3 Ways to Get US Passport Pictures

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Does anyone like taking passport/visa pictures?

NO!! I don't, that's for sure. Unless you're super photogenic, and yes, I know these people exist out there, passport pictures always come out so bad, it's frustrating. Every time the time comes to renew my passport, I cringe. I really can't stand it.

So, here we are, passports to be ordered and pictures to be made. Not only these photos are horrific, but they're not cheap either. So, with all that in mind, we started trying to figure out the best way to do it. I remember the days, when I was a kid, getting my first passport, my mum used to take me to a photographer, in his studio, and after about a week, you'd have your photos, but now, things are much easier and faster.

Before you decide how you will get the photo done, you must go to the US passport & international travel website to look at the requirements. I have them listed below, but make sure you use the super cool tool on their website to crop your photos to the right 2x2" size.

Pictures must be:

  • In color
  • Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • Taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, and with both eyes open

Method 1

You can go to any pharmacy, such as CVS and Walgreen, or even Walmart and they'll take the photos for you with the correct requirements and background.  Just like the photographer did with me years ago. It won't be a studio or anything like that, it's just there in the store.

As of today (10/23/15) prices are:

  • CVS $12.95 x 2 photos (and I was told if you need extras, they charge $0.32, which is a great deal when you need visas and other stuff).
  • Walgreen $12.99 x2 photos
  • Walmart $7.96 x2 photos

Method 2

Take your own photo, crop it using the US Dept of State's tool and you can email or take a USB drive (or phone, or disc) to whichever store you like. When you do that, you also have the option to use Target, as of today they're charging $9.99 x2 photos, no photographers, you email your own photo and still pay $9.99 for them to print them to the right size (that you had cropped before hand).

If you have a color printer, you can buy photo paper and voila, you print them yourselves.

We chose this method at first, but the problem I came across was that neither one of the pharmacies I mentioned above printed 2x2s. Of course not, right? They want to make $$$. I drove to a walmart (can't stand them, but desperate times require desperate measures) and tried printing a wallet size sample. Well, it didn't work. Although they say the size is 2x3, it seems much bigger than the 2x2s. Mind you, I called all stores before hand and was told that I could print the 2x2 at walmart. Anyway, it didn't work.

Method 3

We had decided to just give in and pay the 13bucks (use method 1), but as I was browsing the internet, I found out about this amazing website, which prints your photos and delivers them to your home, or, you can pick them up at a pharmacy near you. So cool!

Side note: I'm not getting paid for this post, I just want to share.

But, wait, there's more... they have a free page. What does that mean? Once again, you use the State department's little photo tool to crop the picture, then go to the e-passport website and once you select your photo, 4 of them will be placed on a 4x6 template. That way, you bring it to a CVS or wherever and pay $0.12 or $0.29 for a 4x6!

Instructions:
get your best passport photos with e passport photos
get your best passport photos with e passport photos
  1. On the front page, choose US and passport photo. But guess what, if you need a visa photo to China, they have the right measurements as well, or Brazil, or England. Just pick from the drop down. 
  2. Get your best passport photos, do it yourself
  3. When you go to the next page, scroll down so you click on the diy option. 
  4. Get your best passport photo. Do it yourself, upload pictures
  5. Upload your photo 
  6. Get your best passport photos. Do it yourself. Crop photos. upload photos
  7. Follow steps to crop or edit 
  8. Get your best passport photos. do it yourself, download your own passport photos
  9. Download photo, take to your favorite store and print! 

Good luck getting your photos printed, whichever method you choose.

"Oh, You're So Lucky!"

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So, let me tell you right now... don't ever say that to an expat.

As an expat, I've

been unemployed,

been lost,

been robbed,

been without friends,

been unable to speak the language,

had a child in a foreign country with no help from family,

been mistreated at a job,

had to hide in my studio while a crazy neighbor tried breaking in,

had to sleep on the floor of that same studio because I had no money to buy a bed, and when I bought an air mattress it was defective and deflated,

been followed while going back home from work at midnight.

worked 2 jobs and at one point, worked for 23 days straight, until I almost had a breakdown.

