Can You Wear Glasses in a Passport Photo? UK Rules Explained
Today’s passport application guidelines are pretty thorough: the UK government gives us advice on size, head proportions, hair and camera position. Some aspects, however, remain unclear.
For example, many wear glasses daily, but should you keep them on in passport photos? Is it against UK regulations? Oh, and what about decorative spectacles and contact lenses? Let’s answer these questions!
Let’s dismiss the obvious scenario: if you were hoping to take your pictures with sunglasses on, you can’t do that. Your face and eyes must be clearly and fully visible, so such an accessory is a no-go in passport photos.
The same rule goes for any tinted glasses whatsoever. So, if you’re sporting transition lenses that darken when exposed to bright light, take off your glasses. Even if they seem transparent, there still might be a slight tint that can obscure your face.
This regulation also applies to visually impaired or blind people: before taking passport pictures, they need to remove spectacles as well.
Now, to the most common case: the usual glasses you wear to see things better (not reading glasses—these you should remove in any case). Surprisingly, the government website is somewhat unclear on the matter. They recommend you take your glasses off before taking your passport photo unless you must keep them.
While such vague wording leaves much room for interpretation, it most likely refers to prescription glasses worn for medical reasons—these are allowed in a passport photo. So, if you absolutely need them to see properly, leave them on (you shouldn’t need a signed note from your eye doctor).
This, however, might not be the best idea if you want your photoshoot to go smoothly.
While they are officially allowed for medical reasons, there are difficulties that may arise when taking your passport photo, even if it’s prescription glasses you wear:
- Glare on lenses. Whether you’re taking your image in a booth, store or by yourself, there may be excessive light rendering each lens almost white—it’s not acceptable for HMPO. If there’s any glare or flash at all, even prescription glasses have to be removed.
- Frames that are too thick. According to the official quality assurance guide for UK passport photos, frames can cover eye sockets or lids. Still, the white parts and the pupils of your eyes must be fully visible: no exception here (otherwise, your passport application will be rejected). Also, the frames can’t cast shadows and shouldn’t be tilted.
- Frames that match your passport photo background colour. If this happens your picture may look somewhat weird, which may well cause frowns at points of entry.
- Glasses that are too low on your nose. If you’re taking your images in the evening, your nose may have become oily, which makes glasses slide down and hide your eyes. To avoid this, wash your face before the photoshoot.
Also, thoroughly wipe your spectacles beforehand just to make sure no water stain makes it to your passport photograph.
As you see, the accepted rules are simple: you’re only allowed prescription glasses in your passport photo. However, they may surprise you with an unexpected problem during the photoshoot (glare, stains, etc.), so we’d recommend taking your picture without them. If you look really different when not wearing glasses, you can just take them off when asked to do so.
Whether you wear glasses or not, there’s something else you can do to make your photoshoot easy: take your shot at home. Use our free tool—you won’t have to look for the nearest passport photo booth, just grab your smartphone and take a picture!
Can you wear coloured contacts in passport photos?
No, you cannot. While the government allows wearing classic transparent contact lenses, their coloured counterparts are a 100% no-go. For identification purposes, the colour of your eyes must remain unchanged—otherwise, your shot won’t be accepted.
Why can’t you wear glasses in a passport photo?
The main reason is that you must be easily identifiable in your travel document photo (that’s the whole point, right?). That’s why many countries, the UK included, require you to remove your glasses when taking your passport photo.
There’s another important thing to remember: if you stop wearing spectacles someday, you won’t need to retake your photo and get the expensive UK passport again.