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This is a bit funny. I had posted a question in June - Use of unused Schengen visa to travel to Switzerland. Based on that I travelled to Norway and faced another problem. Some background:

  1. I have an Indian passport issued in 2005 and expiring in May 2015. The photo taken in 2005 for the passport shows a very skinny version of me.
  2. Currently I have put on a lot of weight and hence the current passport photo has significant differences, mostly in fat but facial features are the same.
  3. I have a recent photo on my UK residence permit issued in 2013, which usually helps me with the passport at border control.
  4. I have travelled back and forth between the UK and India for the past three years with the same difference in appearance - but never faced any problem.

This is what happened in Norway at border control:

  1. I provided my passport with a valid Schengen visa (type C multiple- entry, expiring in October 2014) and my UK residence permit to the Immigration officer and he asked me a few questions on my purpose of travel and other basic stuff.
  2. Then he moved on to the difference in appearance: my current appearance versus the photo in the passport. This is when the doubt started building.
  3. He then looked at me again and again - sideways, up, down - comparing with my UK residence permit, previous photos on visas on the passport.
  4. He called upon other two officers to look at my situation and everybody had the same doubts about my appearance. They would look at the recent UK residence permit but again go back to the passport photo and ponder what to do with me.
  5. I tried to build my case by providing other photographic proofs and my return ticket UK - India PAN card (it has an old photo of me from 2007), my Indian driving licence (new photo of me, 2011), my employer ID card (new photo, 2010) - but every time they looked at new photographic evidence, they ended up with my old photo in the passport.
  6. They constantly talked between themselves in local language (maybe Norwegian), which I could not understand at all. This went on for about one hour and still it was not over.
  7. The Immigration officers were not rude but very amazed at the difference and were looking for some way to relate me to old photo in the passport.
  8. Luckily another international flight arrived at that time and all officers had to make a quick decision on what to do with me.
    1. I was finally allowed to enter with warning to get the passport renewed as soon as possible to avoid any further issues at other countries' border control in the future.
  9. I had my biometric information on my UK residence permit, which I offered them to verify against mine but they said that they don't have access to UK information and that won't work in Norway.

I have more trips planned to Europe starting next week and that doesn't give me enough time to renew the passport. I might manage to get through other border controls similar to how I did in Norway but am worried if I get a tough border control official - I might be denied entry.

Is there any other way to prove that I am the same person who was photographed in the passport nearly nine years ago without renewing the passport?

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    If it was taken nine years ago, isn't it up for renewal in a year anyway? Is there a downside to just getting it renewed? – corsiKa Jul 2 '14 at 20:50
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    Thanks all for your inputs. I am in london and processing times for renewal of passport is pegged at about 5-6 weeks minimum from the date of application. I understand renewing the passport is the best option to go for but the question is mainly on my upcoming trip next week. Is there any other option for me to cover upcoming trip? – vicks1 Jul 3 '14 at 4:18
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    @corsiKa: the downside is that (the questioner believes) it takes too long. The questioner is asking for advice what to do on a trip "next week and that doesn't give me enough time to renew the passport". If India in fact provides a means to get a passport in time, presumably the details would be welcome :-) It might also be possible to get emergency travel documents somehow, I just don't know how. – Steve Jessop Jul 3 '14 at 9:38
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11 Answers 11

56

Let's reiterate:

  • You had a problem with your current passport
  • People were not accepting (or at least easily) other means of identification
  • It seems you were just let go on that occasion because people had "better things to do".

Even if by all laws your current passport (or other documents provided) should work, you already know that this didn't much impress the immigration officers you had to deal with. And they seemed to be of the friendly kind. Imagine what happens if one of them had a bad day and time to deal with you.

Sometimes even when you are right, it may be useful to remove as many obstacles as possible, so:

Make your passport photo match your physical appearance, one way or another.

