How not to take a Polish passport photo


Poland is famed for its heavy-handed bureaucracy. Hanging around in the offices of Krakow’s municipal government the other day, as you do, I happened across a poster that left me paralytic with mirth.

Full size pdf version (3.6 megs)

These are instruction on what you should avoid when submitting photos for a passport. The range of possible errors is stupendous and, at times, mystifying. The poster should be entitled:

New passport photo? You’ll be lucky!

Let’s look at some of these possible transgression in slightly tongue-in-cheek detail.


Hideous pink cardigan on display; what will foreigners think!


Your head is way too big; consider radical plastic surgery.


Possible second head on left shoulder not visible.


Don’t you narrow your eyes at me young lady! Cheap hussy.


You are a terrorist. Report to the nearest Police station for a severe kicking.


You are probably a terrorist. Report to the nearest Police station where officers will stare at you suspiciously for a while.


You are an American. That’ll be $800 please. By the way, do you know my cousin in Chicago?


You are a poorly encoded digital copy of yourself. Get back to the Matrix.


Report to the nearest beauty salon for makeup lessons… and grey is sooo not your color.


You are an orange freak. Stay out of the solarium and come back in six months.


You are satanically possessed. Report to your local priest for immediate exorcism.


You are blind. What the hell do you want to go abroad for?


You are a Nowa Huta bimbo. You’ll never get a US visa anyway so why bother.


Aaaaah the glare! The glare is blinding me!


You are too stupid to get on an airplane.


Stop thinking about that! Jesus will be angry!


What’s with all the trees? Are you some kind of hippy?!


Photograph taken by artistic boyfriend. Can we see the topless ones?


Get a proper haircut.


Look out! There’s somebody behind you!


And the acceptable ones:

You look a bit like Jodie Foster and you’re clearly miserable as hell. That’s good enough for us.


You are a small blonde boy with a crew cut. Aaaaah, sweet!


Not a chance, but we have to put this in ‘cus Brussels told us too.


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38 thoughts on “How not to take a Polish passport photo

  1. Mark G. says:

    That’s funny ass shit!

  2. darthsida says:

    Funny indeed. But what fun would this deserve?

    Go figures.
    Poland: passport fee 140 zł, waiting time: 30 days (and a mighty queue).
    Britain: passport fee £72, waiting time: 4 hours (or pay extra and you’ll find the thing in your mail).

  3. scatts says:

    I wonder how they knew where to hang the poster so the 3 women in Poland who wear a hijab would be sure to see it?

    Darth, this is why companies are moving to Poland, cheap labour. Just look at the comparison of hourly rate charged by authorities for passport processing:

    UK – 18 GBP per hour

    Poland – 5 pence per hour.

  4. I always get my official photos taken at the visa/passport office for exactly these reasons. I have no doubt this is more expensive than some other place but, frankly, I am paying to avoid the hassle.

    Oh and in the US it’s $100 for the passport and it is mailed to you (no exceptions) but I think I waited at least 45 days for mine a number of years ago and I’ve heard it’s longer now. You can pay more to have the application and delivery go faster.

  5. […] Brits could have a chuckle at Polish Jodie Foster – and Poles could stay English-wise […]

  6. Cynic says:

    It’s not funny. It’s a racket. If you get your picture taken by anyone who has not bribed the passport office officials then those officials will find fault with your picture. Poles cannot draft corruption-proof or even corruption-resistant laws to save their lives.

  7. island1 says:

    Darth: A lot of fun, they’re potentially hilarious, but I saw the Polish ones first and I’d give different captions to the British ones. Are you sure the complex matter we discussed doesn’t have a grain of truth?

  8. darthsida says:

    => Scatts

    18 GBP vs 5 pence: Good point! :D

    But the British passport industry releases more than 4 times the number of Polish passports. So, if it were to go the Polish pace, 18 GBP hourly rate would be ca 4GBP. Purchasing powers in mind, 4GBP in Britain is 90 pence in Poland.

    30 days of waiting is time that does ensure approaching Polish passport calmly, relaxedly, no hurry-no worry. While the shock with getting a British passport so pronto results in cardiac failures, psychosomatic imbalance, nervous breakdowns, burnout, feelings of loss (“I have my passport, so what, I still can’t afford holidays”) etc. Allowing for the absence of any medical prevention, the British rate of 90 pence should be deducted at least 2 quid (as the British health service is very expensive).

    In fact, the Polish system ensures healthier, safer, and [all in all] cheaper way to get a passport. British prices simply prove creative accounting (ugh!) and having no concern for Queen’s subjects.