Do I regret any of that?

No, not at all, it made me who I am today, I am more grateful for my bed today than I ever was, I am aware of my surroundings and I appreciate when someone helps me with my child, that little bit more.

Life is life, you can pretend that everything is picture perfect on your Facebook/instagram accounts, but this is all it is, a picture; a snippet of ones life. You have bad days and you have great, amazing days.

Am I lucky?

Yes, maybe and no. I am lucky, in the sense that I love my life, I love who I am and I am grateful for everything I've ever done and how I chose to live my life, even the hard bits.

Am I lucky because I live in a foreign country? Maybe, depends on the day. I still need to wake up everyday and go to work, I have to do laundry and cleaning and washing up. The country where I live now has pros and cons like any other country.

Am I happier than someone who has never been outside of their country? I could never say that. I bet they encounter some of the same issues as me, they also need to wake up, take care of the family, go to work, take kids to school, etc.

There is no "luck" here, in the sense that everything just comes easy because I live abroad. I live a normal life in a different country with its own challenges and peculiarities, and a lot of hard work.

Stuck

When I was 15 I went to Toronto for 4 weeks to learn English. It was brilliant, I had an amazing time and more than anything I learned a whole lot, not only about living abroad, but mainly about trusting myself and sticking to my guts. After I landed, there I go to the immigration line and when I got to the window.... red flags everywhere... a 15 yr old travelling alone, they got very suspicious. I had papers from the school, my visa was right, but they had to do their job.

Into a little room they took me, my English was so bad at the time that they had to find a translator and on top of it all, I couldn't understand why they didn't believe me. I am glad that this wave of self-confidence came over me and I was just telling them over and over why I had traveled all the way from Brazil to Toronto... to study English!!!

A couple of hours later they made some phone calls, the school also confirmed, that indeed, I was meant to be going to school there. Alleluia, I was free.

Funny enough, or not, the first time I went to Switzerland I got stopped! Again! Maybe I just look suspicious... apparently, the schools pass on the information to immigration about any foreign students they have and this school hadn't done it for me. This time wasn't so bad, I was 20, knew my place in the world kindda thing, plus the Swiss are super organized, it took only a few minutes and I was off.

If you find yourself in a situation like that, all you can do is stay calm. Immigration will do their job, we are entering a different country and they've seen it all. A lot of times they get it wrong, and unfortunately, I truly believe that they do. But I also believe that most times they are right. If you have nothing to fear, then you will be fine.

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Arizona is Running Short

It's no secret that the recession on the mid 2000's was hard in the whole country, some states got hit worse than others. Jobs were lost, kids out of college couldn't find work and companies were not hiring experienced workers either. Now that the economy is recuperating, construction companies are building like crazy, but they can't find qualified workers. Construction workers are needed in Arizona right now.

Picture by: Pedro Moura Pinheiro

This past August we were in the introductory school assembly and the principal mentioned that she had to join 3 5th grades into 2 because she couldn't find a qualified teacher for the other class. There are no qualified teachers in AZ!!! Are you a teacher? Do you need a job? AZ might be the place for you.

Picture by: Todd Petrie

In my time here I've met a few nurses and they all mention the same thing... there is an urgent need for registered nurses. Schools are full, but when it comes to the training, it's so stressful that they quit. I can imagine how stressful it must be to be a nurse. I couldn't do it.

Picture by: xersti

There is a demand for all of these 3 careers in Arizona, I am hoping people will be moving here to fill the empty spots, more work means a better economy. It works out for everyone.

Accountability

Accountability

Yesterday evening, we watched the speech from President Obama on immigration. Accountability was the word he used to describe the "deal" he is making with illegal immigrants already living in this country, not someone who is coming through the borders today or someone who is planning on coming to the US in 1 year. He is protecting those who work hard, pay taxes and respect the country that they live in. The President also made it clear that this is not a gateway to citizenship or permanent residency, it's just temporary.