As if people of the world today don’t have enough concerns to keep them from smiling, the U.S. State Department has issued new guidelines ( discouraging smiling in photographs for American travel documents. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has also adopted the new requirements for U.S. green cards and work permits. The dour new rules specify that when being photographed, people are to have a “natural expression.” In sample “acceptable” photos depicting “natural” expressions, a man and woman exhibit serious, Stepford-like stares, with mouths closed. For those so bold as to risk rejection of their photos, a wan smile with closed jaw (no teeth showing) may be allowed but not preferred.

This new requirement is no laughing matter. USCIS has been enforcing the photo-specs rule and rejecting pictures in which individuals are smiling and showing their apparently well-flossed teeth. Reports indicate that the Cleveland USCIS office is a non-smiling jurisdiction. Therefore, if you’re in Cleveland, definitely avoid smiling. Perhaps, Cleveland-area dentists may wish to protest this stealth attack on their profession.

The no-smiling policy seems to make holistic sense, however, in that few can smile at our dysfunctional immigration system. So all you photographers, rather than asking your subjects to say “cheese,” suggest instead that they think “immigration”.