Tag Archives: DMV

Dear Virginia … No smiles for you

6 Feb

This past summer my purse got stolen, so I had to go to the DMV for a new license. I wasn’t stressed about the photo because I’d assumed they’d use the same one, which was—if I do say so myself—pretty good. I was tan, I’d just gotten my hair done and I did my makeup.

But, to my horror, they said I needed to retake the photo. I hadn’t washed my hair or put on makeup, but oh well. So I sit down and smile.

“Oh no, you can’t do that anymore,” the lady tells me.

“Do what?”


Say whhaaaaat?

As it turns out, since 2009 Virginia’s DMV has banned smiling in photos because one day in the future they plan on having facial recognition technology. Apparently smiling screws that up. To be clear, you are allowed to turn the corners of your mouth up, but under no circumstances can you show teeth.

So I get my license, and it looks like—I kid you not—a 1920s mug shot because, in addition to no smiling, it’s in black and white. Virginia is not the only state that has a smiling ban, but Maryland and DC allow smiles, which makes Virginia’s licenses look downright depressing in comparison.

A friend of mine was recently at the DMV when a new resident learned about the policy. He turned to her and said, “What kind of people don’t let you smile?” It is a rather dismal welcome to the state.

My boyfriend moved from Maryland to Virginia a year or so ago, and he thinks the Virginia DMV is fantastic in comparison. According to him, the lines aren’t as long and the staff is much friendlier. He thinks sacrificing a smile is more than worth it.