Passports are among the most widely accepted forms of identification in the world. One of the reasons for this is that passports are given only after the background of the applicant has been thoroughly verified and his or her bona fides have been established. A key element of the passport as a means of identification is the passport photograph.
A UK passport photo must have external dimensions of 35mm x 45mm (width x height). Within the image itself, the area from the top of the head to the chin must be no less than 29mm, and no more than 34mm high.
Very few countries now accept black and white photos for passports and photographs are now starting to be gathered by some countries in a digital form so that it can be used for computerized facial recognition. The digital photograph is validated against the actual appearance of the person either by a physical verification at the time the passport is collected, or through internal processes and interviews – the procedure varies from country to country but still always requires the validation against an actual passport photo.
While each country has its own conditions and specifications for the photographs to be used in its passports, the need for a clear and recognizable image of the passport holder means that certain basic requirements remain the same:
Biometrics is a technology that more and more countries are using to make, counterfeiting of passports almost impossible and to allow for automated authentication of the passports and recording of the passport holder’s arrivals and departures. A biometric passport is one that adds a remotely readable computer chip to the traditional passport booklet so that it becomes a kind of smartcard. The computer chip stores a great deal of information, but for identification purposes, the most important is a digital image of the passport holder. Using this, digital image facial recognition software can be used to verify the identity of the person carrying the passport with a far greater degree of certainty than traditional visual comparison.
Children’s photos, especially those of infants are often difficult to take, but again, while specifications may vary according to the country in question, certain basic requirements are common.
If you need to apply for a passport to be issued by a country other than the UK, for example, if you have children or other family members who hold dual or non-UK citizenship, the table below shows the current requirements for biometric photos. This information is provided purely as a guide, and it is highly recommended that you check with the issuing authority for up to date requirements.
The sizes of passport photos vary, depending on the country. Most European countries use the same format but have slightly differing requirements. As an example, Ireland uses the same photo format, but the face has to be adjusted to cover a larger area of the photo. It has to be between 32 and 36 mm compared to a UK requirement of between 29 and 34mm. In addition, some countries require photos of different sizes depending on the intended use.
Please note that the first measurement, in all cases, is the height of the photos and the second is the width. All countries require that the photos are in color and no other person or objects be present in the photos. As can be seen, many countries are standardizing on the 4.5cm x 3.5cm size. However, due to the heightened security measures that all countries are enforcing, it is always best to check from a reliable source and be sure that there have been no changes in the passport photo specifications before applying.
If you plan to take and process your own photo, it is important to understand how digital imaging works. Most photos are printed at between 240dpi (dots per inch) and 720dpi, with a typical setting of 300dpi being used to print at high quality. The “dots” indicate how many drops of ink are put on each inch-long segment of a single line of drops on the paper. In comparison, a computer screen typically only requires 72dpi to display an image at full resolution.
Graphics programs and photo viewers often don’t have an option to set the physical print size of a picture but work instead in pixels, so some calculation may be needed in order to work out the image size in pixels that will be required. The calculation is
Print Resolution / 2.54 x Dimension in cm
The 2.54 figure is the conversion of inches to centimeters, so our 35mm x 45mm image at 300dpi is calculated like this –
300 / 2.54 x 3.5 = 413px wide
300 / 2.54 x 4.5 = 531px high
Passport photographs are also used for many other applications since the specifications are so strict that they meet most requirements for driving and other license and identity card photographs. The only difference is that the size of the photograph may vary depending on where and for what it is being used. Most countries also require the same size and specification photos both for issuing the passport to its citizens’ and also for the issuing of visas to foreign nationals who want to visit the country.