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Passport and INS Photographs

New rules on visa application photos nothing to smile about


By Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


When it comes to some U.S. government photos, smiling is frowned upon.


"The subject's expression should be neutral [non-smiling] with both eyes open, and mouth closed," says a rule cited in the rejection of a visa photograph of a tooth-showing person from Cleveland.


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explained that "no expression" is the standard for such photos.


The Clevelander's attorney advised Pittsburgh colleagues last week to warn their clients about new, more stringent specifications for immigration photos.


The no-smile regulation is part of a wider policy that went into effect in August. As of Sept. 1, no three-quarter-angle photos, the old standard for immigration documents, and no smiling faces are permitted.

But most people won't know they're not supposed to smile unless they visit the U.S. State Department's Web site and read the lengthy set of instructions for photographs, including colors permitted for the background, proper lighting, directions for eye height, head orientation, and the necessary "natural expression" with no squinty eyes or flashing teeth.


"A smile with closed jaw is allowed but is not preferred," the instructions add.


Mark Knapp, an immigration attorney with Reed Smith, knew about the change in specified angle but didn't know about the no-teeth rule until notified by his Cleveland colleague, Marin Ritter.


Janet Stewart, of Chircosta Studio on Smithfield Street, Downtown, learned of it the first day it went into effect, by having a photograph rejected. Her business takes many immigration photos, and she now advises everyone not to smile.


"I'm the only photographer that says, 'Don't smile,' " she said.

Passport photos have strict dimension requirements.INS photos are slightly smaller than passport photos.Passport photos must be from the same exposure. They cannot be made from two sequential exposures.INS photos frequently required that the right ear be visible.




$10.95 + Sales Tax

The top two pictures are for USA Passports. The bottom pair is sometimes used for alien registration or INS photos.


The government has strict standards regarding background color, head size, and print size. The passport must be able to withstand a specified mounting temperature.


Also used for:


Firearms Permits

Real Estate Licenses

Nursing Licenses

CPA and similar


The Immigration Picture Style is slightly smaller and the right ear must show. Also priced at two for $10.95 plus tax.

The above immigration photo is theoretically obsolete according to the news article. However, specifications being brought to us by clients still call for the right ear visible photo. We expect the full frontal face to replace the right ear version at any time.

800-526-1087  Lynn Martin Photography—Alva