Photographs for identity documents – how to get them right first time

visa & passport photos

The Upsticks guide to all things photos

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, especially when applying for visa and identification documents.

The photograph on any ID document is critically important, that’s why it’s essential that you make the effort to get the correct specification and format. Whether it’s for a new passport, visa, driving licence or residency card, the requirements can be different for each. Get it wrong, and you could end up wasting a lot of time (and money) having to go back and do the process all over again.

A note about passports
Obviously, you’ll need a current passport to start off with – this page on explains all about the UK passport photo requirements – each country will have their own rules.

Where to get your ID photo done

In the UK the first port of call is usually the Post Office or a high street chain like Snappy Snaps or Max Spielman.

Many companies offer online options like Zippi and others offer a free platform for you to make and print yourself, Idphoto4u is one of them. 

Visas – in home country
You’ll need to organise photos to present with both the visa application form itself and also for the Criminal Records check – surprise surprise, the requirements for each are slightly different.

Visa application photos – The Spanish consulate website requires photos to the specifications set by the International Civil Aviation Organization  

ACRO Criminal Records Check/Police Certificate – only accepts digital photos and there are comprehensive instructions on their website. If you are at all unsure about how to take a digital photograph, visit a professional photographer who can take the photo and supply you with a digital version to use on the ACRO website.

And now for Spain … 
So you have your valid passport/ID card/visa and are now looking to organise your documents in Spain – for which you’ll need more photos.

Residency – National Police Foreigner’s Office (Extranjería) 

EU passport holders don’t need a photograph on the green credit card size EU residency card (Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

If you are a non-EU national, once you have your visa and arrive in Spain, you’ll need to apply for your TIE card (tarjeta de identidad extranjero). This also applies to UK passport holders already resident in Spain who want to exchange their green residency documents to the TIE card under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The National Police Foreigner’s Office provide detailed photograph requirements, as follows:

  • Recent colour photograph of the applicant’s face
  • Size 32×26 millimetres, NOTE: SMALLER THAN PASSPORT SIZE
  • Uniform white and smooth background 
  • Taken from the front with the head completely uncovered
  • No dark glasses or any other garment that may prevent or hinder the identification of the person
  • The photograph must clearly show the oval of the face, which includes eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth and chin, and must be high resolution and on good quality photographic paper

Driving licence exchange – Dirección General de Tráfico – DGT

Tráfico’s guidance for driving licence photos is exactly the same as the National Police Foreigner’s Office, although they also state that in the event a hair covering is worn for religious reasons, then as long as the the full face is visible (from hairline to chin) and nothing prevents the identification of the person, then the head covering can be worn in the photograph.

Find out more about driving licences in Spain on the DGT website

Junta de Andalucía – Tarjeta 65 

When applying for the Tarjeta 65 discount card you’ll also need to supply a “carnet size photo” (Spanish driving licence) as per the previous sections. 

Upsticks Top Tips

Avoid photo booths – find a proper “foto shop” or professional photographer and explain exactly what you need the photos for (32x26mm is Spanish driving licence ‘carnet’ size).
There are lots of photo shops around and you can search for one near you by typing ‘foto carnet + (your town)’ into the search bar.
If you live in or near Fuengirola, this photo shop is right next door to the Police Station. In fact, you’ll probably find that most Police Stations have a photo shop/copy shop nearby.

Get more than one photo taken – based on experience, we’d always advise taking two photos to an appointment, even though they only ask for one. It’s always good to have a spare and with the 32x26mm size being used across Immigration, Tráfico and the local authority (Junta), you’ll definitely use them all up.

Get new photos takenUK passport photos are NOT suitable. When applying for your TIE card, any photos must be as recent as possible. Not only are UK passport photos the wrong size, they’ll probably be out of date too.

Find out more
How to Renew your Spanish Driving Licence
All about the TIE Card

The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last updated 10.08.2022

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