Green Card Photo Requirements, Explained

A Green Card photo is an image of the green card applicant submitted along with other required documents. These are meant to authenticate the information provided in your application for permanent residence in the United States. Usually, Green Card photos must be taken against a light, plain background where no objects obscure the image. The best way to take a Green Card photo is by having a clean white background.

Who Needs A Green Card Photo?

Anyone applying for a permanent resident card requires a green card photo. There are no exceptions to this rule, whether for children or adults.

The U.S. Government has several photo requirements that are an essential part of the green card application process. While many of these requirements are easy to apply, it is important to ensure that every photo meets the requirements. Otherwise, the department of state will most likely reject the application.

This article contains important information you need to take your photo correctly and submit it successfully.

Read more | How To Get a Green Card?

Use Of Old Photos In Your Application

The photos submitted must reflect your current look. Therefore, photos presented for your green card application should have been taken within the last 6 months. This ensures that you exhibit the same physical characteristics in person as those displayed in the photo.

Changes in appearance prompted by activities such as haircuts, hair dying, or growing a beard do not necessitate a new photo as long as you are still identifiable in your photo.

You may, however, need to submit a new photo if you have:

  • Added or lost a significant amount of weight
  • Removed or added facial altering piercings or tattoos
  • Undergone facial surgery or had facial trauma due to a disease or accident
  • Undergone a gender reassignment surgery

As of July 2019, the USCIS has increased its efforts to ensure compliance with the stipulated rules for a diversity visa lottery application.

For example, if you apply for a green card with an old photo, you risk being disqualified at the interview appointment if your physical appearance is different from the uploaded photo. As a result, you’ll be denied the Green Card. It is, therefore, essential to avoid taking any risks by using the required photo instead in your immigrant visa application.

Head Covering In Green Card Application Photos

As a general rule, head coverings in these photos are not accepted unless worn frequently on religious grounds. This is mainly because they tend to change the appearance of the face, hair, and hairline. However, even if worn for religious reasons, your face must be fully visible on the photo, and your head covering must not cast shadows on your face.

Can I Wear Glasses In My Photos?

As of 1st November 2016, the USCIS no longer allows wearing glasses in Green Card Lottery photos unless the applicant cannot remove the glasses for medical reasons. One such case is immediately after having ocular surgery, where the applicant needs to keep the prescription glasses on to protect the eyes. A signed medical statement should accompany your application should such a matter arise.

How To Pose For Your Photo?

To ensure that your photo meets the stated requirements, you should be facing the camera directly with a neutral facial expression and open both eyes. The shot must be clear with a face-centered in the photo.

The top of the head should not appear too high or too low in the photo, and must face the camera. Your head should occupy between 50-69% of the photo height to be correctly centered. Squinting, closing your eyes, or making unusual facial expressions will lead to automatic disqualification and consequent rejection of your application.

The Color Contrast Of Your Photo

When making your Green Card application, ensure that your photos have a minimum color depth of 24 bits. Your photo should also be correctly exposed, meaning must not be overexposed or under-exposed.

It should also not have any shadows cast on your face caused by an obscuring object. If these requirements are too technical for you, it is important to have a professional photo taken in a photo service studio.

Technical Specifications For Your Green Card Photo

The U.S. Government no longer accepts a paper photograph for green card applications. It is, therefore, mandatory to have a digital photo. For your digital image to be considered compliant, it must meet the following green card photo requirements:

  • A square aspect ratio, i.e., the height must be equal to the width
  • The minimum dimension should be 600 x 600 pixels and a maximum dimension of 1200 x 1200 pixels
  • The photo file should be saved in JPEG format and be less than or equal to 240 Kb in size
  • The image must be in color, not black and white

It is important to note that the image may be compressed to meet the maximum file size requirement. However, the compression ratio should not exceed 20:1. Digital enhancements or the removal of backgrounds in the photos should be avoided because they risk changing your face’s shape and size.

Submitting A Scanned Photo For Your Application

While applying for a Green Card, you may use a scanned photo. However, this photo must meet all the technical requirements stated for digital images. Additionally, the scanner settings should be True Color or 24-bit color mode to maintain an accurate image of you. The scanning resolution should be 3000 dpi, and the image should not have any visible dots or shadows.

Using Photos From Other Sources

If you are wondering whether you may submit images from other sources such as your passport photo, magazine photos, or driver’s license as your application photos, the answer is NO.

