Passenger detained at Sydney airport for not resembling passport photo

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What happens when you no longer resemble your passport photograph? 

You may need some extra time checking in at the airport and be prepared for in-depth questioning.

This is exactly what happened to Australian passenger Tomi Grainger who was traveling to Japan from Sydney, Australia using an eight-year old passport.

It was not the age or validity of Grainger’s passport that was the issue, but rather his passport photograph.

Grainger has undergone a number of facial surgeries and enhancements in the eight years since his passport was issued. When he scanned his passport at the airport for facial check and recognition, the security device did not recognize him to be the same person as his passport. 

Grainger’s passport photo and Grainger today. Source: @tomi.queen TikTok

Alarms were sounded and Grainger was eventually taken by airport security for questioning.

Grainger shared his ordeal on TikTok, saying that while he was being questioned by the head of airport security it dawned on him that he no longer looked like the person in his passport because he had undergone “so much plastic surgery”.

Grainger said that when he disclosed the surgeries and procedures to airport security he was allowed to board his flight. 

Grainger eventually made it to Japan.

What should you do when you no longer look like your passport photo?

Plastic surgery and facial enhancements are commonplace these days, so here are some regulations to follow when you need to travel.

As a rule of thumb, when you have had facial reconstruction or surgery done and you bear little to no resemblance to your passport photograph, it is advised that you immediately apply for a new passport, regardless of the remaining validity of your current one.

If you must travel immediately and have no time to apply for a new passport, facial surgeons suggest bringing medical documents and proof that you have undergone a procedure. 

Some physicians and surgeons can also sign affidavits stating that you are the person on your existing passport.

In the United States, passport holders are requested to obtain a new photo / passport  if they have:

  • Undergone significant facial surgery or trauma
  • Added or removed numerous/large facial piercings or tattoos
  • Undergone a significant amount of weight loss or gain
  • Made a gender transition

Click here for full guidelines and details. 

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