Wearing colored contact lenses while travelling through an airport is an issue of growing concern for travelers, with regard to how they will be received by the security checkpoints. It’s an important issue because as the popularity of colored lenses continues to rise, airport security measures also increase. So when, if ever, is it okay to change your eye color by wearing blue, brown or green contact lenses when travelling by air? Will the airport security agents haul you into a back room for additional checks if your eye color doesn’t exactly match that of your passport?
In all probability, the answer is no. However, some countries like the United States understandably have more airport security than others, so it is probably a good idea to be prepared to remove your lenses when travelling through US airports, especially the major ones like JFK.
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Customs & Border Protection & Colored Contacts
Travelers disembarking a plane in the US will ultimately need to travel through the Customs and Border Protection line, where they will be photographed and fingerprinted, so it is here that it is most likely to be noticed that your eyes are perhaps currently blue while your passport peepers are brown. Again, it is unlikely to cause a problem, but do be prepared to remove them should you encounter a particularly enthusiastic security agent.
Before then, your eyes are unlikely to be noticed, especially if travelling from outside the States. Airline check-ins are more concerned with matching the passport details to the airline ticket, plus ensuring the traveler is legally permitted to fly to the States. The main security checks where your bags and belongings are x-rayed do not require your passport to be checked again, so you certainly won’t face any issues there.
Once through the check-in and main security search, your passport will again be checked to match with your boarding pass, but again the airport staff’s main concern is that the two documents match up. You will of course be subjected to a perfunctory check to ensure your face matches that of the passport picture, but it will most likely be things like your nose and mouth shape, eyebrows and general appearance which will be examined. Your eye color is unlikely to draw much scrutiny here as the rest of your face will match up with your passport picture.
Security Checks & Changes of Appearance
Where difficulties might arise is if you have completely changed your appearance by cutting or growing your hair, or growing or shaving a beard. Weight gain or loss can also change the shape of faces, and these changes may cause the airport staff to double their scrutiny of you. These appearance-changing factors should be considered if you intend to wear colored lenses on a flight, but if you look much like you do in your passport picture, then a change of eye color shouldn’t be an issue prior to boarding the plane.
Never Wear Colored Lenses in Passport Pictures
One thing that should be mentioned is that under no circumstances should you wear colored lenses in your passport photo. It’s akin to wearing a hat or even sunglasses for your passport picture. We wrote a blog about this particular issue last year, so you can read more about our Colored Contact Lens Passport Warning at the link. In brief, it’s a very serious problem should you do it and it will result in your passport being rendered completely invalid.
Additional Contact Lens Airport Concerns
While many folks might want to wear colored lenses while travelling for fashion and style reasons, some people like to wear them for more functional reasons. For example, one blue eyed person enquiring about the legality of wearing colored lenses through airport security was concerned because they liked to wear darker brown lenses which they felt protected their eyes from the intense glare of airport lights. The lights gave this traveler headaches which the darker lenses helped protect against. Other travelers may have tinted or colored prescription lenses which help correct a vision disorder.
Whatever the reason for wearing lenses while flying, always ensure to keep some wet eye drops on your person as the change in air pressures throughout the different parts of the flight can dry eyes out, especially when wearing any type of contact lenses. This is particularly important if you are on a long haul flight from one side of America to the other, or perhaps travelling to or from Europe or another far flung part of the world. Of course, you must also remember not to carry any liquids over 100ml or they’ll be confiscated at the security gate, so make sure your wet eye drops bottle is no bigger than that.
To sum up, it might be worthwhile to leave purely aesthetic lenses off if travelling long distances to arrive in a major US airport, but even then you can simply be prepared to remove them at the final check-through should it be required.