  9. darthsida says:

    => Island
    You saw the Polish photos first? Do you mean that at the time of having your British passport procured, you were not exposed to any photo-guidelines like here? No, really. I happened to see the British ones first but refrained from funny comments. Sheesh, maybe my upper lip stiffens too much? :D

    => Anyone
    What really pished me off while getting my passport (or what is ID?) was that tiny rectangular frame within which one is supposed to leave their signature specimen. I happen to have a signature with lots of flourishes and scrolls that takes a piece of parchment, or two pieces and some wax and lot of dusting powder for its legible version. No way I could fit in inside the statutory frame. This country violates my freedom of signature.

  10. island1 says:

    Darth: Actually, no. I got my current passport 8 years ago and I don’t remember any of this nonsense. It must be a new ANTI TERROR methodology, which frankly makes it even funnier. In fact, looking at my passport I’m quite clearly smiling (kind of) and not looking at the camera. I could be in big trouble come the summer trip to Barcelona.

    Goddamn I hate those teeny tiny signature spaces (on bank cards too), there’s no way I can fit my signature in there, consequently it looks nothing like my signature.

  11. Ai says:

    you made my day with this entry again polandians (lol)
    When i had to renew my stay here i have to submit passport ID. They reject the first pictures I submitted and told me to read what is the required or right picture in that poster..and I can’t help but laugh coz i find the pictures hilarious. And I had to have my picture taken right in there office that i have to pay another moolah. Needless to say, my pictures taken from them is worst than expected. lol!

    tks for sharing this..

  12. darthsida says:

    Hey, just checked my passport out. Same here: a smirksmile and eyesight not at the camera. Plus the stare and the grimace make me plainly deportable. I could be in big trouble come anywhere outside secret mafia centres.

  13. […] comments on the bureaucratic instructions on “how not to take a Polish passport photo.” Posted by Veronica Khokhlova Share […]

  14. […] Polandian comments on the bureaucratic instructions on “how not to take a Polish passport photo.” […]

  15. Gabriela says:

    Very, very funny.
    As a Peruvian, I have to ask for a visa almost for every country. Recently I applied for an American visa… which I got. But the requirements for the photo were as crazy as told here: no glasses, nothing on your head, your ear lobes MUST be visible, no smiles!, etc. Luckily, the lady who took my picture knew all the instructions by heart.
    No matter where we are, insane things are always the same.
    All the best.

  16. island1 says:

    Ai: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

    There’s a terrible temptation to put this down to Polish officiousness, but it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon – apparently some kind of anti-terror measure.

  17. island1 says:

    Gabriela: You’re right of course, anything outside one’s own culture tends to seem weird and insane.

    Thanks for the compliment, and for being our first even Peruvian commenter (as far as we know)!

  18. Pawel says:

    “Even a slight smile distorts the normal facial features.”

    geee! who writes these?

  19. darthsida says:

    => Island
    “anything outside one’s own culture tends to seem weird and insane”
    Oh, that’s richly overstated.
    [Hints: Coca Cola. Japanese Hondas. Russian Army Choir.]

    I do feel tempted to set up alternative guidelines with this guy. He puts his hood down, he does not wear specs, he does not smile. No distortions of his normal facial features.

  20. Anna says:

    I’m trying to get my Polish passport in Sweden. Those asshats have rejected my perfectly good photos twice already. Let’s see how much longer it will take… Maybe next time I should put on a hijab and sue them for discrimination. hmmm…

  21. Gabriela says:

    Hello Island:
    Do you allow me to translate this post into Spanish for mi blog? Of course, you’d be very visibly credited. I’d like to demostrate how bureaucracy is the same, no matter where we are.
    All the best!

  22. island1 says:

    Gabriela: I would be honoured, certainly you have my permission.

  23. Gabriela says:

    Thanks a lot! I’ll let you know when it is done.
    Although my blog is written in Spanish, you are invited to read it. I have a translator at the right (not so good but kind of useful).
    Be my guest.

  24. Gabriela says:

    Hello again Island:
    Last night I posted your instructions on my blog:
    Here a “translation” into Polish with an online translation, although you’d be lucky if among the “me Tarzan you Jane” language you are able to understand something:|pl
    Once again, thanks a lot.

  25. island1 says:

    Gabriela: Thanks very much, I’m thrilled to have been translated into Spanish.

    That ‘translation into Polish’ link doesn’t seem to work by the way, not that it makes much difference to me – my Polish is pathetic (I’m an Englishman in Krakow).

