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Is there a requirement that the ears must show on photos used for US visas? This is specifically about women with long hair.

There are several example photos of women on official sites where the ear does not show. See for example at the bottom of this page:

enter image description here

(There was another official site with many examples of "good" and "bad" photos. I used it as the reference when taking the photo. I can't find the page now but I clearly remember it also had "good" example photos where the ears didn't show.)

However, on the final checklist auto-generated by the visa application website there is this item:

enter image description here

If I hadn't noticed this only at the very last minute, I would just re-do the photo to be absolutely safe. Did anyone have trouble because the ear doesn't show? The photo matches the requirements in every other aspect, except for the ears being covered by hair.

I should note that this checklist was only made available to us after every online step of the application has been completed, including payment.

  • I'm not certain (so this isn't an answer) but I believe that if the ears should be visible, then you need to be able to see both of them. I guess this is a requirement to make sure the face is aligned directly toward the camera. – Greg Hewgill Sep 1 '14 at 20:26
  • This is a slideshare explaining US visa photos requirement. It has no mention of ears at all. – Nean Der Thal Sep 2 '14 at 2:06
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I received several comments with links to official photo guidelines pages which never mention ears, and have example photos of women where the ears are covered. Aditya Somani confirmed that such photos have been accepted in the past and used in visas.

This seemed like convincing evidence that this is not a requirement---I still believe it isn't,---so (due to lack of time) we did not re-do the photo in the last minute. Complying with the official requirements is not always enough though.


Here's what actually happened:

When using the CITIC drop-off service in China, the bank clerk who takes the documents (not a consulate employee!) simply refused to accept the application because the ears don't show.


I do not believe that there is a requirement that the ears should show, but people applying for a visa (especially in China) should know that something like this can always happen, and a clerk can refuse to take the documents out of his own initiative (regardless of what the actual guidelines may say). To avoid unnecessary delays, make sure your ears show in your visa photo.

  • This is quite surprising indeed. Maybe people at the CITIC service are specifically strict with respect to it, but I assure you the visa officials at the Indian Embassy atleast were not that strict about it. But thanks for sharing your experience, this is great! +1 – Aditya Somani Sep 4 '14 at 16:17
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I just went back and checked my mother's photo on her US visa. And she has almost the exact same situation as yours.

One might argue saying that you could have your hair tied while taking the picture, but I find it unlikely that your visa will be rejected because your ears are not visible (considering it's quite common for ladies to have longer hair). The other factors might be more important though.

In either case, I believe that if they are not satisfied with the picture, the consulate will contact you and ask you for another picture instead. I've seen that happen before when the consulate asked my father for a picture on a white background instead of a darker background.

In agreement with the comments, I suggest that you go ahead and apply for the visa.

  • Well, having to give a new photo would be pretty bad, as it would mean delays and missing the return flight. (The person for whom this question was written is using the CITIC dropbox service in China.) But all the evidence does point in the direction that it is not strictly required to show the ears. At this point I'm fairly confident that it'll be fine. – Szabolcs Sep 2 '14 at 2:28
  • @Szabolcs That would be a good choice IMO. – Aditya Somani Sep 2 '14 at 2:37
  • While your answer is entirely reasonable, and my belief is still that as you say, there's no requirement for the ears to show, unfortunately things don't always go smoothly. See my own answer. What makes me even more angry is that apparently photography shops in China who claim to know the photo guidelines will make a completely unacceptable photoshopped passport photo. They artificially (and sloppily!) removed the background to make it white and photoshopped out birthmarks. Doing this is clearly against the guidelines ... – Szabolcs Sep 4 '14 at 15:39
  • ... (especially since the background manipulation is visible) and having to re-do the photo yet again caused even more delay. Apparently this is how that photography shop usually does US visa application photos, and I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that the same bank clerk regularly accepts photoshopped visa photos ... this world is messed up. Also, just like in your mother's case, the applicant's previous visa photo also doesn't show ears. – Szabolcs Sep 4 '14 at 15:47
  • @Szabolcs I'll be fairly honest, my US visa photo is slightly photoshopped as well. I know this because the photography shop did it in front of me. But there was no other manipulation, and the photoshopping did not remove any birthmarks, just random blemishes or other temporary skin artifacts. I think you just got unlucky or the CITIC service is very strict with the rules. – Aditya Somani Sep 4 '14 at 16:21

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