’t too big and distracting or covering any part of your face in the picture.

Any “headgear” isn’t acceptable. You can only use bobby pins or something like that to pull your hair together. Any hairstyle is allowed, but it is recommended that you don’t cover up your ears or any part of your face.

Make-up, too, has to be light and simple as your face cannot be covered at all. Too much make-up can be seen as a red flag and can lead to your application being rejected. Having a clear face with minimal touch-ups would be sufficient. And do not ever remove any moles on your face, whether digitally or with make-up. This will lead to identity issues in the future

What Not To Wear In Your Passport Photo

While the rules around what you should wear are pretty lax and you are allowed to wear pretty much anything you want, certain items are a strict No for you to wear on your head. Such items include:

1. Glasses

This is to allow a clear view of your eyes by the authorities whenever required. Nothing that covers your face can be allowed, including required gear such as this as well. You can have your picture taken with transparent contact lenses if you must. Do not use lenses that change the color of your eyes since that would lead to problems down the road. In most cases, just taking your glasses off for your photo would be sufficient.

2. Hats or Head Coverings

Such items cover the top of your head and are not allowed to do so. Your face must be clearly visible. Hats are considered more of an aesthetic than identity, and most of them only cover your face and obscure your identity. Hence hats are always asked to be removed for taking your passport picture. However, there are also certain exemptions to this rule.

3. Facial Jewelry or Headphone

Such items are distracting and are generally not allowed for a passport picture and will be rejected immediately. Earbuds cover your ears and so are not allowed. Generally, small earrings such as studs are permitted. And necklaces that can cause glare due to the camera lighting are a strict no in any case. Regular and simple jewelry is okay, though.

Exceptions To What Not To Wear

The above list may seem strict to all of us, and in every case it is, there are also certain exemptions to a passport picture for you on various grounds. If you need any special exemptions, you can find them here.

Certain Hats

Certain hats are exempt from the rule of having to be removed from one’s head when taking a passport photo due to various religious and medical reasons. For example, Sikhs can wear their turban for their passport photos because their turban is essentially their identity. Similarly, if you have any religious requirement barring you from removing your hat completely, you can opt for this exemption and face no consequences either.

Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses are allowed as a medical requirement if there is no way around it for all purposes and needs. In most cases, this is just allowing you for contact lenses and not more. Even if you choose contact lenses, using transparent ones and not ones that could change your eye color would be recommended to avoid confusion later.

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Final Thoughts

A passport picture is just as important as any information you give for your passport application. It is the first thing a person observes and verifies about you even before your name. Hence, you must take your passport picture in all the right ways to avoid confusion while waiting for approval or even while using your passport. If you do not follow the code, your application will most certainly be rejected and lead to further problems in the future. Hence, knowing what to wear for a passport picture would be of immense help for you in the future.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.