UK Passport Photo Hair Requirements Explained

woman brushing up

The headshot in your travel credentials must comply with a great many standards. From head proportions to the image file size and quality—it seems that HMPO (His Majesty’s Passport Office) thinks of every possible nuance ahead.

Of course, these thorough guidelines apply to the applicant’s hair as well. And if you want a new passport photo that’s both good-looking and compliant, it may not be easy to choose the right hairstyle.

Let’s figure out what’s acceptable and what’s not!


Passport Photo Hair Rules UK: Dos and Don’ts

Here’s a tip to save loads of time: there aren’t any specific regulations on hairstyles in British passport photos. Technically, this means that you can sport any haircut you want, but try not to get too fancy, anyway.

For instance, make sure your hairstyle isn’t too voluminous. It’s okay if your hair can curl a bit, but if you have a gorgeous afro that’s almost the size of your head, it’s better to flatten it all to more reasonable proportions. According to the official passport photo requirements, it’s your face that should occupy most of the picture, not your haircut.

woman sporting a large afro

The reason for that lies in the way biometric data software works: first and foremost it scans the subject’s face and visible facial features.

And if you were going to get your British passport photo via an online service with background removal (like ours), you want to choose a haircut that isn’t too bushy and/or curly. Any hairdo with flyaways can pose a problem for the background removal algorithm and render the edges of your hair fuzzy in the resulting picture.

By the way, you can’t have visible accessories in the photo, so hair clips or elastic bands won’t help.

Generally, try to stick to the golden rule: whatever haircut you have in your new passport picture, all of it must be in the picture and your eyes and eyebrows must be fully visible. Plus, there shouldn’t be any shadows on your face.

Common Questions on Hair for Passport Photo

Still, there are specific cases to which the golden rule doesn’t give explicit answers. We’ve compiled a list of such questions into one comprehensive F.A.Q. list.

Can You Have Dyed Hair in Passport Photo?

Yes, HMPO does allow you to sport coloured hair in your passport photo.

However, it won’t be a good idea to dye your hair light grey before your photoshoot. The background used in UK passport photos is the same off-white light grey, so dyed hair of a similar colour can make your hair almost merge with the backdrop.

As for other colours: as long as they are visible and make a proper contrast, it’s fine.

Can You Have Your Hair Up in a Passport Photo?

Absolutely, you can. Just make sure that your whole haircut is seen in the photo. An example: if you tie a neat high bun that can be clearly seen, it’s more than acceptable.

On the other hand, a Marge Simpson-like beehive is a no-go, as you can’t possibly fit it in the frame and keep the compliant proportions at the same time.

Can You Have Your Hair Down in a Passport Photo?

If it doesn’t cover your face or obscure your facial features, it’s not forbidden by the rules. But while you can have your hair down, we’d also recommend tucking it behind your ears to reveal as much of your face as possible.

passport photo long hair

Can Your Hair Be Tied Back for Passport Photo?

Of course, it can! In fact, it’s one of the preferable (not necessary, mind you) options for your headshot. If you carefully tie your hair in a tight bun or neat ponytail, you make your face most visible, which never hurts biometrically-wise.

Can You Have Wet Hair in a Passport Photo?

HMPO’s guidelines do not give us any specifics on that one—this means it’s better to use common sense. A classic passport photo should show the usual, everyday you. So, if your hair is only slightly wet, it shouldn’t be a problem: just use a comb to brush it up. However, if you’re drenched to the skin, take a rain check.

Can You Have Facial Hair in Passport Photo?

It doesn’t matter whether you sport a gorgeous moustache, a long beard or only some light stubble: each is allowed to have in your British passport photo, so no need to shave. Still, if your facial hair has gone wild, take some time to trim your beard and moustache to look presentable in your headshot. Also, pluck your eyebrows, if that’s your thing.

If you wear a visible fringe, it’s also fine (but don’t let your long hair cover or hide your eyes and eyebrows).

Are Hair Accessories Like Head Coverings and Hair Clips Allowed?

They aren’t—you can’t wear any visible accessories in your picture. If it’s necessary, you can use a transparent hair clip that’s not visible (no elastic bands though). As for headwear and other kinds of head cover, they’re allowed for religious and medical reasons only.

Do Your Ears Have to Show in a Passport Photo?

HMPO doesn’t require you to show them yet it might be a good idea to do so anyway. With your hair tucked behind each ear, it’s easier for biometric software to recognise your face automatically. Better safe than sorry!

Can You Wear a Wig in a Passport Photo?

Again, there are no specific statements on this one, so use your judgement here. Wearing a wig is acceptable, but put it on only if you wear it daily and it’s part of your usual appearance. In case you want to have a wig in your picture just for fun, we advise you not to.

Best Hairstyle for Passport Photo

While you’re (almost) completely free to choose any style you want, it might be easier for someone to go with some tried-and-true option. And there is one!

Your best bet is to take a photo with one of the well-known business-like hairstyles. This option seems the best one, as it may benefit you in two ways.

the best option for those who want to follow passport photo hair guidelines by the letter

First of all, neat and business-like haircuts have always been the best possible choice for official headshots. Most often, they are very carefully arranged and completely neutral—a perfect combination for a perfect passport photo!

Secondly, such a hairstyle may work in your favour if you apply for a business visa someday. Your future employer or business partner will surely appreciate your appearance of a true professional.

And one last tip: have your hair cut within two weeks before your passport photoshoot. This way, you’ll look most presentable and well-groomed. Just make sure it’s no more than two weeks—the effect has to be visible.

A Tool to Check Your Headshot

In this article, we cover pretty much everything about UK passport photo hair requirements. But in addition to that, there are other details to take into consideration. In fact, a lot of them.

Don’t want to face technicalities like the size, head proportions, background of the correct colour and so on? With us, you won’t have to (you won’t even need to visit a photo booth or photo studio).

Use our service to turn your usual snapshot into a passport photo online! Not only will it save you time, but it is also free, quick and compliant with the UK rules for passport photos! It’s free and takes a couple of minutes to use, so why not try it out and make sure your passport application is accepted?