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    IMO, this is actually the BEST answer of all. There were issues, don't assume they will be the exception. Your passport expiry is looming; be proactive. For travel with no time to do that, acknowledge to yourself that you are gambling. Be mentally (and potentially physically i.e. money) prepared to be turned away by some access control. Know what to do. More importantly, get that new passport with the new photo. – CGCampbell Jul 2 '14 at 17:27
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    There are no laws saying that you can enter Norway with a passport, in which the photo is so old that you cannot be recognized, nor that you can enter Norway with a UK residence permit or an Indian driver's license. Which laws are you talking about? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jul 2 '14 at 20:41
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: Note the "Even if" part. I am not referring to any laws, I am stating that in this case it won't matter if there were laws that allow you to do it, given that some IOs did not recognize his photo (which is a hard and subjective thing to do and not formalized in any law). I am also not referring to UK residence permit, I am referring to the hypothetical documents that may be in any laws that the OP is asking for, which are unlikely to help, given that the IOs did not recognize his passport properly, which is calling for trouble (and maybe there is even a record somewhere) – PlasmaHH Jul 2 '14 at 20:47
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: You seem to assume that "photo matching" is a precise thing defined by a law, and that getting interviewed and requesting a superior officer is not a big thing and easy to do. – PlasmaHH Jul 3 '14 at 7:27
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    "One way or another" - do you mean either get a new passport with a current photo or fasten the remaining week in order to look like the old photo? – Hagen von Eitzen Jul 6 '14 at 18:15
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I know your question is totally based on the Schengen area of Europe, and its controls; however, I read an answer to a different question and it included a synopsis of a FAQ on the U.S. Department of State website, which I will add here as well.

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

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.

For the US, you would definitely want to consider a new passport. While a beard (or lack of) would not be considered a significant change, they do consider having “undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain” to be so.

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    This doesn't really answer the question, unless you want to go on and claim that there's no other good way of doing it. – David Richerby Jul 2 '14 at 18:27
  • I agree that getting the new passport sounds overwhelmingly better than any other option. (Well, aside from losing the weight but that's much easier said than done.) – David Richerby Jul 2 '14 at 18:44
  • The linked page is actually about using an old photograph for a new passport or visa application, where the requirement that the photograph match the applicant's current appearance could reasonably be stricter than for someone using an old passport or visa. – phoog Jan 2 at 20:26
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People do change in time, this is a fact an no one can do anything about it unless you really stick to a strict life style. Considering that, you have two options:

  1. An expensive quick solution: Renew your passport, even if it is not expired. I am sure I have seen passport renewal forms with a checkbox saying "due to change in looks" or something like that. So just change your passport with a newer photo.
  2. A cheap long term option: Lose weight! so you will look the same as the photo in your passport 10 years ago!
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    Losing weight is not that cheap. :( - Sincerely, Fat people. – Ayesh K Jul 2 '14 at 15:14
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    Renewing the passport is actually a very cheap option, since you'll have to renew it in a year's time, anyway. It's just bringing a cost forward and it's unlikely to result in you having to renew more passports over the course of your life. – David Richerby Jul 2 '14 at 18:26
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    @DavidRicherby: Considering that the asker mentions that he has to travel next week, a rush order for a new passport (at least, here in the US), is pretty expensive. – Ellesedil Jul 2 '14 at 19:46
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    @AyeshK Loosing weight is cheap, it is just hard ;) Sincerely, skinny people. – Nean Der Thal Jul 2 '14 at 19:53
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    There is no guarantee that his new skinny appearance will match his old skinny appearance. – emory Jul 4 '14 at 18:32
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You are probably running into several acts and regulations here, both of the issuing and the visiting country, each with vague and legalese description of what to do and what not to do.

The most relevant legal text is in this particular case probably the Norwegian alien regulation (Utlendingsforskriften), which in § 4-12 states that when entering or leaving the Schengen area, each person must subject to a minimal check to determine the identity based on the shown travel documents:

Alle personer skal ved inn- og utreise gjennomgå en minimumskontroll for å fastslå identitet på grunnlag av fremvisning av reisedokumenter ...

This is the national implementation of the Schengen Borders Code, which in article 7 states:

All persons shall undergo a minimum check in order to establish their identities on the basis of the production or presentation of their travel documents.

For all practical purposes, this means that you are required to present a valid travel document suitable to determine your identity. If your appearance has changed so much, that it is difficult to recognize you on your passport photo, it is your responsibility to obtain a new passport. You may of course present additional documents like a UK residence permit or an Indian ID card or driver's license, but even if these are official documents, they have in Norway the same legal significance as a golf club membership card.

