50% of Canadians Living In The United States Are Getting Their Canadian Passports Rejected

January 31, 2010

…and the biggest single reason for this is photos.

The biggest single significant change with respect to Canadian Passport photos occurred in 2003, when the ICAO introduced new photo specifications for travel documents (standard size, face-on, neutral expression, light-colored background), but meeting the standards perfectly and creating as much of a compliance as possible has been a difficult task to manage for Passport Canada.

Commercial photographers in the United States do not need to be up to date on the standards associated with Canadian Passport photos, simply because Canadian citizens make up a very small percentage of their customer base, if they do at all. They also aren’t aware of the small details that a Canadian passport agent is considering when reviewing photos with an application. There are 1 million Canadians living in the United States out of virtually 360 million people. Equipment updates, and evolving federal specifications with respect to a Canadian passport photos isn’t a priority for such a small percentage of one’s income stream, and as a result, even bigger commercial photography centers can get it wrong. American passport photos generally have a higher tolerance for certain image elements, like shading and light, as the U.S. government isn’t moving as aggressively towards facial recognition for passport photos. Also, American passports only have to be renewed every 10 years, versus 5 years in Canada. These are just a handful of the differences between the two, but they remain significant. It’s easy to understand why Canadian standards could pose such a challenge to a photographer who simply doesn’t have to worry about these kinds of differences regularly, or, doesn’t account for certain considerations when a Passport Canada agent is reviewing and ultimately deciding whether the image meets the requirements as set out.

6 out of the 10 photos we receive from our clients, all of which originate in the United States, will not be approved by Passport Canada, and we direct them to either one of our vetted partners, a commercial photographer who we know can meet the standards, or we simply advise to have the photos re-done. This is also part of the reason we created our commercial photographers links in our Help section. We are constantly building this list, as one of the most common things we hear from existing and new clients is that finding an image center who can or is willing to produce Canadian passport photos can be as – if not more – difficult than actually getting them done properly.

Canadian passport photos have a reputation for being difficult to take, in part, because Passport Canada and the Federal Government act proactively with ensuring that Canadian passports migrate towards the newest technologies as quickly as possible for security and administrative reasons. This, of course, is a good thing,  but in the last 3 years, the standards for Canadian passport photos has changed dramatically, and as a result, Canadians who reside in the U.S., who cannot visit a Passport Canada office or receive a passport from a consulate, have no choice but to wait and see how their application and photos are received. Most commercial photographers in the United States, understandably, aren’t current with their knowledge of the ever changing standards, and as a result, rejection rates are considerably higher for those of you who live in the U.S. This is why our service exists.

We’d like to hear some of your photo rejection stories. Comment on this post, or email us at info AT canadapassporthelp DOT ca.

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