When this EU passport was issued, I was only half-jokingly told that I might want to get a new one if I ever was going to travel to the US due to the kind of afro hair I'm sporting in the picture -- specifically because it covers my whole forehead down to my eyebrows, which can be seen but are definitely overshadowed. I was told this only when they were giving me the passport, no one said anything when I gave them the actual picture. Haven't had any problem with it at the few European, non-EU borders where I used it.

Some years after the fact, I am planning a trip to the US and just remembered this. Should I really be worried about it being rejected at the US border? The passport still has over a year before the expiration date and I'm currently not living in my country, so it would be a hassle to pay a visit to the embassy to get it renewed, while also having to postpone the ESTA application.

I had a look at this US Government guide on passport pictures and it definitely is worrying -- the picture of a guy with a couple of rastas over his forehead in the 'hair section' is deemed unacceptable. (While I understand these are guidelines for US passports.)

Advice on whether I should renew the passport or not?

EDIT: The picture in question:

  • It's hard to say without seeing the picture.
    – phoog
    Mar 23, 2016 at 14:42
  • 9
    That's the guide for American citizens getting a passport. It's not clear to me that the same standards are used for accepting other country's passports presented at the border. I expect if it was good enough for an EU country, it's good enough for a border guard, although of course they have the power to refuse entry no matter what photograph you have. Mar 23, 2016 at 15:16
  • 2
    Do you physically resemble, or match, your passport photograph? If so (I mean you hair is now as it is in the photo), you'll have no issues solely due to the photo; after all it was you own government that issued it. If you do not resemble the photo, to an average person who does not know you personally, then yes, you are likely to have problems.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 23, 2016 at 16:43
  • @phoog I've attached the picture in case it helps.
    – freieschaf
    Mar 24, 2016 at 0:21
  • Have you been to the US? What was your experience? Please post an answer if you can tell us.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2016 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure if you need a US visa or not - most EU nationals do not require one for tourism, however for reference I am using the photo guidelines for US visas which don't state that your forehead has to be visible:

  • In color
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image's total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
    • Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.
    • Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
    • Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.
    • If you normally wear glasses (without tinted lenses), a hearing device, or similar articles, they may be worn in your photo.
    • Dark glasses or glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable.
    • Glare on glasses is not acceptable in your photo. Glare can be avoided with a slight downward tilt of the glasses or by removing the glasses or by turning off the camera flash.

If your country has issued your passport photo - and the passport meets all other requirements (biometric/digital, etc.) then you should have no issues at the border.

Of course, this assumes you look like your picture and there is no significant material change in your appearance (see "taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance")

I have used the same photo - which showed me with a large head of hair and some seriously big aviator specs - for applying to the US. Upon arrival, I had a shaved head and no glasses (was wearing contacts).

I was let in without issues; even though - by my own admission - I looked nothing like my passport photo.


Granted, this is a little out of date, but there's an image of George Harrison's first passport widely available on the internet:


In the second photograph, his hair is completely covering his forehead. As you may know, he did visit the US along with the other Beatles, at a time when they all had similar hair styles:


It's pretty clear that standards may have changed somewhat in the last 52 years, but I expect that if your hair covers your forehead naturally, your photograph will not be a problem when you present yourself for immigration inspection.

  • 2
    A better example might be one of the images on the US passport photo guides of someone with hair over the forehead, where the picture is criticised for something unrelated (e.g. exposure) or allowed. The issue with the rasta looks to be that his hair part coverred or shadowed part of his face (cheekbones) that recognition software might use Mar 23, 2016 at 17:33
  • 5
    I'm not sure the existence of George Harrison's passport and the fact that they let the Beatles into the country is particularly useful in answering the OP's question. Mar 23, 2016 at 17:51
  • @ZachLipton possibly not, but Beatles and their haircuts were the first things that came to mind. I am awaiting better answers, which I will happily upvote.
    – phoog
    Mar 23, 2016 at 20:22
  • @user568458 that is an excellent point. You should add it as an answer. You will have my vote, at least.
    – phoog
    Mar 23, 2016 at 20:23

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