U.S. visa applications typically require you to provide two photos. These photos must adhere to a strict set of requirements. Failure to meet these requirements will likely lead to your visa being denied. It’s crucial that you follow U.S. visa photo requirements as carefully possible to give your visa application the best possible chance of being approved.
Some U.S. embassies require you to provide physical photos. Others allow you to upload digital photos online as part of your DS-160 or DS-260 online application.
After providing your photos during the U.S. visa application process, your photos will be used to verify your identity upon entry to the United States. Your photos reduce the risk of identity theft. In addition to photos, the embassy will collect other biometric data – like your fingerprints – before or after your visa interview.
U.S. Visa Photo Requirements
U.S. visa photo requirements are strict. Failure to meet these requirements can cause your visa to be denied. If your visa is denied, then you will not receive a refund on your application fee. Consider investing in professional photos today to reduce the chances of visa rejection.
Your photo must meet all of the following requirements:
- Taken within the last six months
- A color photo with no shadows
- No worn electronic devices (like headphones), although a hearing aid and similar accessibility devices are permitted
- A size of 2 inches by 2 inches (51mm x 51mm)
- Plain white background
- Directly facing the camera and allowing your whole face to be seen
- Neutral expression (no smile) with both eyes open
- You must be wearing your normal everyday clothes; no uniform is allowed, although religious garments that the person wears daily are permitted
- Your head must not be covered and your hairline must be visible, unless the person wears a headdress daily for religious purposes; your headdress must not cover the face (even when worn for religious reasons)
- No eyeglasses except for medical purposes (like a recent eye surgery); if you have a medical reason for wearing eyeglasses, then you need a statement from your doctor justifying that reason
- If you do need to wear eyeglasses, then your frames may not cover your eyes and there can be no glare or shadows on your face
- The photo must be sized so that your head accounts for 50% to 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head; ideally, your head will be between 1 and 1 3/8 inches (22mm and 35mm) on the photo
Requirements for Digital Photos
Your online visa application form may allow you to upload photos digitally. Form DS-160 and DS-260, for example, allow you to upload photos online. In that case, your digital photos must meet certain requirements, including:
- 1200×1200 pixels
- Color photo
- JPEG file format
- Size equal or less than 240kB
- If photo is too large and must be compressed, then it can be compressed to a ratio of less than or equal to a 20:1 ratio
You may be able to scan a physical photo into digital format to meet the above requirements. If you scan a physical photo, then it needs to meet the following additional requirements:
- The scanned photo has to have dimensions of 2 inches by 2 inches (51mm x 51mm)
- The resolution of the scanned photo must be 300 pixels per inch or 12 pixels per millimeter
U.S Visa Photo Do’s and Don’ts
Non-Immigrant Visa Photo Requirements
Non-immigrant visa applicants may be asked to provide a physical and digital photo during the application:
Applicants filling out Form DS-160 online may be required to submit a digital photo that meets the digital photo requirements
You may be required to submit one digital photo and one physical photo during the application
Immigrant Visa Photo Requirements
If you are applying for an immigrant visa, then you are required to submit two physical photos that meet the above requirements.
Diversity Visa Program Photo Requirements
The Diversity Visa is a lottery-based system that randomly selects up to 50,000 applicants per year from a pool. Applicants going through the Diversity Visa program must meet the following photo requirements:
- Photo must be uploaded in digital JPEG format
- The photo must be square with dimensions of 600 x 600
- The size of the photo must be 240kB
You may scan an existing photo to meet the digital photo requirements. If you scan a digital photo, then the photo must have a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (12 pixels per millimeter).
If you win the Diversity Visa lottery program and are selected, then you may need to provide more photos that comply with the above requirements.
Where Can I Take U.S. Visa Photos?
Some people take U.S. visa photos themselves at home. However, we do not typically recommend doing it yourself: the photo requirements are strict and messing up the photos can cause headaches in the future. We recommend finding a professional photo services provider to take your two photos. Most professional photo services locations can provide you with digital copies and physical copies that abide by U.S. visa application requirements.
Remember: if your photos get rejected, then it could hurt your chances of visa approval. At the very least, having your photos rejected will lengthen the time it takes to approve your visa. Paying for a professional photographer is more expensive but it can help you avoid future headaches and costs.
If you do choose to take the photos yourself, we recommend using a high-quality camera (not a smartphone camera). The photos must not be edited by computer software except to remove the red-eye effect.
How to Get a U.S. Visa Photo for a Child, Baby, or Toddler
All persons of all ages require a valid photo to request a visa to the United States. If you are planning to visit the United States with your baby or toddler, then you must submit photos of your baby or toddler.
Again, we recommend using a professional photo services provider when taking a photo of your baby or toddler. Taking photos of a baby or toddler is particularly challenging: the child might move during the photoshoot. Children may not follow instructions.
Fortunately, the United States relaxes some of its requirements for visa photos of a baby or toddler. Here are the requirements:
- The photo must be of the baby or toddler alone; nobody else can be in the picture
- The baby’s eyes must be open for the photo
- The baby can be laid down on a white sheet for the photo
- There can be no shadows on the baby’s face
- The baby can sit in a car seat for the photo, although a white sheet must be laid over the car seat to provide a clean backdrop
It’s certainly possible to take a U.S. visa photo of your toddler or baby on your own at home using a high-quality camera. However, it may be easier to order professional photo services.
What Happens If My Appearance Has Changed Significantly Over the Last Few Months?
Your U.S. visa application photo must be no older than six months. However, some people have changed their appearance considerably within the last six months.
If your appearance has changed significantly in the last few months, then you may be required to submit new visa application photos. If you feel that you look significantly different from the photos you submitted for your visa application, then it’s in your best interest to submit new photos.
Some of the possible causes of a significant change in appearance include:
- Went through extensive facial plastic surgery
- Added piercings, tattoos, or other markings to your face or neck
- Gained or lost a significant amount of weight
- Underwent gender or sex reassignment
Not all changes of appearance require you to take a new photo. If you dyed your hair a different color or grew a beard, for example, then you are not required to submit a new photo. Generally, unless you’ve experienced major changes to your physical appearance in the last few months since submitting your visa application photo, you won’t be required to submit new photos. As long as you are recognizable in your photos, then your photos should be accepted. However, the final decision rests with the United States embassy and the consular officer.
(Photos are taken from https://travel.state.gov)