Passport photo too racy for this office

  • Blog Post by: James Eli Shiffer
  • August 31, 2010 - 9:52 AM


Photo rejected by the Dakota County passport office (courtesy of Kim Bruzek)

Photo rejected by the Dakota County passport office (courtesy of Kim Bruzek)


Kim Bruzek, a 27-year-old cosmetologist who lives in Montgomery, needed a passport for an upcoming trip to Mexico, so she got her photo taken at a Dakota County passport office. She didn’t think about what she was wearing — a blue tanktop — until a worker at the office told her that the photo showed too much skin and might cause problems for her in some countries.

Bruzek felt she had no choice but to put on a fleecy black sweater that a passport worker gave her for the photo retake. She said it made her look like the "Unabomber." Then when she did some research, here's what she found out about the State Department's guidelines for what you can wear in a passport photo:

Taken in normal street attire:

• Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily
• Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline
• If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture
• Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)

Whistleblower emailed a copy of Bruzek's photo to the State Department. Here's the response I got:

The passport photo guidelines provided to acceptance facilities indicate that the customer should appear in normal street attire. Although this requirement is subjective and dependent on the judgment of the agent reviewing the passport photo, the attached images do not appear to violate any guidelines set forth by the Department.

Dakota County has apologized to Bruzek for a “miscommunication” by workers merely trying to help her avoid trouble abroad. A tube top or a spaghetti strap top might violate the State Department's guidelines, but not what Bruzek was wearing, admitted Kathy Jensen, the county's director of service and license centers. The passport office may now display a list of countries in which they recommend American travelers avoid bare shoulders in their passport photos. 

"I think the main reason why I was so taken aback by it is that I read through what we were supposed to be dressed like," Bruzek wrote to Jensen. "I guess I feel as an AMERICAN and a MINNESOTAN I should be able to be comfortable according to the weather and not some other countries' beliefs."

The State Department plans to contact Dakota County to ensure its guidelines are being followed. What do you think of Bruzek's run-in with the passport office?


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