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Passports: Photographs

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) for what reasons photographs accompanying passport applications may be rejected; and what proportion have been rejected for each reason in the last 12 months; (148342)

(2) what proportion of photographs were rejected for passport applications in the last 12 months, broken down by (a) age, (b) ethnic background and (c) disability status of applicant.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) collate photo rejections under 47 different headings. The possible reasons for rejection reflect the standards set out in the guidance in the passport application pack. These standards are designed to ensure that when the photograph is scanned onto the passport system a good quality facial biometric is captured.

The most common reasons for rejections are not looking straight at the camera (7.5 per cent. of all rejections), failing to adopt a neutral expression (around 12.5 per cent.), and where the eyes are obscured (17.5 per cent.).

Because of the way in which this data is stored it is not possible to provide a monthly breakdown of all reasons for rejection without incurring disproportionate cost.

Reject rates have settled at around 4-5 per cent. for all applications since the revisions to the standard announced at the end of 2005. The IPS do not keep separate statistics by ethnicity or disability, but are able to waive requirements where a customer is unable to meet them due to disability. There have not been any significant complaints about the current standards impacting unfavourably on disabled or ethnic minority customers, and a wide consultation process was carried out during the formulation of the standards.

Separate statistics are kept for children aged five and under. Photographs for children of this age only need to be a good likeness, with a clear image of the child. Rejection rates for these applications average around 2.5 to 3 per cent. Around 30 per cent. of these are rejected due to the photograph being too light, and the IPS continues to work with the photographic industry to ensure they are able to provide the public with acceptable photographs.