If any of these photos are older than the stipulated 6-month period and do not adhere to the other photo guidelines listed above, your application will be automatically denied. It is advisable to use a recent and specific photo for this particular application process.

Taking Photos Of Children For Your Application

While applying for a green card, applicants are encouraged list all of their unmarried children under the age of 21.

This is because if you win a Green Card lottery, all of your children who are age 21 and below automatically receive a Green Card of their own. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to take photos of children and understand the photo requirements.

In this this case, here are some green card lottery photo requirements to consider:

  • You should be the only one in the photo
  • Nothing should be obstructing the photo, e.g., part of the arms or ears or other objects
  • The child’s eyes should be open and their face uncovered
  • Children should not have pacifiers on their photos
  • The child’s face should be centered and visible

When taking photos of infants, you can lay the baby on its back with its head supported. Ensure the background is clear by using a plain white or white-off sheet as the background. Avoid casting a shadow on the photo if taking the photo above the child. Follow the technical requirements in size and resolution when submitting the photo.

Can I Take A Green Card Photo Myself?

Taking a Green Card photo by yourself is possible, especially with wireless hands free devices, but the likelihood of making an error is greater in this case. It is best that you contact a professional photographer who is aware of the requirements or have the photo taken in a studio.

Given the strictness of the requirements, it is essential to delegate this task to a professional. Any slight error can lead to a delay in your application or, worse, have it rejected.

Where Can I Get a Photo For The Green Card?

Commit To Citizenship recommends using a professional visa photo service, but you can also get your photo taken in a pharmacy or a drugstore (CVS & Walgreens), post office, and shopping centers (FedEx & UPS Stores), or in an AAA Membership. If you already have a photo, you can get it printed in Walmart or Target.

Alternatively, you could use an online photo service. With this option, you don’t need to leave your house as you can take photos with your webcam. Once taken, these service providers review your photo and give you feedback on whether it meets all the requirements or not. If everything checks out, you can get your photo delivered to your home. recommends not taking your own photo as you might end up not meeting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements.

You don’t want to get your Green Card application declined because of a technical error.

When To Submit Your Photo?

Typically, the Green Card Lottery opens every year. The U.S. government announces the opening and deadline dates for these applications. Your photos should be submitted during this time, along with your green card application.

Can Photos Be Re-Submitted Or Changed?

Once you have participated in the Green Card Lottery and submitted your photos directly to the U.S. authorities, you cannot retract or revise your photo; your submission is final.

This is the case unless the application is done through a secondary photo service provider at such a time when the application process has not been officially opened by the USCIS. In this case, you may contact the service provider to see if you can change the photo.

If the photos have already been submitted and do not meet the minimum requirements, you will be disqualified, and your application rejected.

Will I Be Notified If My Photo Does Not Meet Minimum Requirements?

It is paramount that applicants go through the Green Card photo guidelines thoroughly or use a secondary party who is well aware of the requirements. If the submitted photo does not meet the minimum requirements, you will be disqualified from further participation without any notification.

Can I Use My Passport Photos For My Green Card Application?

The passport photo in your current passport should exclusively be used for the Green Card Lottery registration. Your passport should also be brand new (not older than issued in May of the lottery year or six months earlier).

The authorities will check to see if the photo is up to date or not. It’s advisable to use a professional visa photos service to ensure your passport photo meets the set standards.

Comparing A Passport Photo And A Green Card Photo

While many of the requirements governing a passport photo are similar to those of a green card photo, it is crucial to keep in mind the distinct differences in use. The purpose of a passport photo is to identify the person a country is granting permission to enter, leave or stay within its borders for a specified time.

On the other hand, a green card photo is to identify and verify the person(s) applying for permanent residency in the U.S.

What Happens If My Photo Fails To Meet The Requirements?

Unfortunately, there are no do-overs once the photos are officially submitted during the Green Card application process. Failure to meet the detailed the photo guidelines will lead to disqualification of your application. You may have to try your luck again, next time.

What To Do In Case Of A Photo Upload Failure

When applying for a Green Card and an “X” appears on the Form DS-160 or DS-1648 application page instead of your photo, the photo upload has failed. In this case, you should submit one photo that meets all the requirements.

This should be done along with the DS-160 or the DS-1648 page. If you are uncertain about how to upload, you should get in touch with the U.S. embassy or consulate in your locality and enquire about the issue. If the page appears with a photo, the upload was successful, and no separate photo is needed.

