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I just recently renewed my passport with a picture taken just after I shaved. I haven't shaved since (>3 weeks) and I kind of like it. I am even looking into how to maintain a beard, but that is a question for another platform.

Regarding traveling I am a bit worried that I look a bit different now then when I renewed my passport. On all my other photo IDs I don't have a beard either.

Long story short, should I shave before boarding my next flight, or are Immigrations/Customs/Airline staff trained to look through the beard?

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It sounds like you intend to spend a few weeks at one border while you grow a beard (-; But seriously "travel beards" are very common among low budget independent travellers. –  hippietrail Oct 10 '13 at 12:33
    
I have an acquaintance who does a lot of international travel. Occasionally he changes his facial hair. He had his most recent passport photo taken with a mustache and short goatee. He feels like this makes him easier to recognize whether he's bearded or clean shaven. –  Will Oct 11 '13 at 6:25
    
Obviously, growing a beard and shaving the left/right side off before taking your next batch passport application photo's is the safest bet! –  Sdry Oct 17 '13 at 13:04
    
Did any of the posts answer your question? If so, could you please mark an answer as accepted? Thank you! –  Bart Arondson Dec 14 '13 at 22:01
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7 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I traveled through 18 countries last year with:

  1. Clean-shaven passport photo
  2. Bearded Brazilian Visa photo
  3. Bearded International Driver's License

When entering Brazil I didn't have a beard, and most of the rest of the time I was bearded traveling with my clean-shaven passport photo. I never had one issue. Doesn't mean you won't but most of the border agents realize that people don't look exactly like their photo.

If you can split the difference in your photo, I'd recommend that, but don't worry about it too much.

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What does "split the difference in your photo" mean? Grow a beard and then shave off one side before getting the photo taken? (-; –  hippietrail Oct 18 '13 at 4:51
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Actually, I think I'll now change my recommendation to that. :) No, I mean if you haven't gotten the photo taken, don't take it clean shaven or with a 6-month beard. Maybe a week or so of growth so you're in-between. But a half-side-beard would be pretty great for going through customs. –  jjeaton Oct 18 '13 at 12:46
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It will probably make them take a few extra moments to verify it's really you but the Department of State in the United States has no rules or notices that you need to look identical to your photo.

Here is a Q/A about facial hair and hair coloring on the DoS travel website I found: http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/photofaq/photofaq_5291.html

Q: Do I need to take a new photo if I recently dyed my hair a new color or grew a beard?

A: New photos are only required if your appearance has significantly changed from what is in your photo. Growing a beard or coloring your hair would not constitute a significant change. If you can still be identified from the photo in your current passport or visa application, you do not need to apply for a new passport or submit a new photo for your visa application. However, you may have to apply for a new passport or submit a new photo for your visa application if you have:

  • Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma
  • Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos
  • Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain
  • Made a gender transition

The acceptance of your photo is at the discretion of the U.S. passport agency where you apply for a passport or U.S. embassy or consulate where you apply for a visa.

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It's perfect that your name is "barber" ;) –  Mark Mayo Feb 11 at 10:06
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My passport has a photo taken before I grew my beard. Since growing the beard I've traveled extensively, including the US. Never had any border official so much as comment on this.

I should note that my beard is of modest thickness. A big, bushy beard may alter your appearance enough to cause issues.

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One notable exception to the existing answers: If you have darker skin, and grow a particularly long/unkempt beard, you might open yourself up to some forms of racial and ethnic profiling.

I have a friend who is of mediterranean descent, and has a beard that is a good 9 inches in length. He has to budget an extra two hours to pass through any airport, because according to his personal statistics that he keeps, 32% of the time since growing out the beard, he's been detained in some way for additional scrutiny.

Your milage will vary depending on where in the world you're headed, and general rates of Islamophobia in any given locale.

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In general the answer is going to be that no, it will not cause any issues. Immigration officers are trained to look for features beyond those that may be covered by hair, so although they may need to look a little closer at you to determine that the photo matches, they will still be able to confirm your identity.

However there is one place where this may cause issues if you have an "e-Passport" (sometimes called a "biometric passport"), which contains a copy of your photo on the chip contained within the passport. In some countries, e-Passports allow you to use automated immigration devices, such as SmartGate in Australia or Global Entry in the US.

Depending on the size of the beard, it is very likely that the automated device will not be able to confirm that the photo on the passport matches your current image, and they will likely send you to a human to confirm the identity match. Other than being a little slower than going the automated path this won't cause any issues - it just might add a little time depending on how long you need to wait in line to see an immigration officer. Worst case, it should be no slower than not using the automated system at all.

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No, there is no problem for two reasons IMO:

  1. There is not a single rule or even recommendation regarding this anywhere, official or non-official.
  2. The problem can be solved easily (if it ever happened and they stopped you), a one dollar razor and five minutes in the airport toilets will be enough to make you look like the passport photo again.
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Five minutes? You've obviously never had to shave off my travel beard! –  hippietrail Oct 10 '13 at 14:54
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UPDATE: Except for the iron beard of @hippietrail where it needs 50 minutes and 5 steel razors. –  user1712 Oct 10 '13 at 15:03
    
I have had to produce a second ID because my passport photo "did not look like me." I was clean shaven in the photo and clean shaven at the border. Admittedly, the passport photo was 9 years old - but the point remains that you cross the border at the discretion of the border guard, so none of us can say definitely that this will not be a problem. –  emory Oct 11 '13 at 23:33
    
@emory Age makes wonders, beard doesn't. –  user1712 Oct 11 '13 at 23:36
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Agreed with @hippietrail - if the guards saw you (Halabi) shaving his beard (for 50 min, with 5 razors) in an airport, they might ask a question or two. –  hunter2 Oct 12 '13 at 4:39
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Border officials are looking at details unrelated to, and not hidden by facial hair. Examples might be; the horizontal alignment of your ears with respect to each other, how far apart your eyes are, prominence of cheekbones etc... I.e., things that are not easily concealed except by skilled plastic surgery.

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