How Long Is a Passport Photo Good For?

Generally, the U.S. government states the photo must be taken within the last 6 months in order to accurately reflect your appearance. People over 16 years old receive a passport that is valid for 10 years, after which a renewal is necessary. There are some instances however when updating one’s photo is a must. A passport document is only as good as the picture in it. Whenever a change on one’s face occurs such that it makes the recognition harder or impossible a new photo is required.

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In what circumstances should I update my passport photo?

Here is a list of cases that will warrant a new passport photo:

  • Significant change in body fat ratio. This goes both ways whether it’s an increase in body mass or a decrease as the change will have an effect on the perception of one’s face.
  • Gender change. This will prompt and update in the passport picture department if a person transitioning decides to intervene in the sex characteristics as potential hormone intake can influence the face structure, so someone who has undergone gender transition ought to visit the passport office.
  • Face tattoos/piercings. Newly acquired (or removed) tattoo/piercing, can carry a profound change to the face and by extension warrant a new document to be issued.
  • Significant facial surgery. Surgeries or head traumas radically altering one’s appearance will most likely cause the need to retake the photo.

On the other hand, there are some cases where a new photo isn’t required. Those are:

  • Beards. Facial hair, however long, doesn’t change the biometrics of one’s face thus bearing no influence on the authority’s ability to recognize you.
  • Change in hair color or going bald. The same principle as in the case of beards. No change in biometrics data means it has no effect on how the face is constructed.
  • Babies. Child’s passport will last 5 years, and you won’t need to replace a photograph regardless of how much the appearance of the child has changed. This applies to all children below the age of 15.

How do I take a passport photo myself?

To renew the passport, you’ll need to provide a new photo that needs to meet the requirements as below:

  • The photograph must be measured in a way that the head is situated between 1 inch to 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • The background must be either white or off-white meaning with a light grey or yellowish hue to it
  • Face the camera directly so the photo contains every biometric feature of your face
  • No red eye effect. Disabling flash should help here
  • The diameters should be 2 inches by 2 inches in size
  • Neutral expression
  • Headphones are not acceptable as they may obstruct the ears and hairline
  • Can’t wear glasses unless it’s for a medical reason, but then you must provide documentation in form of a signed statement from your doctor together with your application
  • Should you wear glasses, avoid glare otherwise the photo won’t be accepted. The easy way is to tilt them slightly or disable flash
  •  No hat unless for religious purposes or worn as a part of your daily appearance. Can provide a signed statement from the doctor to verify the headwear is used for medical reasons
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