Are you required to take a new photo for ID when your appearance changes?

This is the second year I’m growing a beard, and mine gets fairly fluffy and hides the features of the lower half of my face, which are somewhat distinctive, as well as gives my face a different overall shape. My daughters said they “got a new dad” when I shaved it off last year and were quite interested in the difference of appearance.

I also saw years ago a prank where some Americans guys made their faces up to be all goofy and got new DL photos taken. One guy (to me) managed to transform in appearance from a white guy to an arabic guy.

When are you, or should you, be required to update your photo on various IDs? Does the accuracy actually matter?

Whether you are required to do so is something that can well vary by jurisdiction. As to the IMHO issue of whether you should be required to do so: In my experience, the photo on photo IDs is a very weak security feature. In many cases the person who IDs you barely looks at the picture, not enough to prevent being fooled by a superficial resemblance. So in practice, the mere possession of the ID document is taken as satisfactory evidence that you really are the person from that document, and the residual risk of someone using someone else’s ID is accepted in practice. In cases where this is not acceptable, such as with passport checks at airports, biometrics provide a much higher level of security than a human looking at a photo could possibly achieve.

As an adult I do not believe that you are required to get a new ID photo within the renewable period if your appearance changes.

Children’s IDs (passport) length of active is reduced (5 years vs. 10 for adults) because it is expected that their appearance will change. One of my kids got their passport at age 10 months. It was good until they were 5 years and 10 months old. They looked very different from their infant picture, but it was still valid.

Even driver’s licenses for 16 year olds, have to be updated well before an adult’s DL is valid for.

FWIW, until recently driver’s licenses in Germany had unlimited validity - beginning this year, old licenses will be gradually withdrawn and replaced with new ones that have a date of expiry on them. Until a few years ago, my dad (who has since given up driving) was driving with a fifty year old license (and corresponding photo in it). Until the 1990s, my grandfather, then in his eighties, was driving with his old license that he had got as a soldier during the Nazi era, complete with swastika stamp.

In China when I was on an extended visit a few years ago, I was stopped by security in the compound in which I was living. They walked me back to my apartment and waited until I “scraped my face” i.e. returned my face to the clean shaven state in which my registration photo was taken.

My week long attempt to grow a beard was foiled by the requirements of facial recognition that required than anyone walking around in that area be recognizable as someone permitted to be there.

This was not an area with any national security or corporate espionage concerns. Just a housing area for a semi-government organization and educational institute.

You might not be required to have a new photo even when the ID expires.For about 8 years or so, my state did not require eye tests for renewal, and even now, I can have the eye test done at a pharmacy. My current license expires in 2027 - the photo was taken in 2011. And that’s only because I got an enhanced DL - if I had stuck with standard, I’d still be using my 199 something photo.

In California there are different time ranges that a license lasts based on things like your driving record. Plus, you could renew your license by mail which precluded having a new picture taken. I got my first new picture in ages when I got my RealID license about a year and a half ago. My previous license picture had to have been over 20 years old…maybe older.

Wondering also about gender change, and also is one obligated to update their license if they have their legs amputated and their height significantly changes.

Not only that, but the instructions for a US passport specifically say that you do not have to get a new passport for a child just because his/her appearance changed as the natural result of growing older.

A reverse situation: a number of years back I was once advised by a TSA agent that I should probably consider getting a new ID card. Not because my physical appearance had changed since I had gotten it, but because the photo was blurred to the point where it was hard to compare to my face. Apparently the printing process used to produce the card at that time was less than adequate to deal with having it slid in and out of my wallet. I later heard that this was not an uncommon complaint, and the state ended up changing the printing process.

Forget it, Jake; it’s China.

But yeah, I’m not surprised; I’ve seen stories saying that China primarily uses facial recognition software to tyrannize their people.


Years ago I had no trouble flying internationally with a passport picture of a fat guy with long hair after I’d dropped weight and shaved my head.

Similarly, i flew with my son when his passport showed a pre-adolecent child, and he was a young man with a bushy beard. They did peer at the photo for a while, but otherwise, no problem.

I wonder how ‘the system’ handles masks that are so, uh, popular right now.

I wonder what would have happened had you gone the other way & shaved? Don’t come out until you have a full beard again!

I don’t know, but if you think you’d be putting one over them somehow you’re sorely mistaken. Getting stopped and checked every few minutes would get old pretty soon, and they’d have absolutely no problem doing that.

I’m curious how they managed to do that. In NJ at least, you are not allowed to smile, make stupid faces, or wear a head covering (with possible exceptions for medical or religious regions).

Also, I believe Arabs are technically “white”. So unless he was able to claim he needed to wear a keffiyeh for religious reasons, your friend would probably just look like himself with a beard and a tan.

But to answer your question, no. You don’t need to update your passport or drivers license if you die your hair, grow a beard, or otherwise change your appearance superficially.

Pro-tip: When I get my driver’s license picture taken, I get my gf to drive me to the center. I smoke a ton of weed, drink a few beers, and scowl at the camera.

The story is here, and the video is easy to find online. I thought I remembered reading more about it years ago and that part of the guy’s motivation was that at the time and place it was very easy to walk into the DMV and get a replacement licence, few if any questions asked. Of course they were taking it to extremes and looking for the attention, but it seems they didn’t break any laws. They had to re-do those goofy photos after the story got out and the DMV was embarrassed.

I had just been thinking about how drastically one can change their facial appearance in minutes and the supposed point of photo ID. I once had a hotel desk guy try to refuse to cash a travelers cheque because my signatures on my ID and the cheque didn’t match well enough in his opinion. The thing was i was 13 years old, traveling with a group of other kids, and chaperoned by 2 teachers in a province where I couldn’t even speak the language properly. How this guy thought I was some sort of fraud artist infiltrating a group of school children and looking to rob the hotel of $20 was beyond me.

Since some people take these simple forms of ID verification so seriously, I thought there might be some standards to make them actually usefull.