  26. Gabriela says:

    Hello Island:
    And now I’m the one who is flattered with you visiting my blog and making an effort for understanding it. I hope you may write about this Google “translations”. It’d be a very funny post. I’d be glad to help you if you need it.
    By the way, I’d love to visit Poland. As you already read, a good friend of mine lives in Warsaw.

  27. darthsida says:

    How to take an English post into Spanish and then back into Polish, via Google, examples of:

    => Hideous pink cardigan on display; what will foreigners think! =
    Horror chompita różowego w oczach, co myślisz obcokrajowców?

    => Don’t you narrow your eyes at me young lady! Cheap hussy. =
    Nie tak blisko oczy Kiedy patrzę, dziewczyny! Pico-moll.

    => You are blind. What the hell do you want to go abroad for?
    Jesteś w ciemno. Co Diantre chcesz podróżować?

    => You are too stupid to get on an airplane.
    Jesteś zbyt głupi, aby subirte airplane

    LOL and BOL :D

  28. Gabriela says:

    I can’t understand Polish, but I’m pretty sure those explanations from Darthsida are hilarious.
    That word ‘chompita’ is the pet form of chompa, the word we use here in Peru for sweater. Most countries in Latin America use ‘sueter’, derived from sweater (both are pronounced the same way). In Spanish, and specially in Peru, we love to use pet forms for every word, even adjectives. It sounds delicious: el bebe esta dormidito => the baby is (little) sleeping. It sounds awful in English.
    Sorry Island for making this a discussion zone!

  29. Chris says:

    That is soooo funny!!!! I just had my passport renewed. Kept reading all the horror posts of how long they waited. I printed out my application on oline filled it out and sent along a check for 75.00 on 5/14/08 and recieved it back within a week. It came back so quick I thought they were returning it because I didn’t fill out something properly. So don’t believe all you hear or read (except this). Brad Zimmerman where do you get your info. 100.00????? It does cost 60.00 extra if you wish to have them process it super quick but even that is not a quarantee. Fee is 75.00 and a 25.00 execution fee (payable to execution) but I did it by mail so it is only 75.00 and no execution fee to pay. Since I live so close to the Canadian border I thought they would be bogged down with passport processing. At the moment we still need only a drivers licence to show proof of residency.

  30. island1 says:

    Darth: Now let’s translate it into Indonesian.

  31. darthsida says:

    Island, tech was on my side. Enjoy:
    – – –
    Cheap hussy.
    Murah gadis tak sopan.
    Cheaply the girl was impolite.
    – – –
    Polandian is all about hussies and hussars.
    Polandian sama sekali mengenai gadis tak sopan dan hussars.
    Polandian completely about the girl was impolite and hussars.
    – – –
    Island wanted me to have this translation done.
    Pulau ingin saya untuk mempunyai terjemahan ini dilakukan.
    The island I wished to have this translation was carried out.
    Pulau saya menginginkan untuk mempunyai terjemahan ini dibawa ke luar.
    My island wanted to have this translation was brought outside.
    – – –
    Okay, that’s it.
    Baiklah, itu adalahnya.
    Okay, that was him.

  32. island1 says:

    Dammit, now I can’t remember who I am or where I am.

  33. Adam says:

    Went to the polish consulate in toronto to get a new passport,,,filled out application with all documents, birth certificate, social # from poland, old expired passport…well this was on December 21, 2007…its July 20, 2008…They told me it might take 6 months (ok)…get this …the lady told me it takes this long because now the polish passports are printed in the uk?

  34. rielev says:

    I want to say that those are new passport photos in whole EU, not only in Poland
    And it’s not such a problem to make them, we do 20-30 of them daily in my work :)

  35. island1 says:

    rielev: You’re absolutely right of course. I saw a poster here in Poland and thought it was very funny so I wrote this from that perspective. I forgot we all part of the same mad family now :)

  36. Anonymous says:

    that’s really funny, ‘cos on the other hand they do not verify the details you put on your ID, I declared that I’m 170 cm tall and it’s now written on my Polish ID, even if I’m only 168 cm, sure as hell I could be arrested for that :)
    probably if I wrote that I have blue eyes I could have it on my ID as well, even if my eyes are brown

    ps: there are also silly rules for the ID pictures, but not the same ones, I tried to give an ID-proof identity picture of myself to the passport lady, she didn’t accept
    the ID picture must show your left profile with your left ear, while the passport pic is en face

  37. Jeśli jesteś na wycieczce w Polsce i chcą zbadać ten naród z bezpieczeństwem następnie ubezpieczenie podróży jest dobrym rozwiązaniem, aby podróżować bezpiecznie.

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