Millions of UK travellers will no longer have to pay to print out passport pictures in photo booths, as photos taken on your phone can now be used for online renewals – but 'selfies' are not allowed.
Applicants can now renew their passports online by uploading a head-and-shoulders shot from digital devices, such as phones, tablets and cameras, in a move that will do away with the need to physically post a photo printout to the passport office.
Once you've submitted your online application form and photo, the Home Office will check if it meets the required standard for passports. Anyone failing to meet the criteria will have to submit a printed image.
Unfortunately you can only submit a photo online if you're applying for a renewal – if you're applying for a passport for the first time, you'll have to take the traditional route of posting your picture.
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Can anyone renew a passport online?
To be able to apply for a passport renewal online, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be applying from the UK
- You must be over 26 years old
- You must not be making changes to any personal details
- You must not be renewing a passport that is damaged
If you want to submit a passport application for the first time, you'll be able to fill out certain info online but you'll have to post a copy of your photo and related paperwork to the passport office.
How can I ensure my photo is accepted?
For the image on your online renewal application to be given the green light, you'll have to ensure someone else has taken it (ie, it's not a 'selfie') and it must meet the standard UK passport requirements.
Your photo must:
- Be taken from a distance of 1.5 metres away, or further
- Be a close-up of your full head and upper shoulders
- Contain no other objects or people
- Be in clear contrast to the background
- Have you facing forward and looking straight at the camera
- Have you with a neutral expression (ie, no smiling) and your mouth closed
- Have your eyes open, visible and free from reflection or glare from glasses
- Have no hair in front of your eyes
- Not have your head covered (unless it's for religious or medical reasons)
- Not have anything cover your face
Once uploaded, the system performs preliminary checks that ensure your photo meets these criteria, so if there are any problems, most people will know straight away.
However, the photos will also go through additional checks, so you may be asked to re-submit at a different date if any problems arise.
You will also be expected to print and post declaration paperwork.
What does the Home Office say?
A spokesperson for the Home Office told us: "Applying online using digital photographs will make it quicker and easier for millions of customers to apply for their passport.
"The security checks conducted on digital applications are the same as they are for paper applications, with passport photographs continuing to meet international standards."