A Look Into How Passport Photo Requirements Have Changed Over Time

In most places, having a passport is a requirement if you want to leave your country. It has become a straightforward process to complete your passport application thanks to new helpful websites that will explain every step.

The current system of requirements needed to successfully apply for your passport is slightly different to the requirements of the past. When the British government initiated passport photographs in February 1915, the rules were not as strict.

Entire families, rather than just one person, could be shown. Facial visibility was all that mattered, the pose and location of those involved weren’t important. The BBC has chronicled passport changes over the last 100 years, which shows just how different regulations were at the introduction of passport photos.

With current photo size regulations, your two photos must be professionally printed and 45 millimetres (mm) high by 35mm wide – this is the standard size used in photo booths in the UK. Average sizes in photo booths outside the UK may differ so in order to make sure you get the right size, it may be worthwhile to go to a professional establishment like the post office or a passport agency.

Having two non-regulation photos with your passport application will result in delays in your application or a denied request altogether. It is important to remember that you cannot use photos that have been cropped from larger pictures. All UK passport photos must be:

• In colour on plain white photographic paper
• Taken against a plain cream or light grey background
• Identical
• Taken within the last month
• Clear and in focus
• Without any tears or creases
• Unmarked on both sides (unless a photo needs to be countersigned)
• Unaltered by computer software

Passport Photo Requirements

Your images must show a close-up of your full head and shoulders and you cannot be shown with other objects or people. The image of you – from the crown of your head to your chin – must be between 29mm and 34mm high.

In 2004, regulations on posing for passport photos had drastically changed. Prior to 2004 it was permissible to smile and show teeth in your photos. This was later banned due to the belief that looking happy would throw off scanners used at airport security.

Long fringes, head coverings, and dummies in babies’ mouths were also banned with the new regulations set in place. With the new biometric readers now in place at airports, neutral faces are the easiest to pick up. The change in regulations also required that eyes must be opened and clearly visible—no hair across the eyes. Individuals were no longer able to wear sunglasses or tinted glasses. Anyone who requires glasses must wear them at the end of their nose without covering their eyes. The lenses cannot produce reflections.

Along with the change in facial requirements, head coverings became banned as well. There are exceptions for those who wear scarves for a religious belief. The new types of passports were being introduced in a bid to fight terrorism.

Passport services exercised flexibility with the new regulations until 2005, however any passports renewed or applied for after 2005 must strictly adhere to the current requirements.

About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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