As of April 1, 2016, all eligible travelers who wish to visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are required to hold a biometric passport (e-passport).
Biometric passports have a machine-readable zone on the first biographic page and a digital chip, which contains the traveler’s biometric information.
To travel under the VWP, foreign nationals must apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The ESTA application is part of a pre-screening process, designed to evaluate the immigration and security risk every foreign national might pose by crossing the American border.
Should you wish to apply for an ESTA, you are required to hold a biometric passport. In case you don’t currently hold such e-passport, you need to apply for a new biometric passport.
One of the most common passport application mistakes people make is to ignore the biometric passport photo requirements. This article will discuss in details the required photo standards, set by all official passport issuing institutions.
The biometric application photo must be original with no digital enhancements. No removal of spots or lines is allowed. Should you submit a retouched photo, the biometric passport application will be delayed. The photo must be color. No black and white photos will be accepted. The standard biometric passport regulation is to submit at least two identical photos, produced by the same film or printed from the same electronic file.
The photo must measure 45mm by 35m. It should not be printed on a corrugated or heavy weight paper. The back of the photo must allow for it to be certified and signed without smearing. For this reason, it is recommended to print the photo on a high-quality, low gloss or matt paper. Standard photo studios should have no problem to print on such paper. However, make sure to mention these regulations to the photographer taking your photo. It is not a fact that everyone will be familiar with the required paper standards.
When taking your biometric passport photo, make sure to look straight at the camera with a neutral facial expression, your eyes open and clearly visible and your mouth closed. The photo must show both edges of your face, neck and shoulders. Furthermore, it should be centered in the face, neck, and shoulders. Stand straight, do not look nor tilt to the side.
Make sure no hair, hat or scarf is covering your face. Wearing a head covering is only allowed for religious reasons, as long as the full face with all its features is clearly visible.
Additionally, the photo must reflect the natural skin tone. Shadows or unnatural dark spots will render the biometric application photo invalid.
Wearing glasses of any type (sunglasses, dark, tinted or mirrored glasses) is forbidden, when taking your biometric application photo. Glasses can show reflection or glare from the camera flash, which will render the photo invalid. Furthermore, the glass frames may obscure or alter some facial features. It is important that the photo shows your face clearly, without anything covering, altering or shadowing it. What is more, anyone with visual impairment must also remove their glasses for the picture so that a clear biometric can be captured.
All photos must be taken on a clear background with no shadows or unnaturally strong/low lighting. The color of the background must be cream or light gray. The standard background color recommendation is from 5% to 10%.
For a successful biometric passport application, make sure to review and understand the photo requirements mentioned above. Once you have your biometric passport, apply for ESTA travel authorization fast and easy online.
The overall application process takes no longer than 10 minutes per applicant. Your ESTA will be valid for 2 consecutive years. It will give you the right to multiple entries into the US, for a maximum stay per trip of 90 consecutive days for each 180-day period.
If you already have a biometric passport, apply for ESTA today.