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US Visa Photo Requirements & Specifications

US visa photo requirements & specifications

When making an application for a US visa, you will be required to submit at least one photograph to prove your identity. Your photograph will have to meet a number of specific requirements. Failure to observe these rules will result in a delayed application. Given what is at stake, it really is worth checking to ensure you have got it right.

US Embassies and Consulates have different rules for applicant specifications, with some requiring digital images while others require applicants to provide physical photographs. You will need to check when you make your application which you will need to submit, for example uploading a digital image when you complete your Form DS-160.

Digital images are stored electronically by US immigration authorities, along with your biometric information, and referred to each time you try to gain entry into the US.


US visa photo size

Your US visa photo has to be 51 mm x 51 mm (2 inches x 2 inches). Note that this is different to standard UK and European photo requirements.


US visa photo requirements checklist

Before submitting your photograph, you should check the following:

  • The photo is sized 51 x 51 mm.
  • Your head is between 1 and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of your chin to the top of the head.
  • The photo was taken within the last six months.
  • The photo is in full color.
  • The background is plain white.
  • There are no shadows in the photo.
  • You are facing the camera straight-on, and not at an angle.
  • Your facial expression is neutral.
  • Your eyes are open.
  • You are not wearing eyewear, unless required for medical reasons. Glasses that are permitted for medical reasons must not have any glare or shadows.
  • You are not wearing any electronic devices such as headphones. Hearing devices or similar required for medical reasons are allowed.
  • You are wearing ‘everyday clothing’ and not for exmaple a uniform.
  • Your hairline is visible and your head is not covered, unless it is a headdress for religious reasons. Headdresses must not cover the face.


What are the US visa digital photo requirements?

  • 1200 × 1200 pixels
  • Full color
  • JPEG format
  • File size less or equal to 240 kilobytes


Can you smile in your US visa photo?

You will need to have a neutral expression on your face for your photo to comply with the US visa photo regulations.


Can I take my own picture?

US visa photo requirements are strict, so most applicants will use a professional set up for example within a store, to ensure they have a photo that complies and to avoid any issues with their photo.

However, if you have access to the equipment and conditions required to produce a photo that is compliant, you should be able to take your own picture. ‘Selfies’ however would not usually meet the requirements.

Be aware that printed photos must be of sufficiently high quality. The printed image must be high resolution, in-focus and printed on high quality photographic paper.


Do I need a printed or digital photo?

This will depend on where you are filing your petition and the visa you are applying for. It is best to check with the Embassy you are applying to as to the specific requirements on the format of photographs.

US immigrant visa applications, for example, require two printed photos on photo quality paper that comply to the standard US visa photo requirements. For nonimmigrant visa applications using Form DS-160 applicants typically need to submit a compliant digital photo and are recommended to take a physical print out of the photograph to their interview.


Do I upload a photo for form DS 160?

As well as the standard photo requirements, specific US visa classifications stipulate additional requirements. Nonimmigrant visa applications using form DS-160 will in most cases be required to submit a digital photo which must meet the digital photo requirements, in addition to the printed photo.


What if my appearance has changed since the photo was taken?

Given the importance of the image in verifying your identity, and to avoid issues with immigration officials at the port of entry, it is crucial that your photo is an accurate image of how you look at the present time.

While your photo must have been taken within the six months prior to filing your application, if your appearance has changed significantly during this time, you will need to take and submit a new photo that reflects your current appearance.

Reasons for a sudden change of appearance could include:

  • Transition to a different gender
  • Extensive facial plastic surgery
  • New or removed piercings or tattoos on your face
  • Gained or lost a significant amount of weight

Reasons which would not necessitate a new photo include:

  • Change of hair color
  • Grown or removed facial hair


US visa photos for babies and toddlers

Taking a photograph that complies with the US visa photo requirements can be challenging! It is usually easier to go in-store and make use of a professional set-up to help you create a photo that complies.

If you are considering taking the photograph yourself, you could try laying the baby down on a white sheet as a background, or placing the child in a car seat with a white sheet draped over the seat. Importantly, no one else can be visible in the image and the child’s eyes must both be open.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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