Lonely Planet Writer

Skip the photo booth – the UK will let you renew your passport with pictures taken on a phone

Renewing passports can be a difficult process, but the UK government is hoping that allowing applicants to take their new photos on a mobile phone, and submit them digitally, will make life easier.

Skip the photo booth and take you passport pictures on your mobile.
Skip the photo booth and take you passport pictures on your mobile. Image by ballyscanlon / Getty Images

In the past, passport renewal has usually meant stopping by a photo booth and mailing in physical copies of the results. But the UK Home Office has announced changes to its requirements, allowing online applicants to simply upload a photo taken on their digital camera, mobile phone or tablet. However, the photo cannot be a selfie, so you will still need to find someone to take the picture for you.

And while this may give many applicants more time to get the perfect shot – depending on the patience of your photographer – you will still have to abide to all the usual rules, like refraining from smiling, looking at the camera, and standing in front of a plain cream or light grey background. The website outlines the rules for digital passport photos and users will not be able to use any effects or filters – so forget about using that favourite pic from Instagram. The rules also stipulate that applicants can’t take a selfie or use a webcam, which is “enforced” with the requirement that the person taking the photograph must stand about 1.5 metres away to frame it properly.

The new rules also won’t be too much help for those who lost their passport or are getting their first one ever, as they will still need to submit a hard copy of their images and those images must be countersigned.

The UK is not the only country looking to update its passport services. Australia has announced that it wants to replace physical passports entirely, in favour of biometric scanning, by the year 2020. That would entail a combination of fingerprint, face and iris scanning at border points.