This Ask the Consul article addresses photo requirements for non-immigrant visa (NIV) applications. In short, every NIV applicant must provide a front-facing, full-face photograph along with their visa application. Although applicants have the option of uploading a digital photo when they submit their online application, applicants may also choose to bring printed photos to the Embassy on the day of their visa appointment.
A: Photos are vital in accurately identify individuals and comprise a key element in preserving the integrity of US immigration policies. A digitized photo is integral to the facial recognition screening technology the US Government employs to aid in identifying visa applicants and ensure that visas are only issued to and used by legitimate visa holders. All visa applicants are subject to facial recognition screening.
Q: What should the photo show?
A: It is important that the photo shows the entire face with the applicant facing the camera directly. The applicant should be looking straight at the camera with eyes open. The head must be centred and should take up at least half, but no more than two thirds, of the total area of the photo. The applicant should assume a neutral facial expression and the background of the photo should be plain white or off-white. If the applicant is wearing eyeglasses, there should not be any glare from the lenses.
Q: How recent must the photo be?
A: The photo must have been taken within six months of submitting your application and reflect your current appearance.
Q: What quality photo is expected?
A: Applicants’ photos should be good quality. Out-of-focus, grainy, overexposed, and underexposed photos are not acceptable. In general, you are not allowed to digitally enhance or alter the photo to change your appearance in any way.
Q: Does the photo have to be colour?
Q: What clothing should I wear for the photo?
A: Wear the same clothing you would normally wear on a daily basis. Don’t wear a uniform unless it is one you wear daily for religious reasons. Don’t wear tinted glasses, non-religious caps, headphones or hands-free wireless devices.
Q: What if I have a head or face covering?
A: The Embassy understands that some individuals wear coverings on their head and face for religious or other personal reasons. However, in order to process the visa application, the Consular Staff will ask that all applicants provide photos revealing the top of the hairline and exposing both ears.
Q: What changes in appearance would require me to submit a new photo?
A: If you’ve undergone significant facial surgery or trauma, added or removed numerous facial piercings or tattoos, undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain, or obtained a new gender identity you should submit a new photo.
Q: How can I be certain my photo conforms to the standards above?
A: The webpage http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/photos.html contains a free photo tool that can help you upload your photo and prepare it for your application.
Q: What happens if I do not bring an appropriate photo to my interview appointment?
A: Those visa applicants who do not have appropriate photos will be asked to leave the Embassy and return with new photos that adhere to the standards detailed above. This request could potentially cause a delay in processing the applicant’s visa if issued.
Note: These responses provide only a broad guideline and are not comprehensive. Each case must be considered independently. For further details, please refer to the following websites http://georgetown.usembassy.gov and/or www.uscis.gov. If you have a general question about visa policy please email it to us at AskGeorge@state.gov or call 225-7965 between 8 am and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday) if you have questions about a specific case.