The photo for your driving licence

When you apply for a photocard driving licence in Northern Ireland, in most cases you'll need to provide a photograph which must follow specific rules. It may also need to be certified (signed) depending on the type of identification that you're using to apply for your licence.


When a photo is needed

You must provide a recent passport type photograph that's in colour if you're applying for:

* You will also need to provide proof of residency - there's further information about how to do this at the link below:

When you don't need a photo

You don't need to provide a photo if the reason you're applying for a licence is:

  • a change of name and/ or address
  • a duplicate (this is a copy of your existing licence) 

To find out how to change your name and/ or address on your driving licence, go to:

If you need a duplicate of your driving licence, you'll need to apply to replace it.

If, however, your appearance has changed significantly, you'll need to apply for an optional renewal, and for that you'll need to provide a new photograph. To do this, you need to renew your driving licence.

The type of photo you need to send

Some driving licence applications are:

  • done online and therefore need a digital photo, while others are
  • on forms that you need to fill in and post together with a printed photo

Digital photos and printed photos have different guidelines. The table below shows which photo guidelines you need to follow. 

Type of licence Can you apply online and upload a digital photo? Can you apply by post and use a printed photo?
Renew your driving licence Yes Yes
Optional renewal of your driving licence Yes, by renewing your driving licence online Yes, by renewing your driving licence
Provisional driving licence No Yes
An exchange of your licence from another country  No Yes

Guidelines for digital photos 

Use the following guidelines for digital photos. If your photo doesn’t meet the rules, your application may be returned to you.

You can:

  • use an existing digital photo if it meets the rules below
  • get a friend to take a digital photo of you

Digital photo rules:

  • your photo must look like you and must have be taken in the last month
  • use a plain light-coloured background with no patterns or textures and don't have objects behind you
  • no shadows on your face or behind you - it's best to use natural sunlight, for example facing a window
  •  stand 0.5 metres (1.5 feet) away from your background (this helps to stop shadows appearing)
  • the person taking the photo should stand 1.5 metres (5 feet) from you
  • include your head, shoulders and upper body in the photo and look straight at the camera
  • have a plain expression so don't smile or frown - eyes open and mouth closed
  • eyes fully visible, hair away from your face and eyes
  • take your glasses off if you can - if you need to keep your glasses on, your eyes must be visible without any glare or reflections 
  • no sunglasses or tinted glasses
  • no headwear unless it's for religious or medical reasons
  • don't crop your photo - it will be done for you

The pictures below help to explain which photos follow the rules and shows those that don't.  The following video also explains how to take a good digital photo:

How to take a digital photo when you renew your driving licence online

Guidelines for printed photos that are posted

The photo must be:

  • printed to a high quality, such as photos printed by a booth or studio (photographs printed at home are unlikely to be of a high enough quality)
  • taken within the last month, a true likeness of you and of your full head
  • in colour, not black and white, against a light grey or cream background
  • 45mm high x 35mm wide (however, don't trim your photographs to meet this condition)
  • taken so that your eyes can be positioned in the area marked by the shaded band (see diagram below)

Diagram showing the dimensions needed for a driving licence photograph

  • clear, in sharp focus, free from ‘red eye’ and with no shadow in it
  • free of any reflection or glare from glasses (where possible, remove your glasses to avoid the possibility of rejection)
  • of you on your own
  • in good condition, not damaged, creased, torn or marked

You must:

  • face forward and look straight into the camera with your eyes open and nothing covering your face
  • look natural with no facial expressions, for example, smiling, grinning or frowning
  • have nothing covering your eyes, for example, hair or glasses frame
  • not wear sunglasses or tinted glasses
  • not wear a hat or cover your head unless for medical or religious reasons

Having your photograph certified

This section only applies to printed photos that are posted together with driving licence application forms. (Therefore it does not apply to digital photos.)

If you’re providing identity documents other than an up-to-date United Kingdom (UK) or other European Economic Area (EEA) passport, a valid UK Biometric Residence Permit or UK travel document, you must get an authorised person to sign the back of your photo.

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