Biometric passports, or e-passports, are embedded with RFID (radio frequency identification) microchips that are used to authenticate identity. The chip contains information about a passport holder’s physical characteristics, such as the distance between the eyes, nose, ears and mouth. It also holds the personal information found on the data page of your passport, such as your name, date of birth, birthplace and passport expiration date.
Biometric passports make travel safer and more efficient. When renewing your passport, note the requirements of a biometric passport photo, so your application is processed without any problems.
While biometric passport photos have exact specifications, photos aren't required to be professionally taken. You can have one taken at a big-box store like Target or Walmart, pharmacies like CVS or Walgreen's, or at mail service providers like USPS or FedEx. It's also easy enough to take your own. Whatever your preference, follow the photo guidelines to ensure your passport application goes through without a hitch.
Background and Lighting
The photo background must be just one color, ideally white or light gray, with no patterns or shadows. It should be bright enough to make you stand out. If your hair is light-colored, opt for a slightly darker gray background to provide better contrast.
Natural light is best for capturing the right contrast and skin tone. To avoid shadows, face a window, avoiding direct sunlight as it will cause squinting. Make sure your face is in focus, and check carefully for shadows, light patches or red eye, characteristics that will get your application rejected.
Use a Neutral Expression
Look directly at the camera, wearing a neutral expression or a natural-looking smile. Keep your mouth closed, and don’t frown. Your eyes should be fully open and not be covered by hair or head coverings (explained fully below), and your ears must be visible. The photo should show both of your ears.
Headwear and Glasses
Headphones and glasses must be removed. If it’s not possible to remove your glasses for medical reasons, include a doctor’s note with your application. If you are required to wear head wear for religious or medical reasons, include a signed statement explaining that your head wear is recognized religious attire or provide a doctor’s statement explaining that it's a medical requirement. However, your eyes and face must still be visible for a biometric photo to be approved.
Your Baby’s Photo
The best way to get a decent shot of a baby is to lie him or her on a light-colored sheet on the floor and take the picture from around 5 feet away. Make sure no toys or other objects are in the shot and that the baby’s head is in the middle of the frame. Babies under 12 months old are not required to close their mouths and directly face the camera. However, children over 1 year must adhere to these rules.
Size and Orientation
Biometric passport photos should be 2 x 2 inches in size, with the head between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches. Photos should be printed on photo quality gloss or matte paper.
A number of websites are available to which you can upload passport photos to determine if they fit all the requirements. While these aren’t 100 percent foolproof, they’re a helpful way to know if you’re on the right track.
RFID Blocking Technology
The RFID technology embedded in your passport makes it easy for airport officials to verify your identity, but it also has caused new concerns: e-pickpocketing. Hackers can scan the chip in your biometric passport, accessing your personal details. To counter this problem, some travelers prefer to use RFID-blocking wallets or sleeves. These have a thin, metal mesh that prevents anyone from wirelessly accessing the information on the chip. At a push, you can even wrap aluminum foil around your passport, which offers much the same protection.
Biometric passports act like a fingerprint, storing information about your physical characteristics to certify your identity. These passports have become an essential part of modern travel, improving security for passengers as well as streamlining airport queues.