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In 2010 I got a new passport (I am Australian) and, for some reason I cannot comprehend, used possibly the worst photo of me ever taken. My hair is everywhere and I have a weird look on my face. Anyway, it barely looks anything like me.

I've used it to go to the USA and Japan and it has never caused me any problems (though both in the US and coming home to Australia I've had a few chuckles when border security agents have looked at it - one even called a friend over to have a laugh...).

Next year, I'm planning to go to Israel and was wondering whether security there might find it less amusing and more serious. I will be crossing the border from Jordan to Israel at one point on foot, as well as flying in to Jordan and out of Israel. Is it worth renewing my passport (doesn't expire until 2020) before going in order to get a more accurate photo? Am I likely to encounter problems with a strange photo?

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    When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home. – Michael Hampton Nov 7 '16 at 21:26
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    It's no problem. Officials look at them constantly, what seems odd to you - they see literally 100s of times a day. Forget about it. If you want a new one purely for vanity's sake, and fair enough - do it. – Fattie Nov 7 '16 at 21:29
  • @MichaelHampton For reference, this is more than when everyone says: "Oh my photo on my passport is so bad." As mentioned above, it's so bad I've had border security laugh at it/comment on it. But if you think it's still all good, then wonderful! I'd rather not renew it. – user53467 Nov 8 '16 at 1:10
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    If you have a secondary photo ID (e.g., driver license) with a more accurate photo to present if asked, I wouldn't worry. – Andrew Lazarus Nov 8 '16 at 1:16
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    So when approaching the desk, mess up your hair, and then when he looks at the photo, assume the same weird expression. – WGroleau Nov 8 '16 at 5:51
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It very rare indeed for a security agent to called a friend over to have a laugh. Border agents see something like one person per minute when they work at inspecting passports. That is close to 100,000 photographs each per annum. Would a friend be called over to have a laugh at something that happened to the border agent every week? I suspect not, but maybe once a month – less often if there are several agents sharing such jokes (it is only amusing if out of the ordinary).

On the other hand, presumably someone responsible has certified it was a true likeness, so maybe odd but nevertheless adequately recognisable. And if it is good enough for the people who issued your passport then no Israeli can object to the photograph (though they may not let you cross their border with it).

It is also very rare indeed for passport photographs for adults to cause issues (once accepted for passport use). However Israel can be expected to be more sensitive than most about identification, both because of their general security situation and for what they themselves are believed to have been up to, for example the 2004 Israel–New Zealand passport scandal and more recently the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh.

If you were to 'renew' now you would be getting only six year's use of a ten year passport. Four years' share of the current adult ten-year renewal fee of AUD 254 is around AUD 100 (around US$ 75).

If you are really not too bothered about being allowed to enter, then save $100 and take the risk. Even if entry makes quite a big difference, still take the risk as it is not so much of being refused entry but having to waste some time with additional questioning and checks - if that.

If entry makes a very big difference and the photograph is as unrepresentative as you seem to imply, then buy a new passport, or you will be uncomfortable all the time until you arrive in Israel. Perhaps console yourself that all you are wasting 'now' could easily be what you would otherwise have wasted in the future.

  • I'm not sure the "save $100" point is so valid, because what is the cost of a lost trip due to refused entry to Israel? If there is a non-trivial chance of being refused entry, getting the passport renewed is probably the cheaper option. – user35890 Nov 8 '16 at 9:45
  • how come you have to pay 100$ for renewing a passport? that's a lot – CptEric Mar 17 '17 at 11:24
  • @CptEric AUD $254 actually – Tim Mar 17 '17 at 12:17
  • @Tim in spain it's 25€, and free if you got to renew it. – CptEric Mar 17 '17 at 12:19
  • @CptEric around £100 in the U.K. I think – Tim Mar 17 '17 at 13:05
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You've not chosen to share the passport photo, so it's hard to offer an opinion on whether it's acceptable. But if Australia's own border guards haven't said that it's unacceptable or warned you that you should replace your passport, it probably isn't a problem.

The actual guidelines for passport photos are:

  • Good quality, colour gloss prints, less than six months old
  • Clear, focused image with no marks or 'red eye'
  • Plain white or light grey background that contrasts with your face
  • Uniform lighting (no shadows or reflections) with appropriate brightness and contrast to show natural skin tone
  • Face looking directly at the camera and not tilted in any direction
  • Hair off the face so that the edges of the face are visible
  • Eyes open, mouth closed
  • Neutral expression (not smiling, laughing or frowning), which is the easiest way for border systems to match you to your image.

No particular hairstyle is required, and a variety of facial expressions might be considered "neutral" for the purpose of facial recognition. The linked DFAT page gives several (less amusing) examples of what is acceptable and unacceptable.

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I frequently flew between Israel and UK when I was in my early twenties, but my passport was from my early teens. Obviously I looked quite different.
Each time that I flew, I was asked if I had any other ID and they were very happy to accept my photo driving license.

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    Early teens to early twenties is more than 5 years? – Tim Mar 17 '17 at 12:19

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