Who Can Sign Passport Photos in the United Kingdom: A Full Guide
Along with getting your paperwork and pictures right, signing passport photos is a very important step in the British or Irish travel document application process.
If you intend to get it done quickly and without hassle, it’s important to understand the HM Passport Office rules and regulations on who can and can’t sign your photos (and why do it in the first place).
Let’s look at some common questions about signing passport photos—it’ll help you ensure your application is approved without any problems or delays.
Interestingly, the HMPO doesn’t oblige all applicants to do this. In general, those who are up to an adult or child passport replacement (i.e. renewal, not a first-time application) don’t usually need any third-party identity confirmation.
However, there’s an entire list of applicants for whom this procedure will be necessary. If you fall under one of the listed categories, you’ll need another person to sign your application form and one of your UK passport photos in print. This way, the guarantor (also called ‘countersignatory’) confirms your identity to the Home Office.
So, you must have your paperwork and photo signed in the following cases:
You’re applying for your adult or child passport for the first time
You want to renew the document of a child who’s 11 years old or younger
You’re in need of a lost, stolen or damaged passport renewal
You’re renewing your current ID because your appearance has changed significantly and you’re unrecognisable in your existing picture
In terms of HMPO, a guarantor is someone who can vouch for the identity and age of the person in the photo. While the list of one’s potential countersignatories will likely be extensive, there is a number of requirements for them—it can’t just be any person you know. It’s usually a professional (such as a lawyer, teacher, police officer, etc.) who has the authority to sign a passport photo.
First and foremost, the guarantor must have known the applicant for at least two years. In case an adult is filling out the form to apply for a child under sixteen, it’s this adult that the guarantor must know, not the child.
The countersignatory must be able to verify your identity. This means that you can have your passport photo signed by a close friend, neighbour or colleague (and not just someone whom you barely know).
The guarantor should either be a person of good standing in their community or be occupied in a recognised profession. Now, if you’re confused by the former: in general, a person of good standing should have a good reputation, and the UK government must be able to verify their credentials if necessary.
- Alternatively, the countersignatory can be occupied in a recognised profession to be allowed to sign your passport. Not to worry, the list of those is rather long (from police officers and travel agents to legal secretaries and articled clerks), so it’s most likely you have someone who can give you a signature.
You can find the complete recognised profession list at
The requirements for your counter signatory also depend on where you’ll apply from.
If you apply in the United Kingdom
In this case, the passport office requires that your guarantor should live in the UK and possess a current British or Irish passport.
If you apply outside the United Kingdom
If you don’t live in the UK and apply from overseas, your guarantor’s existing passport must be valid in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States of America or any other country in the European Union or the Commonwealth.
If their passport is non-British or non-Irish, you will have to include a coloured photocopy of its page with your countersignatory’s picture.
Note: the processing time will be shorter if your guarantor has a British or Irish passport.
Who can’t sign my passport photo?
Even if the person you’ve chosen meets the criteria given above, they won’t be able to verify your British passport photo in certain cases.
For instance, they cannot be related to you by birth or marriage. Therefore, this requirement excludes all family members, so you can’t have your wife, mother or even your uncle sign your picture.
And even if you’re in an unregistered marriage, having your partner sign the papers won’t do: HMPO will not accept signatures from those in a relationship with you or living at the same address as you.
What if I can’t find anyone to sign my passport photo?
In this scenario, you will have to submit a signed statement saying that you were unable to find a guarantor and that the information you’ve given in your British passport application form is true. Please mind that if you do that, the processing time will increase significantly.
So, you’ve filled out your application form and taken your British passport photos. Now, it’s time to have the paperwork and the picture signed. In case your potential countersignatory doesn’t know what to do, here’s what the guarantor does:
- Make sure the details in your application are correct and each passport photo is an accurate depiction of you
- Sign the form and one of the two photographs
By putting their signature, the guarantor confirms that: the details in your application are accurate; they’ve known you for more than two years; you are who you claim to be.
- Write the number of their passport on your form
- Expect an email or a phone call from the HM Passport Office for clarification
Please note that if your guarantor is absent (for instance, on a business trip or vacation), HMPO may have to delay your request.
It’s important to understand that the countersignatory can’t just put their autograph on your papers. In fact, there are exact words that they must write on the back of one of the two passport photos provided.
The phrase is as follows: ‘I certify that this is a true likeness of [the title and the full name of the adult or child who is getting the new UK passport].’ Under this phrase, the guarantor (not you) must put a signature and today’s date.
It goes without saying that the writing and the signature should be clear and legible. Also, neither can exceed the edges of the passport photo and should not be placed over the image itself.
If this is the case, they simply will not be accepted as valid identification documents. The absence of a signature means that your passport photos cannot be used to verify the identity of the passport holder. This, of course, means guaranteed and unconditional rejection.
The only exception is when you submit a signed statement explaining why you can’t get a signature.
As we’ve outlined before, you’ll also be rejected if you submit papers signed by someone who isn’t authorised to do so (say, by a family member or someone living at the same address as you; you and your countersignatory cannot be related).
It is therefore important for passport photos to be signed by a suitable guarantor in order to be accepted as valid identification documents.
Are there any other requirements?
There’s this unwritten rule—the signature has to be printed neatly and carefully. Passport photos must be signed with a black ballpoint pen (not with a pencil or marker) so that the signature is clear and legible. It can be placed only on the back of the photograph and cannot cover any part of your image.
This post covers pretty much everything you need to know about having a child or adult passport photo signed. And as cumbersome as this whole signing thing may be, there’s a way to expedite the United Kingdom passport application process at least a bit—take British UK passport pictures online right now!
There’s no need to pay or leave your home since our passport service is 100% free and can process your pictures online instantly.