When you apply for either a U.S immigrant visa or a U.S nonimmigrant visa, you might be required to submit one or two photographs of yourself as part of your documents. These photos are used to determine your identity and obtain your biometric information. The photos are submitted into the U.S databases and they are used every time you enter the U.S to prevent identity theft.
Depending on the U.S Embassy you apply from and the type of visa, the photos required might be physical photos or digital photos. Physical photos mean that you have to print them and send them as part of the application, while digital photos can be attached online when you submit your Form DS-160 or Form DS-260. You must follow the instructions of the U.S Embassy and submit whichever format they ask for.
This article will go through the U.S visa general photo requirements as well as the requirements for particular types of visas.
General Physical Photo Requirements
In general, when you submit a physical photo to the U.S Embassy or Consulate you are applying from you have to make sure it fulfills these requirements:
- The U.S visa photo size must be in a way that 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 must be taken within the last 6 months
- No electronic devices must be worn in the photo, but if you need a hearing device or something similar, it is allowed.
- The photo must be in color and with no shadows
- The background of the photo must be plain white
- The person must be facing the camera in the photo for the whole face to be seen
- The person in the photo must have a neutral expression and both eyes open
- The person in the photo cannot wear a uniform, but clothes that they wear normally every day. Religious clothing that the person wears daily is allowed. The head must not be covered and the hairline has to be visible, unless the person wears a headdress for religious purposes. The headdress must not cover the face.
- The person must not wear eyeglasses except for medical reason (if for example, the person has had an eye surgery lately), and a statement from a doctor must be provided to justify them. If eyeglasses have to be worn, the frames must not cover the eyes and there must be no glare or shadows in the face from the glasses.
General Digital Photo Requirements
If the U.S Embassy you are applying from wants you to submit a digital photo online, it must meet these requirements:
- The photo must be square and 1200×1200 pixels
- The photo must be in color such as the sRGB color space
- The photo must be in JPEG photo format
- The size of the photo must be less or equal to 240 kilobytes (kB)
- If your photo is bigger than that size, it can be compressed to a ratio of less than or equal to 20:1 ratio.
If you already have a physical photo which meets the general physical photo requirements, you can scan it and make it as following:
- The photo has to be in dimensions of 2×2 inches (51×51 mm)
- The resolution of the scanned photo must be 300 pixels per inch or 12 pixels per millimeter
Nonimmigrant Visa Photo Requirements
In addition to the general requirements, there are also requirements for the types of visas. Some of the requirements related to U.S nonimmigrant visa pictures include:
- For applicants using Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, you might be required to submit a digital photo which must meet the digital photo requirements.
- In addition to the digital photo, you might also be required to submit 1 physical photo as per their requirements
Immigrant Visa Photo Requirements
For those who are applying for a U.S immigrant visa to permanently stay in the U.S by submitting a Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application, the requirements include:
- You must submit 2 physical photos in photo quality paper
- The size of the photos must be 2×2 inches or 51×51 mm
Diversity Visa Photo Requirements
For those who are entering the Diversity Visa (DV) program or lottery, photos are also required. The photo has to meet these requirements:
- It must be uploaded as a digital photo
- The photo must be in JPEG format
- The photo must be square and its dimensions must be 600×600 pixels
- The size of the photo must be 240 kilobytes (kB)
If you scan an existing photo, it must meet these requirements:
- The size must be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm)
- The resolution of the photo must be 300 pixels per inch (12 pixels per millimeter)
If you are selected for the Diversity Visa Program, you are then required to bring more photos. These photos must meet the following requirements:
- You must submit 2 identical photos for the interview
- The photos must be physical and in color
- The photos must be printed in photo quality paper
- The size of the photos must be 2×2 inches (51×51 mm)
Where to Take U.S visa Photos?
The U.S visa photo requirements are quite extensive, so it is difficult to fulfill them all by yourself. That is why it is recommended that you seek professional photo services to take the photos and submit them to the U.S Embassy you are applying to.
There are many professional services which will take photos of you which fulfill the requirements and send you a digital copy as well as provide physical photos. They are more expensive than taking photos of yourself, but it is guaranteed that the photos will be accepted by the Embassy.
On the other hand, if you submit photos taken with bad quality cameras, the U.S Embassy might reject them and you will have to submit them again. This will increase your processing time and it will take longer for you to get your visa. So, the best way to go about submitting your photos is to take them at professional stores.
However, if you take the photos yourself, then you must make sure that your camera is of high quality, that all requirements are fulfilled, and that you do not change your appearance using computer software, except to remove red-eye effect.
How to Get a U.S Visa Photo for Your Baby or Toddler?
If you are also applying for your baby or toddler to have a U.S visa, you must also submit photos of them. This can be tricky as babies and toddlers do not sit still for long, so you can either try to take the photos yourself, or seek professional services. The requirements and tips for baby and toddler visa photos are as follows:
- The photo must be of the baby or toddler and no one else must be in the picture
- The baby must have the eyes open for the photo
- You can lay the baby down on a white sheet and take the photo, but make sure there are no shadows on the baby’s face
- You can put the baby in a car seat, but cover the car seat with a white sheet to provide the blank background
What if I Changed my Appearance Significantly in the Last Months?
If your photo is not older than 6 months, but your appearance has changed significantly then you might be required to submit a new photo. This would be required if you have done the following:
- Went through extensive facial plastic surgery
- Added or removed piercings or tattoos on your face
- Gained or lost a significant amount of weight
- Transitioned to a different gender
You will generally not be required to submit a new photo if you dyed your hair a different color or grew a beard. Teenagers will also not be required to submit new photos if they had a change in appearance due to a normal growth process. As long as you are recognizable in the photos, they will be acceptable. However, the U.S Embassy is the one which decides whether your photos are acceptable or not.