Will I Be Notified If My Green Card Photo Meets All The Requirements?

If you have adhered to all the green card photo guidelines, there is no reason your photo should compromise your green card application status. Even so, you won’t be notified if your Green Card photo had issues because there is no specific feedback for certain failures in your application process.

The only way to know is to have your application approved and consequently have your Green Card application granted. However, your application can be declined for other reasons besides your photo.

A General Checklist For Green Card Photos

The list below gives you a overview of the guidelines you need to follow while submitting photos for the Green Card Lottery.

  • Ensure that your full face is facing the camera directly
  • Your head should be upright and face must be visible
  • Your background should be plain white
  • Your head height (face, bottom of the chin, and hair) should cover the majority of the photo. That is 50-69 % of the photo.
  • The image should not be overexposed or underexposed, and no shadows should be present.
  • The file format for the photo should be JPEG
  • The size should be less than or equal to 240 Kb.
  • If you’re compressing the image to fit the size limit, then the compression ratio should be less than 20:1
  • Face coverings are not permitted except for religious reasons. Even with face covering, you should directly face the camera.
  • Facial expressions should be neural with no squinting, tilting, or closing the eyes
  • The photos should be brand new or not older than six months from the time of application.
  • The photos must be printed on photo quality paper
  • Do not use mobile phone photos

These are some of the most important requirements that should be considered prior to submitting a green card photo. Remember, given that your application will be denied if the photo does not meet the requirements, it is always good to contact a visa photo service for the perfect photograph.

Green Card Photo FAQ

Am I allowed to wear sunglasses in the Green Card photo?

Wearing sunglasses is not allowed on a green card photo.

Do I need to take all photos in color?

Correct, all photos for your Green Card must be in color.

What Should the Green Card photo background look like?

The background should be plain and there must not be any shadows.

What is the size of the Green Card photo?

The size is 2 inches by 2 inches (51 x 51mm)

Are black and white photos allowed?

No, black and white photos are not allowed.

What kind of printed paper quality is required for Green Card photos?

Glossy or matt photo paper is required.

Is digital editing of the photo allowed?

You must not digitally enhance your Green Card application photo?

Can I use a photo where I am not the only one on it?


Can I take a photo together with my child?


What is the required resolution for the Green Card photo?

Photos should not be blurry. No visible pixels or printed dots are allowed.

What if my appearance has changed since the green card photo was taken?

If your appearance has changed significantly since the photo was taken, you must get a new photo taken.

Do I need to take a new green card photo if I’ve changed my gender?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows individuals to change the gender on their green card to reflect their current gender identity. When applying for a new green card with a new gender, you will need to submit evidence of the legal name and gender change, as well as a new photo that accurately represents your current appearance.

Do I need to take a new photo if I’ve lost a significant amount of weight?

If you have lost a significant amount of weight and your appearance has changed noticeably, it is recommended to take a new green card photo. This is because your green card photo is used as a form of identification and is meant to accurately represent your current appearance.

How many Green Card photos are required for my visa application?

Two 2 x 2-inch photos (identical) are required when you apply from outside the U.S. To apply for a Green Card outside the United States of America you need to use Form DS-260.

Two 2 x 2-inch photos (identical) are required when you apply from within the U.S. To apply for a Green Card within the United States of America you need to use Form I-485. You also need two 2 x 2-inch photos (identical) for your travel permit application (I-131).

What are Diversity Program (Green Card Lottery) Program Photo Requirements?

  • Photo dimensions must be 600 x 600 pixels.
  • The photo must be square.
  • The Green Card Lottery photo file must be in JPEG format.
  • Green Card Lottery photos must be equal to or less than 240 kilobytes.
  • In the case of scanning a Green Card Lottery photo, the resolution must be 300 pixels per inch.
  • Diversity Visa Program photos must be 2 x 2 inches when scanned.
  • Two identical paper photos are required if you are selected for the DV Lottery Program. 


  • Commit To Citizenship Immigration

    Commit To Citizenship‘s team consists of individuals who have successfully immigrated to the United States and have learned how to avoid common mistakes in filling out immigration applications. Our team works closely with immigration lawyers to ensure that all content provided on our website is up-to-date and accurate. We offer guidance on a range of immigration topics, including green cards, diversity visas, and DACA.