Can You Smile in a Passport Photo?

The rules about smiling on passport photos depend on the country issuing your passport.

The United States of America (US) accepts passport photos in which the applicant is smiling, although current guidelines do not recommend it. It must be a natural smile, however. Your mouth must be closed and both eyes open. Forced smiles and silly faces will be rejected.

Most other countries require passport applicants to submit a photo with a neutral expression.

For example, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Australia, and France, among others, will not accept passport photos in which the subject is smiling.

UK government guidelines state: “facial expression must be neutral (neither frowning nor smiling), with the mouth closed”.

Why Can’t You Smile in a Passport Photo

The main reason why smiling is not allowed in passport photos for many countries is that neutral expressions are the easiest to identify and match to the passport holder.

This is especially true for machines when the passport is scanned electronically.

The facial recognition software at e-Passport gates can have difficulty recognizing smiling faces. This can lead to problems and extra checks at border control before being allowed into a country.

Even American citizens, who are allowed to smile in their US passport photos, are advised not to, since this can cause issues when traveling overseas.

The problem comes from how facial recognition software compares the image to the person. The algorithm uses measurements of the person’s facial features to compare the 2D photo to the 3D passenger standing before them.

Smiling alters your facial proportions, widening your mouth and often narrowing your eyes, among other minor alterations. This can mean that the machine will not recognize you as the same person in your passport photo.

How Much Can You Smile in a Passport Photo?

Again, the exact rules vary depending on the country.

For example, there is a strict no-smiling policy for French passports. The official requirements in France do not even allow the corners of your mouth to be turned up.

The US has some of the most relaxed rules about smiling in official passport photos.

The State Department’s rules state that your passport photo must meet these criteria:

  • Neutral facial expression
  • Both eyes open
  • Mouth closed
  • Looking straight at the camera

The department clarifies that the applicant can smile as long as these criteria are met.

However, if you open your mouth, show your teeth, or close your eyes, you risk your photo being rejected, causing a delay in your passport application.

Can you not show teeth in passport photo?

No, most countries do not accept passport photos in which the applicant’s teeth are showing.

Even in the US, where smiling is technically allowed in passport photos, a smile that shows your teeth will most likely be rejected.

Smiling in Passport Photos for Kids

The rules for children’s passport photos are generally more relaxed than for adults, especially in the case of infants and toddlers.

Most governments understand that babies and small children cannot reasonably be expected to maintain a neutral facial expression.

It is important to ensure that you manage to take a photo of your children in which the smile is not too exaggerated as to distort their facial features.

However, as long as they have their eyes open and face the camera, the photo will likely be accepted.

Older children will be expected to keep their mouths closed and eyes open while taking the photo. The guidelines on smiling are usually the same as for adults.

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