Why Is My Passport Photo Black And White? Update for U.S.

May 16, 2024

2 min. read


why is my u.s. passport photo black and white


You might have seen a picture of a new biometric passport with a black and white photo before. Perhaps, you just received a freshly renewed passport book with a black and white photo, not in color as expected. Do we read your mind: why is my passport photo black and white?

It is worth knowing the latest nuances if you are applying for or renewing your document in the nearest future.

In Focus

Why is my passport picture black and white?

Through time, the U.S. passport and photo rules have been changing with the advanced new technologies evolving rapidly. For example, we can now create a passport photo online easily. Becoming a more and more secure and complex document, the passport has modified its appearance too, especially its first page.

Starting in 2021, U.S. citizens can now receive the next generation passports. The U.S. Department of State explains on its official website that the even more robust passport books have new enhanced security features, such as laser-engraved personalization and updated artwork. In addition, it has a polycarbonate data page with stored information, biometrics, expiration date, and visa pages with extended options for frequent international travel.

What’s more, the passport photo has undergone a few transitions. It has turned from a color picture into a black and white photo. There is a new alphabetic alphanumeric passport number to the right of the passport picture as one of the other enhanced security features. The passport photo is not only black and white, but laser engraved too.

Why is my passport photo black and white – in the USA?

why is my u.s. passport photo black and white

The State Department advises that you can take your own passport photos and there is no difference so far if it’s for a next generation passport or an old one. One might assume that all passport photos are in black and white now. Let’s clear that out.

Are passport photos black and white now for next generation passports?

The answer is yes. Though you might receive a next generation passport with a black and white photo, it is not an everyday practice yet. Not colored pictures are characteristics of next-gen passport books at the moment, but you might get a passport of the previous generation. What’s more, you still have to take your passport pictures in color for passport applications. Note that all the existing documents in circulation are secure and used for traveling.

To be sure, you apply with the correct quality passport photos, not in black and white, but in color, here’s a little memo:


  1. If you apply for your passport or its renewal in person, you should submit two printed photos in color.
  2. In cases when you renew your document by mail, you need to staple a photo to your passport application (currently just one) with 4 shots, in color too.
  3. If you apply online, upload your color image as required, following the correct dimensions which are between 600×600 and 1200×1200 pixels and a 1: 20 compression ratio.


Starting in 2021, passport photos can be black and white because they are on the next generation passport with compositional requirements, a new data page, and eight numbers throughout the pages as alphabetic alphanumeric code. Still, the number one reason for passport application denial or delay is an unacceptable picture for the document. Make sure you submit the correct photograph following all the U.S. passport guidelines for photos.


Why is my U.S. passport photo black and white?

No matter that next generation passports have a black and white photo, the requirements for submitting acceptable color photographs conveying your current appearance are the same. These are white background, neutral expression, head coverings only for religious purposes or medical reasons, full face visibility, accepted eye level, and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom edge of the chin to the head of the headshot. It must be a recent picture not more than six months old.

Is a new passport with black and white photo?

As we mentioned before, the new black and white color are the characteristics of ready new-gen passports. The official rules for submitting passport photos stay the same. That means you need to get a snapshot of your portrait in color.

Why passport photo is black and white for the next generation passport?

Those who have submitted passport applications and are going through a passport renewal process might soon get a document of the next generation with a black and white photo. Whether applied through passport agencies or in person, you can get a new passport or an old one, as the U.S. Department of State started issuing such passports in 2021.