What’s the Passport Photo Dress Code?

Dark, casual clothes with light makeup and a simple hairstyle will get you the best results on your passport photo.
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Written by Anya Kartashova
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Applying for a passport or renewing one can be both exciting and stressful at the same time. While you may be excited about the new adventures that await you, the lengthy application or renewal process can be a challenge.

It takes several weeks to process a passport application, so you’ll want to get your documents right the first time — including your passport photo — to avoid a rejection and having to start all over. The U.S. Department of State currently indicates that processing timelines are as follows:

  • Routine processing: Six to eight weeks.

  • Expedited processing: Two to three weeks.

If you’re unsure what shirt to wear for a passport photo, this guide to the passport photo dress code is for you.

Passport photo clothing requirements

Remember that your passport photo will include only the upper part of your body, meaning it doesn’t matter what kind of bottoms you wear. You'll want to be careful about what you wear from the chest up because that will show in the picture.

The U.S. Department of State has several passport photo clothes requirements. Remember the following as you pick out your passport photo outfit.

  • You can’t wear glasses or sunglasses. If you must wear glasses for medical reasons, you must provide a signed note from your doctor.

  • You must wear clothes that you normally wear in your daily life.

  • You can’t wear a uniform or camouflage attire.

  • You can’t wear a hat or head covering. If you wear a head covering for religious reasons, you must provide a signed statement verifying this. If you wear one for medical reasons, you’ll need a note from your doctor. The covering can’t obscure your face.

  • You can’t wear headphones or wireless hands-free devices.

  • You can wear jewelry and facial piercings as long as your face is visible. Tattoos are allowed.

Dress code tips for passport photo

Wear casual clothes

Uniforms, uniform-like and camouflage clothing are already not allowed by the U.S. Department of State, but we don’t recommend wearing a suit, either.

You’re likely going to be traveling in your comfortable clothes, so it’s best to keep it simple and wear a casual outfit in your passport photo — similar to what you’d wear when crossing international borders.

Wear a dark shirt for your passport photo

You might not have thought about it before, but the color of your passport photo shirt matters.

Because the passport photo must be taken in front of a white or off-white background, we recommend wearing a darker top in your passport photo. Otherwise, you might blend in with the backdrop. Additionally, pick plain colors over bold patterns to avoid distractions.

Avoid strapless tops or tank tops

If you wear a tube top and the photo is cropped a bit too tight, you may look exposed in your passport photo. We recommend wearing a top with a higher neckline or something that covers your shoulders.

Opt for modest jewelry

Although jewelry is allowed, we recommend limiting your look to small simple studs or a thin necklace.

Overstated accessories can obscure your facial features or cause too much reflection. Less is more in this case, and a passport photo isn’t the time and place to wear a statement necklace, especially if it goes out of style in the next ten years.

Apply natural makeup

You can wear makeup in your passport photo, but go for a natural look that represents your skin tone. Save the fake lashes, contouring and heavy brow filling for a night out. We recommend applying light makeup to enhance your features and not change them entirely.

Choose a simple hairstyle

Even though no hairstyle is technically forbidden, it can’t cover your eyebrows, eyes or ears. If you have long hair, tuck it behind your ears so your entire face is visible. If you have bangs, you can pin them backward or on the sides of your face.

Coloring your hair doesn’t constitute a significant change, so feel free to dye it if you like. Beards and facial hair are also allowed as long as they’re part of your everyday look.

More U.S. passport photo requirements

The U.S. Department of State publishes a helpful list for first-time passport applicants and mail-in renewals. Here are the basics of passport photo requirements:

  • It must be a color photo taken in the last six months.

  • Use a clear image without filters.

  • Selfies aren’t accepted. Instead, have someone take your photo or use a tripod.

  • Stand in front of a white or off-white background without shadows, texture or lines.

  • Background can’t be cropped out with the help of photo editing software, which could alter the outline of the head, face and neck.

Can I take my own passport photo?

Yes, it’s allowed to provide a photo taken at home as long as it meets the guidelines. You also can take a passport photo at a photo vendor such as CVS or Walgreens, or a passport acceptance facility.

Dress code for a passport picture recapped

If you’re wondering how to do your hair, whether you can wear makeup or what color shirt to wear for a passport photo, we’ve got you.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the U.S. Department of State’s guidelines, but remember to also follow our dress code tips for passport photos: Wear casual clothes in dark colors, choose a simple hairstyle and opt for simple jewelry and light makeup.

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