Your passport book is nearing its expiration date or perhaps full of stamps, and you need to renew it. Or maybe you’re applying for your first passport.
In either case, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has procedures in place for a passport application or renewal. To avoid having your application rejected, you must follow the directions to a T, including those for taking your passport photo.
Obviously, you want to look nice for your photo, but are you allowed to wear makeup?
Here’s what you need to know about passport picture requirements, plus tips to achieve the best results in front of the camera.
Passport photo makeup allowances
Wearing makeup in a passport photo is not against the official rules set by the DOS.
However, there are several unwritten rules about wearing makeup in passport photos, and you’ll want to follow them to help ensure your photo and application is accepted.
Tips for wearing makeup in a passport photo
Your skin tone must look natural
Your passport photo must reproduce skin tone accurately, so we don’t recommend using a foundation that is too light or too dark for your skin tone.
Additionally, using self-tanner or skin-lightening products right before taking the photo is not advised. You don’t want your everyday look to depart drastically from your passport photo when going through immigration.
If possible, use a translucent foundation that looks natural and doesn’t dramatically alter your skin.
Use products with no or low sun protection factor (SPF)
High SPF products, such as sunscreen, primer, foundation or facial powder, can cause a white cast on your face when a flash is used. We recommend using no- or low-SPF base products to avoid looking pale or shiny when wearing makeup for a passport photo.
Additionally, apply a setting powder to absorb excess oil and give your skin a matte texture.
Go easy on the contouring
If your everyday makeup ritual includes contouring, we recommend doing a light contour with a big fluffy brush to avoid a drastic change to your face. You don’t want to go overboard here and use a dark shade.
Using bronzer and neutral-color blush to balance out your face shape are perfectly fine.
Don’t draw on your eyebrows
Your brows frame your face, and changing their shape can change your look entirely. You may want to use a brow gel with a tint for more definition, but it’s not recommended that you change their shape.
Instead of drawing on eyebrows, stick to enhancing what’s already there. Your passport lasts 10 years, and you want the photo to look like you until it expires.
Don’t apply fake lashes
To keep your eyes looking natural, apply mascara to your natural eyelashes and don’t use fake lashes for your passport photo.
Additionally, if you usually wear cat eye eyeliner, we recommend doing a small wing close to your natural lash line instead of an exaggerated wing.
Passport picture requirements in the U.S.
The DOS has published a list of passport photo requirements for first-time applicants as well as mail renewals.
Here are the guidelines for passport photos:
Submit one color photo, taken in the last six months.
Use a clear image without filters.
Have someone take your photo or use a tripod. Selfies aren’t accepted.
Stand in front of a white or off-white background without shadows, texture or lines.
The Department also provides some photo examples of acceptable and unacceptable photos.
Acceptable passport photos include:
Clear, color photos that are properly exposed and reproduce accurate skin tones.
The head is centered, and the photo is of the right size (2 inches x 2 inches).
Photo is sharp without any visible pixels or printer dots.
Applicant is facing the camera with a neutral face expression.
A child’s eyes are open and facing the camera (unless it’s a newborn).
Unacceptable passport photos include:
Applicant is wearing glasses.
Background is cropped out with the help of photo editing software, altering the outline of the head, face and neck.
Applicant is wearing a hat (coverings worn for religious or medical purposes are allowed).
Applicant is wearing a uniform or camouflage attire.
Can I take my own passport photo?
You can take a passport photo at multiple locations, including at a photo vendor, such as CVS or Walgreens, or a passport acceptance facility.
You also can ask a family member or a friend to take a photo for you, as long as it fits the requirements. As a reminder, you can’t take a selfie, but yes, you can take your own passport photo.
Passport picture requirements don’t forbid makeup
If you’d like to wear makeup in a passport photo, feel free to do so, but remember to keep your look as natural as possible. The last thing you want is to get your photo rejected when applying for a passport or attract unnecessary attention from an immigration official in an already-stressful situation, even if all your paperwork is in order.
In any case, the goal is to capture a timeless look to last you as long as the passport is valid.
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