How to Change an Unflattering Driver’s License Photo

Passport and driver’s license photos are notoriously bad—they’re about as far from glamorous as can be. The only benefit of challenging the DMV to get an updated license is the ability to replace your outdated or unflattering photo.

Unfortunately, as a rule, you cannot renew your license whenever you want. States generally allow renewals within six months of expiration, and many licenses are valid for up to eight years. If you really want to change your photo, you can do so for a fee: instead, you’ll need to request a replacement or duplicate license, just as if yours had been lost or stolen.

The process for obtaining a replacement or duplicate driver’s license varies by state, but generally you will need to provide identification documents similar to those you had when you originally applied, such as a passport, birth certificate, social security card, proof of address, etc. e. Go to your state DMV website to find out what you need.

You can also expect to pay for a replacement license. Fees are set by the state and range from $5 in Illinois to $31 in California. If there are six months left before expiration, you may have to pay a higher full renewal fee.

While this process can be done online, you will obviously have to go to the DMV office and apply in person if you want to have your photo replaced.

Alternatives to replacing or duplicating a license

If your state allows in-person address or name change requests, you can also use this as an opportunity to update your ID photo. It is likely that this will be cheaper than a replacement license, and may even be free. However, some states will use the photo that’s already on file instead of letting you take a new one.

Similarly, if you don’t already have a REAL ID – the renewed license that will be required to fly on May 23, 2023 – you can get a new photo taken during the application process. You should be able to upgrade to a REAL ID at any time, even if your current license is non-renewable.

You can also try asking the person taking your photo to preview it before they send it and retake it if you don’t like it, although not all DMV staff will condone you.


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