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This Guy's Passport Photo Was Rejected Because The System Said His Eyes Were Closed

"Subject eyes are closed."

Posted on December 7, 2016, at 8:47 a.m. ET

Richard Lee, a 22-year-old college student, applied to renew his New Zealand passport this week so that he could travel back to Melbourne, Australia, after going home for the Christmas holidays.

Richard Lee

Lee uploaded his passport photo to the New Zealand government's website as part of the application.

Richard Lee

However, he found that the passport photo he uploaded did not meet the criteria. The reason? "Subject eyes are closed."

Lee, who was born in Taiwan but grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand, told BuzzFeed News he "fell off his chair laughing" when he saw the message.

Lee, who DJs part-time under the name Richy Fancy, said he shared the screenshot of the error message on his Facebook page, because he thought it was "hilarious."

His DJ friends Mashd N Kutcher then shared the post on their Facebook page, where it soon went viral.

A lot of people were outraged and thought it was racist.

Others could relate.

While most just found it hilarious.

Some people even helped him out.

Lee said after trying a few other photos with the same result, he called the Department of Internal Affairs about the issue.

Richard Lee

"They had a look and said it was the shadow in my eye and the uneven lighting that caused the error," he said.

He said he then went to the Australia Post for a few retakes, but not before taking his own.

Richard Lee

Lee said he didn't think the photo recognition software was racist, because "I mean, it's a bot executing lines of codes."

He added that he found it "pretty impressive" as an engineering student because there is now software that can read faces and notice when eyes are smaller than usual.

Fortunately, one of his photos went through, and Lee said the process ended up being "super efficient" as he received his passport this morning, after applying the afternoon before.

Richard Lee

Lee said he did not expect his post to go viral at all, but that it was "really good to see a lot of Aussie and Kiwi friends sticking up and saying something about it."

"And more importantly most fellow Asians were able to see the humor in it and laugh it off as well," he added.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.