The US State Department is marking National Passport Awareness Month with a big announcement — starting November 1, 2016, passport applicants may no longer wear glasses in their passport photo.
Every September, during National Passport Awareness Month, the State Department launches media campaigns to educate the public about various passport issues. Last year, they had an “Apply Early” message, warning travelers of an expected surge in passport applications in 2016 and 2017. This year, the theme is “Picture Perfect Passport.” The State Department is using the hashtag #pictureperfectpassport on Facebook and Twitter for all their posts about passport photos.
Incorrect Passport Photos Cause Rejections and Delays
Did you know that problems with passport photos are the #1 reason that passport applications are delayed or rejected? It’s true! Each year, approximately 200,000 passport applications are held up because the photograph doesn’t fit the State Department’s guidelines. Some of the most common reasons that passport photos are rejected include:
- Face is too large or too small in the printed photo
- Shadows on the face
- Overexposed/washed out photos
- Poor quality photo paper, or photos printed on plain paper
- Photo is pixelated or blurry
- Photo was taken more than six months ago
- The background is not a plain white surface
- Glare on glasses
Eyeglasses Cause Problems With Passport Photos
In a good passport photo, all of the features of your face will be clearly visible. Wearing glasses in your passport photo can make it harder to see your eyes. Tinted glasses and sunglasses have never been allowed in passport photos. Even if your glasses have totally clear lenses, the camera flash can cause glare that will hide your eyes. These problems with glasses have caused hundreds of thousands of passport applications to be delayed or rejected! The new State Department rule against wearing glasses in passport photos will mean that no one will have their photo rejected because of glare or the lens tint being a little too dark.
Another big reason for glasses not to be worn in passport photos is because of the increasing importance of biometric data technologies. Remember when we talked about the new facial recognition scanners that will be used at international airports? Those scanners work by comparing the traveler’s face against a digitized version of the passport photo that is saved on the computer chip embedded in the passport. If a passport photo includes glasses, it’s harder for the scanning programs to get an accurate view of the face.
Passports That Show Glasses Are Still Valid!
Now that the news is out that passport photos showing glasses will soon be a thing of the past, some travelers have asked us if they will need to get a new passport because their current passport photo includes glasses. The answer is no! Valid passports that show the bearer wearing glasses remain completely valid.
The US State Department will continue to accept photographs with glasses up through October 31, but we recommend that you go ahead and take your glasses off for your passport photo starting now. You can also check out our article on how to get a great passport photo to help you get your #pictureperfectpassport!