When it comes to passports issued in Norway, the Norwegian authorities are even allowed to seize your passport if your visual appearance has changed, so that the passport photo doesn't match anymore (Passport act, Passloven § 7e):

Passmyndigheten kan kreve passet innlevert dersom ... dets opplysninger ikke lenger svarer til innehaverens utseende.

Or roughly translated:

The passport authorities can require the passport to be returned if ... its content do not longer match the holder's appearance.

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I think the opposite is also known to happen (i.e. people getting through with another person's passport based on a vague similarity). Photos just aren't very reliable. It's difficult to judge without seeing your picture but I would therefore expect that with full documentation (especially a UK residence permit, even without biometrics!) most border guards would in fact let you through more easily.

That won't help you right now but the Schengen area is moving towards a biometric visa database that would make the photo less important (although even that might not be completely fail-safe for all I know).

But if the photo is so bad as to reliably create problems, I am afraid there is no other solution than renewing the passport.

4

Get your passport renewed as soon as possible. It's a cheap option compared with being denied boarding of a flight or entry to a country. Since it expires in less than a year, you were probably going to want to renew soon anyway, as some countries need 6 months of validity.

In the meantime I would recommend carrying several pieces of photo ID with you, showing your new appearance and matching up with your passport details.

3

As the other answers have already mentioned: get a new passport with current photograph ASAP.
Anything else is folly.

Give the Indian embassy in Oslo a call. It might be possible they can issue a passport, so you don't have to go back to India for one.
If they can't do that they should be able to advice you on the best cause of action.

2

This depends on the country you're entering. Before my last passport expired, I did quite a lot of traveling with an old photo that looked quite different from me. South Korean (many entries) and South African officials didn't bat an eye. Hong Kong gave me little difficulty aside from a little extra scrutiny. Where I had difficulty was China and the US (I hold a US passport). Chinese (three occasions) and American (once) officials both took considerable time to scrutinize the passport and eventually asked me for additional ID. Both Chinese and American officials accepted my US drivers' license and admitted me. I waited until my passport was nearly expired before renewing it.

The point is that the amount of difficulty can vary considerably depending on which country you're trying to enter.

  • Interesting, although he's not asking how difficult countries are, he's wondering what do to to prove he's the same person, or alternatives.. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Sep 17 '15 at 3:56
  • In my case, as I mentioned, a drivers license was enough. So, I would imagine the answer to the question depends on the country, although as other answers pointed out, renewing the passport would be the safest course. – Scott Severance Sep 17 '15 at 4:04
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This just happened to me about 1 hour ago in Aruba. I was told by the US immigration officials (at the remote preclearance outpost in Aruba) that my passport, drivers license, and work ID didn't look like me. They were each of different vintages, but all between 8-12 yrs old. I do look different now (thinner, mostly - but only about 18 lbs) but what a frustrating experience. At a certain point, it's just a judgement call and there's not much to say to them other than that "yes, this is me". It becomes comical at a certain point, because there's just not much more to say after a certain point.

For me, I think the answer will be renewing my drivers license early, which is a simpler process than reviewing a passport. That way, I'll at least have some solid secondary ID to show.

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No idea if this would work, but you could collect a bunch of photos of yourself, preferably portrait photos, taken about once (or twice) a year from 2005 to 2015.

If the significant change happened inside of one year, you would need to collect more photos from that period, e.g. one photo per month.

Bonus: Put these chronologically in a book and flick through the pages to show the gradual change in your appearance.

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As the other answerers point out, the best thing to do is to renew your passport asap. You may also want to consider emigrating to Europe. You will then be subject to less passport controls, so if you keep on gaining weight, you won't have this problem anymore. When I flew from Norway to Germany last year, it struck me that I had not shown my passport to anyone during the trip. The check-in was self service, at the security check you only had to show the boarding pass and there was no passport control point that I had to pass through, both in Norway and in Germany. When I left the airport in Germany, I was thinking that had I stayed in Norway and let someone else use my plane ticket, no one would have noticed anything.

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    This is entirely as expected - both Germany and Norway are part of the Schengen Area – Gagravarr Jul 3 '14 at 5:30
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    Emigrating to another country so that you can "keep on gaining weight" with minimal bother at passport control seems an odd suggestion to me. – Martin Smith Jul 5 '14 at 20:25

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