FACT CHECK: Are Americans Not Allowed To Smile In Passport Photos?

A post shared on Facebook claims Americans are prohibited from smiling in passport photos.

Verdict: False

The U.S. State Department’s website notes that “natural, unexaggerated” smiles are allowed.

Fact Check:

The post features a photo of two American passports along with a caption that reads, “You guys….We can like travel internationally and stuff. Also, did you know you can’t smile in passport photos? My RBF can finally be seen.”

The claim that Americans cannot smile in passport photos is inaccurate. In a section of the State Department’s website dedicated to information about “Passport Photos,” there is a frequently asked question tab that reads, “Can I smile in my passport photo?” The answer to this question states, “Yes, but it must be a natural, unexaggerated smile. Both your eyes must be open.”

The site also features a series of example photos that were accepted, including several which show people smiling. Another example shows a photo of a woman who was rejected for smiling in an exaggerated, non-neutral manner.

A customer representative from the State Department confirmed via telephone that a “natural smile” is allowed in a passport photo. (RELATED: Is It Illegal To Own Multiple Passports?)

Check Your Fact searched through the State Department’s social media accounts but found no announcement of a policy change regarding facial expressions. Likewise, the State Department’s Office of the Spokesperson has not made any announcement regarding any such policy change.

Some countries, such as Canada and the U.K., prohibit smiling in passport photos. Both countries encourage a neutral expression, according to their government websites.


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