The ‘no smiling’ rule: Everything you need to know

There’s always plenty of excitement around going on holiday – but under no circumstances should you let this show on your passport photo. In fact, even the smallest hint of a smile could see your application rejected and your trip pushed back. So since holidays are supposed to be a happy time, what gives? Here’s everything you need to know about the controversial ‘no smiling’ rule.

The history

The rule was first introduced in the UK in 2004. At the time, Bernard Herdan, chief executive of the UK Passport Service, explained: “These new guidelines are an important step in the development of the new biometric ePassport and use of facial recognition technology that will be introduced in 2005 as part of the ongoing fight against fraud and international terrorism.”

Other countries soon followed suit, including France, who re-enforced the guideline as recently as October 2016.

The wording

There’s no grey area when it comes to how the rule is phrased. The official wording is as follows: ‘The photo must be of the applicant with a neutral expression and with the mouth closed (no smiling, frowning or raised eyebrows).’

The reason explained

In a nutshell, your passport has a pin that contains important biometric information from your application. This includes an in-depth break down of your facial features, such as the distance between your nose, chin and eyes. These measurements are then used to assess your identity when you pass through an e-gate at the airport. The ‘no smiling’ rule was introduced when it was deemed that even the faintest grin could reduce the effectiveness of these algorithms.

Could the rule ever change?

It’s unlikely. After all, travellers probably wouldn’t appreciate being asked to smile on command – especially when they are walking off a multi-hour flight in the middle of the night.

Follow the guidelines closely

Passport photos can be rejected for a number of reasons – and you don’t want yours to end up in the wrong pile. You simply need to resist the urge to smile and follow the other guidelines closely. After this, you should be permitted to travel abroad.

Tourist visas: a guide for UK travellers

For many holiday destinations, you’ll need more than just a valid passport to travel. Nothing can add to your pre-holiday stress like the prospect of filling out lengthy visa forms and wondering whether you’ve left it too late to apply.

Every country has a different tourist visa process and knowing how it works will ensure you and your family are well prepared when you book. Take a look at our guide below for some of the more popular tourist locations:


Whether to explore the Great Wall, indulge in some Shanghai shopping, or to enjoy some of the world’s best food, China is an increasingly popular destination for UK travellers.

When applying for a tourist visa, you’ll need to present a valid passport with at least six months left before it expires, as well as an extra passport photo and a visa form to the Chinese Embassy.

Although there is a fast track option, it will cost you more, so leave at least five working days to be on the safe side.


India is a longtime favourite holiday spot for British travellers seeking sunshine and adventure. The good news is, the visa process is pretty straightforward.

You can apply online for a tourist visa (called an eTV) up to four days before you travel. You’ll need to scan the first page of your passport and upload a passport photograph to the online form. It costs around £39, plus a small admin fee for a 30-day visa.


In recent years, Cuba has experienced a boom in tourism, with many people drawn to the Caribbean climate, scenic architecture and old-fashioned way of life.

In order to travel there, you need to purchase a tourist card through the embassy, or online, via a visa company. It costs around £74 for a standard visa entry and you’ll need to have a valid passport, evidence of travel insurance, and your flight and accommodation details. This is another one we recommend doing well in advance, as processing can take up to 10 working days.


If you’re heading to Russia on holiday, you can print off an application form for a 30 day visa. Once you’ve filled in all the details of your trip and attached a recent passport photo to the form, you can drop it into the nearest office in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, along with your passport. You will also be asked to give a fingerprint and pay a standard £38.40 fee in order to receive your visa.

Processing time is a minimum of five working days, so once again, leave plenty of time before you go.

Having enough passport photos to hand is a great way to ensure you’re prepared for any visa applications in the future. Order online at Paspic today.

What happens if I lose my passport abroad?

Sometimes the worst can happen while you’re enjoying yourself on holiday, so you should always be equipped for things that could go wrong. One of the main fears for holidaymakers and anyone travelling abroad is losing their passport. Another problem a lot of people inadvertently encounter is taking a passport with them that expires or having their passport damaged while overseas. Here are some top tips to take away with you to avoid unnecessary stress:

Contact the local police

If you have had your passport stolen, you must get in touch with the country’s local police in order to let them know the details of the incident. Your report will usually be recorded as part of their protocol, so make sure that you note down any details or references the police give you as you may need them when you go to file for a new temporary passport.

Apply for an emergency travel document

The only way to travel back to your home country if you have lost your passport or it has expired or been damaged overseas is to obtain an emergency travel document. In short, this passport allows you to leave the country you have visited and go back home. It is only valid for that specific journey and must be destroyed by a British embassy once you are back on home soil.

Visit the embassy or consulate

To start the application, make an appointment at the nearest embassy or consulate. They will inform you on the process as well as give you information on countries that don’t accept this emergency travel document. If you have connecting flights, always let them know about these as it could be in a country that issues emergency travel document restrictions.

Be prepared

Before you jet off on holiday, always expect the unexpected and be prepared for any mishaps. Take the following things with you to ensure that, if you do have to apply for a new passport, the process will be as smooth-running as possible:

  • A recent photograph of yourself – a passport photo would be advantageous
  • Proof of your travel schedule – flight confirmations, itineraries, etc.
  • Photocopies of your photo page in your passport
  • A police report if your passport was stolen

Losing your passport abroad may seem like a nightmare, but with the right information it can be a lot easier to resolve than you thought.