Passport Troubles With Drastic Appearance Change?

I’m a woman with barely an inch of new hair following recent chemotherapy. I need to get a passport in order to fly to Canada, which requires a photo of my “current appearance”. By the time I receive the passport, I will look very different, and there will continue to be a discrepancy for the next ten years the passport is valid.

I’m wondering if I’ll be detained or delayed when I travel from now on because of the the appearance discrepancy.

Some of you have probably changed your appearance nearly as drastically. What has been your experience related to your passport?

I have no official idea, though I’m sure someone will be by with a real answer.

My suggestion though would to be to get a note from your doctor, explaining your situation. Either that or maybe buy a wig for the occasion.

I don’t think the change will be that drastic, will it? When are you travelling…a few months from now? So your hair will be a few inches longer…3-4 inches? I can’t imagine it will cause you any problem. FWIW, my passport photo was taken a few years before I had my first child when I had a very short haircut. Forty pounds of weight gain and 8 inches of hair growth later (it’s now way past my shoulders) I travelled with that passport without a glitch (this was at the end of last year). You could get a letter from your doctor just to have on hand, but I really wouldn’t worry about it.

What’s different here is that I look startlingly strange now - enough that it’s obvious I’ve been in chemo. This is, of course, because I’m a woman, and women don’t usually wear their hair this short. It seems like the change from practically no hair to normal hair would appear as drastic. But maybe the idea of a doctor’s note would help…for the next ten years! (ugh)

Wigs probably defeat the idea of a photo that represents your appearance. Besides, if I’ve gone all these bald months without a wig (wearing scarves instead), I’m not inclined to buy one now.

My passport photo shows the 1998 version of me - a fresh-faced, clean cut kid of 23. Traveling in January, I didn’t have any trouble, despite a long beard and ponytail that are quickly turning to grey. Immigration officers seem to look at your eyes more than anything else, and they don’t change much.

People change hair like they change their socks. I don’t think they count hair too much when trying to identify you.

I do know that the Canadian passport agency says, “In order for you to avoid experiencing difficulties when travelling, we normally suggest that you obtain a new passport if your appearance has changed significantly.”

If the only change to your appearance is your hair, though, I doubt it makes a difference. For example, when I travelled to the UK last year, I had brick-red hair and was clean shaven, and had no problems with a passport that showed me with dark hair and a goatee (and frankly made me look like the only reason I’m not trying to hijack the plane is because I’m too stoned).

I’m 90 pounds lighter than I was in my passport picture. I’ve never had any problems, but have been congratulated and complimented a couple of times.

Incidentally, when I got my photos taken for my new passport, I was actually very pleased with them. I actually looked kind of good - not like Passport 1997, where I look like Little Lord Fauntleroy, or Passport 2002, previously described. I thought for once I’ll actually have a half-decent passport photos.

Hubris, hubris.

It seems that they digitize the photo and print it on the page, rather than cutting and pasting. And they obviously, perhaps for the purposes of keeping passports uniform, have some sort of special suckifying filter that makes you look like shite. In the photo I am dark magenta and I have lines under my eyes like those mug shots they broadcast on CNN of one of those female teachers arrested for banging their fifteen-year-old students Mrs. Robinson-fashion.

(However, I just noticed that the transparent holographic film over the photo page is really cool, featuring all kinds of cool shapes made out of maple leaves, like a spiral and a sort of Penrose parquet, as well as three little Mounties doing the Musical Ride across the page, and the entire lyrics of O Canada in both official languages.)

My sister never had any problems with her always revolving hair colors and lengths.
She flew to Belgium with shoulder length bright pink hair and returned home with a pixie style cut that was WAY blond. Her pict showed her with long brown hair, No problems whatsoever. Well the customs lady at her return airport (I forget which one) gave her a bit of the stink eye because she had been through Amsterdam in the 6 weeks she was in Europe.

They look at your face and eyes. I have a hard time believing they would want you to change your picture every time you change the length or color of your hair. (Considering it takes forever to get a passport these days)

My passport picture shows me with slightly-below-shoulderlength brown/red hair. I’ve flown with an inch or two of spiky blonde hair, slightly longer black hair, long black hair etc. etc.

It’s never even gotten me a second look. Facial hair changing might be more difficult, but I really wouldn’t worry.

I had my passport photo taken as an 18-year-old hippie, long wavy hair, no makeup. Three years later I traveled to Europe, four inches taller and much more mature. In the course of my travels I got the absolute best haircut of my life (in France) and my very first eyebrow wax, both of which inspired me to further improve my appearance with a bit of mascara and some lipstick, so I really didn’t look like the same person. No problem.

And I renewed that passport so I had it until I was 30 (I think; I think it was initially good for 7 years, renewable for another five, I could be misremembering).

Hilarity, airport and border security can be much more aggressive these days, which is what prompted my concern.

My passport photo shows me with a shaved head, and now I have a full head of hair. Haven’t had any problems yet.

Considering how much women I know (especially actresses) change their hair, make-up, skin color, etc. I don’t think it should be a problem. A nose job and face lift, on the other hand…
And if anyone ever says anything, I’m not sure it will take much more than an icy stare and mention of chemo to shut them up.