Why You Should Smile in Your Passport Photo

Jun 22, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

You might want to flash a smile in your next passport photo, according to a new study.

The University of York has found that smiling in your passport photo could potentially thwart identity fraud. Their researches studied ways to better identify people through photos — an important issue for authorities trying to identify fake or forged passports. The study found that some people had difficulty identifying people when their facial expression was neutral, and that it was easier to match photos where the individual was smiling in both pictures. 

“Photo ID is a significant part of our lives and yet we know that the human brain has a hard time matching photos of people to other photos and matching photos with the real-life person,” said Dr. Mila Mileva of York’s psychology department. “Identity fraud is a real problem on many levels, so it is important that we do more research in this area to see how we can improve methods of identification.”

The study contained a series of three tests. In one, participants were asked to match neutral facial expressions, similar to a passport photo, with a photo of the same person smiling.

The second required them to match a neutral face with people smiling, but showing no teeth. The third had participants matching photos where only the lower half of the person’s face was visible.

The results of all three studies showed that the open-mouthed smiles were matched at the highest rates.

“Our research suggests that replacing the neutral expression we usually use when taking identification photographs with an open mouth smile can make face matching an easier decision,” Dr Mileva said. “As soon as there’s a mismatch in emotional expression — comparing a smiling and a neutral image for example — the matching accuracy drops substantially.”

The researchers suggested that smiling pictures could help immigration agents at passport checks, and potentially reduce identity fraud.

Just because it could help prevent fraud doesn’t mean you should share an ear-to-ear grin in your next ID photo. You’ll want to make sure it’s one of the State Department-approved expressions.

“You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open,” the State Department’s website states. Here’s what a “natural” smile looks, according to the State Department:


And here’s its version of an unnatural smile:

H/T: The Independent 

Featured image by BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.