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There's a New Reason to Smile in Your Passport Photo

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 6/28/2018 Bridget Hallinan
But leave the glasses at home. © Illustration by Brown Bird Design But leave the glasses at home.

While "natural" smiles (whatever that means) are good to go in passport photos, non-neutral facial expressions are a no-go—and might even cause your application to be denied. But murky rules be damned: A study published last week by the University of York suggests that a smile might actually be more effective at preventing identity fraud, as reported by the The Independent—take that, TSA.

Here's the science behind it: Researchers took a group of some 40 people and asked them to look at pictures of strangers: each person was shown with both a close-mouthed smile and a big, toothy smile. The study found that it was easier for participants to identify someone by a smile, both when looking at two pictures of the same person with different expressions, and comparing two pictures of similar looking people. Even when images only displaying the lower half of the face were used, the big grin prevailed. Thus, when it comes to airport security, the researchers believe using these types of photos in passports could help cut down on travel-related identity fraud, per the study.

Though smiling is—again, with stipulations—allowed, there are still a few things that aren't. You'll have to leave your beanies and hats at home, and glasses still aren't allowed, so be sure to wear contacts unless you've got a prescription. Wearing a costume is also prohibited, unfortunately (save the left shark onesie for another time), as are goofy facial expressions. We're still patiently waiting for those study results to come in.


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