Here's Why We Are Told To Avoid Smiling With Our Teeth In Passport & Other Official Photos

You can smile, just not with your teeth.

Cover image via SAYS & Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia

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Picture this: You're about to take your passport or visa photo and flash your biggest smile for the camera — but the government staff tells you to close your mouth

Why? It's not that they hate your smile or want you to look sad in the picture. They are just following a universal rule.

If you've ever wondered why you're usually told to tuck your hair behind your ears and avoid smiling too wide when making official documents, there's an actual reason for it. 

The reason is this: Showing too many teeth in your photos can distort your facial features

Most countries only allow natural expressions in passport photos, which is why people are told to avoid smiling with their teeth showing.

"Smiling wide with teeth makes it harder to verify eye color and general face shape by passport officials ― namely biometric technology ― who need to confirm your identity.

"With a majority of places using facial recognition technology at border controls, this is even more important as current biometric tech often has a hard time if points on the face are shifted," says Katy Nastro, a travel expert and spokesperson for the flight alert service Going.

Malaysian passport photo measurement requirements.

Image via Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia

There are some exceptions to this rule though

For example, getting an infant or child to make a neutral expression in their official photos may be challenging. In that case, the government may be slightly more lenient towards them.

In general, photo guidelines for passports and other official documents are simply for security purposes and to ensure easier facial recognition.

At the end of the day, you may still smile, just with your mouth closed and your eyes open.

Make sure your passport is always in good condition to avoid any issues:

Starting 2024, Malaysians are required to have this online authorisation when visiting certain countries in Europe:

If you've never made your passport before or don't know how to renew it online, here are some articles to help:

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