Can You Smile in a Passport Photo in US, 2024? Should you with Teeth or Should You Not?

January 8, 2024

4 min. read


passport photos smiles

It’s natural for our culture to have big smiles, friendly small talk, and positive vibes, regardless of all. But can you smile in a passport photo? Let’s clear that out.

In Focus:

Can You Smile in a Passport Photo?

It’s kind of a tricky question to answer yes or no. What is for sure, the US lists among a little number of countries that are lenient on whether to have a smile on your passport or just keep it neutral. In this article, you’ll learn if you can smile in a US passport photo according to the Department of State guidelines and get actionable tips for a 100% valid photo.

Can I smile in my passport photo in the USA?

As experts in passport photos, we deal with lots of document images daily. We follow the latest information from the U.S. Department of State, and it advises that you actually can have a natural smile in passport photos. To try on different smiles and choose the best photo, check out our easy-to-use passport photo maker now. And read on for more details.

Passport photos smile and technology

You might think, there are as many natural smiles as there are people. So what is the rule of thumb? Let’s look at it at a high level. Why can’t we have an ear-to-ear grin in passport photos? It’s all about state-of-the-art AI Facial Recognition Technology. It helps customs officers to identify people from their passport photos on their official documents. And you don’t want any problems with that.

smile passport photo

To put it simply, the technology does work more effectively if your face preserves the same natural look and neutral expression as in real life. Just like you are, when arriving in the country of your destination. Well, maybe not that tired after a 10-hour flight.

That said, unlike most countries in the world, the US government is the only country that is lenient on that part and does allow its citizens to have a natural smile in a passport photo. Which is great!

Can you smile in a passport photo with teeth?

There is no official rule that denies you for a smile showing teeth in a passport photo. Especially, if it’s your natural smile. However, remember the passport photo smile shouldn’t be extreme.

Pro tip: In case you need help figuring out if the photo with teeth showing is compliant (or if you have any other doubts about the passport photo requirements), make the most of our passport photo service. It’s easy to use and designed to follow the latest passport photo guidelines. Upload a passport picture or take a new one with your smartphone and get a verified one in seconds.

Be sure, you submit your passport application to the State Department with confidence that you have an acceptable passport pic with eyes open, looking into the camera, no silly faces, mouth closed, no digital alterations, and other harder achievable metrics and precise measurements for biometric passports photos, including smiling.

What passport photos smile is not acceptable?

Can you smile in a passport photo or not is up to you. However. unnatural or exaggerated grins are forbidden. The government officials that review passport applications and biometric photos per International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are to decide whether your facial expression and smile prevent you from being easily identified in passport photos. And this is common sense. It becomes explicit why your smile for a passport photo requires not to be over the top.

Other countries are generally not that tolerant of smiles in passport photos. If you plan to travel a lot around the world, maintain a neutral, universally excepted facial expression on your face in your passport photo.

Should you smile in a passport photo and at airport?

The answer comes to us quickly, when we think about why this rule even exists. You should remember if the Facial Recognition Software in the airport fails to recognize you for your smile, you will need to see a real-life officer in order to pass the border. Which is at least an add-on to your time in between the flights. Your safest bet is to keep a neutral facial expression.

Can you smile in a passport picture: summing up

TLDR: You can have a natural, unexaggerated smile in a US passport photo. You still need to be recognized by the Facial Recognition Software and government officials of any country. If any concerns, just maintain a neutral, relaxed and friendly expression in your passport photo.


What happens if you smile in a passport photo?

No drama if you smile in biometric passport photos. Nothing bad can happen. But make sure, it’s your natural smile. In case of doubt, keep a relaxed but neutral facial expression. If the passport office thinks your smile in a passport picture is exaggerated, you’ll be asked to redo your picture for your new passport.

Can I smile in my US passport photo?

Sure. You can. But remember to maintain a neutral expression without showing teeth for the US passport photos. And you’ll go through your passport application process smoothly.

Can a baby smile in a passport photo?

The rule is the same as for adults. We realize it’s quite a task to get a baby smile or unsmile for a passport photograph. There are tricks and ways, but still. The passport photo rules are less strict for newborns and toddlers, specifically. As long as the baby keeps their eyes open or not fully closed, it should validate a good picture. But of course, remember to follow all other authority rules for younger and older children for their passports.

Why can you not smile in a passport photo?

Passport applicants can smile in the US passport pictures. There are two main reasons why you should not go over the top:

  • The airport system might need more time to match your document photo with your identity when at customs. Or it will fail to do so.
  • The exaggerated smile in biometric passport photos can cause your face to frown, wrinkle additionally, or alter. Again, you might not be recognized by the system.