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?

  • 11
    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. Oct 10, 2013 at 12:33
  • 2
    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, 2013 at 6:25
  • 12
    Obviously, growing a beard and shaving the left/right side off before taking your next batch passport application photo's is the safest bet!
    – Samuel DR
    Oct 17, 2013 at 13:04
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    All the answers below seem to cover borders where an official makes the call. For automated borders where it's a camera and face recognition software, e.g. UK "e-passport" gates, people with beard/no beard photo discrepancy seem to have no more trouble than anyone else. May 14, 2014 at 13:41

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 21
    What does "split the difference in your photo" mean? Grow a beard and then shave off one side before getting the photo taken? (-; Oct 18, 2013 at 4:51
  • 8
    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, 2013 at 12:46
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    Since this is testimonial based, I think the country/culture/ethnicity matters. As a caucasian, when I went to southeast Asia it caused me a lot of problems, because they thought the person in the photo looked nothing like me. Dec 19, 2014 at 18:02

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: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html

*Q: Do I need a new photo if my appearance has changed (grown a beard, dyed my hair)?

A: Only if your appearance has significantly changed from what is in your current passport. 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, you do not need to apply for a new passport.

You may have to apply for a new passport 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

If the appearance of your child under the age of 16 has changed due to the normal aging process, you do not need to apply for a new passport for him or her.

  • 20
    It's perfect that your name is "barber" ;)
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 11, 2014 at 10:06

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.

  • 3
    It's too bad he didn't keep statistics before he grew the beard, for comparison, but I suppose the fact that he decided to start probably already serves as a strong indication that it was different before.
    – phoog
    Nov 12, 2015 at 15:51

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.


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.


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.
  • 22
    Five minutes? You've obviously never had to shave off my travel beard! Oct 10, 2013 at 14:54
  • 31
    UPDATE: Except for the iron beard of @hippietrail where it needs 50 minutes and 5 steel razors. Oct 10, 2013 at 15:03
  • 1
    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, 2013 at 23:33
  • @emory Age makes wonders, beard doesn't. Oct 11, 2013 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, 2013 at 4:39

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.


Photo identification only occurs between the bottom of the nose and the top of the forehead - it's the only part of the face that isn't changeable over time. Beard, no beard, long hair or bald, doesn't matter.

source: Me - I used to check IDs all the time and that's how we were trained to assess them.

  • So don't style your eyebrows before travelling? Jan 21, 2019 at 10:22

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