A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photo rejected by a government website when its facial recognition software registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia from New Zealand after Christmas on Monday but received an awkward error message when he submitted his picture to Internal Affairs's online passport photo checker.

The automated system told the 22-year-old DJ, who is currently studying Aerospace Engineering and Business Management in Melbourne, that his eyes were closed, despite them being quite obviously open.

The club promoter said the response he received online after the image was posted was 'unexpected' but welcomed. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook
The club promoter said the response he received online after the image was posted was 'unexpected' but welcomed. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook

"The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because subjects eyes are closed," the message read.

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Mr Lee, who was born in Taiwan but grew up in New Zealand, contacted the Department of Internal Affairs shortly after to ask why his photo was not accepted.

A spokesperson told him "uneven lighting on the face" caused it to be rejected.

"I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," Mr Lee told Daily Mail Australia.

"So I got a few new ones taken at Australian Post and one of them went through, finally."

But his friends had already posted an image of the bungle to Facebook and social media users started suggesting the machine was 'racist'.

"Technology is getting racist," one user wrote.

"Dude, his eyes are clearly open: posted another.

Several others claimed they had experienced the same problems when using facial recognition technology.

Mr Lee said he was not bothered by the incident and did not believe it was a race issue.

"The error message didn't bother me that much, I saw the humor in it and obviously it's a programming error in the recognition software," Mr Lee said.

"Just a bit annoying with the delay and I'd expect to get a staff reply after 3 failed submissions," he added.

The DJ, known as Richy Fancy, uploaded a humorous image to Facebook shortly after the error message was posted using a Snapchat filter that widens the subject's eyes with the caption: "I hope they accept this one".

The DJ uploaded a humorous image to Facebook shortly after the error message was posted using a Snapchat filter that widens the subject's eyes. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook
The DJ uploaded a humorous image to Facebook shortly after the error message was posted using a Snapchat filter that widens the subject's eyes. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration said the software is "one of the most technologically advanced in the world' but that rejections were common.

"Up to 20 percent of photos submitted on line are rejected for a large variety of reasons,'" they told Daily Mail Australia.

"We provide customers with helpful online resources to make it easier for them to take suitable passport photos and note that in this case a second photo was submitted on the same day and the individual was issued with a NZ passport."

The suggestions for users who receive a message about their eyes being closed is: "Retake the photo and make sure the eyes are open".

No people of Asian appearance are listed on the New Zealand passport website. Photo / New Zealand Immigration
No people of Asian appearance are listed on the New Zealand passport website. Photo / New Zealand Immigration