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Travel Security Advice for Iran

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iran_mapIran_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Iran is a constitutional Islamic republic with a theocratic system of government where ultimate political authority is vested in the highest religious authority, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He has final say on all domestic, foreign, and security policies for Iran, though he establishes and supervises those policies in consultation with other political bodies.  Shia Islam is the official religion of Iran, and Islamic law is the basis of the authority of the state. The Iranian Constitution guarantees freedom of worship to Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, though they are sometimes the subject of discrimination and repression. The work week in Iran is Saturday through Thursday; however, many government offices and private companies are closed on Thursdays. Friday is the day of rest when all establishments are closed. Offices in Iran are generally open to the public during the morning hours only. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Iran for additional information.

EMBASSY LOCATION:

The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. U.S. citizens living or traveling in Iran are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens in Iran without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy of Switzerland in Tehran – U.S. Interests Section.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

Embassy of Switzerland – U.S. Interests Section
No. 39, Shahid Mousavi (Golestan 5th)
Pasdaran Avenue
Tehran, Iran
Telephone: (98) (21) 2254-2178 and (98) (21) 2256-5273
Facsimile: (98) (21) 98/21/2258-0432
Contact via e-mail:
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The workweek is Sunday through Thursday. Public service hours are 8:00 am – 12:00 noon. The Interests Section does not issue U.S. visas or accept visa applications.

The limited consular services provided to U.S. citizens in Tehran include:
(a) Registering U.S. citizens;
(b) Responding to inquiries concerning the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens in Iran;
(c) Rendering assistance in times of distress or physical danger;
(d) Providing U.S. citizens with passport and Social Security card applications and other citizenship forms for approval at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland;
(e) Performing notarial services on the basis of accommodation; and
(f) Taking provisional custody of the personal effects of deceased U.S. citizens.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

Should you decide to travel to Iran despite the current Travel Warning, a passport and visa are required, except for travel to Kish Island where a visa is not required. Travelers should not attempt to enter mainland Iran from Kish without a visa. To obtain a visa, contact the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan located at 2209 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC. 20007; tel. 202-965-4990, 91, 92, 93, 94, 99; fax 202-965-1073, 202-965-4990 (Automated Fax-On-Demand after office hours).

U.S. citizens traveling to Iran are fingerprinted upon entry. The Iranian press has reported that foreign tourists may obtain seven-day tourist visas at the airport in Tehran. However, U.S. citizens are not eligible to receive these visas and have to obtain valid visas from the Iranian Interests Section in Washington. Note: possession of a valid Iranian visa will not guarantee entry into the country. Some American travelers with valid visas have been refused entry at the border without explanation. U.S. citizens do not have to obtain a visa for travel from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Kish Island.

U.S. passports are valid for travel to Iran. However, the Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality and will treat U.S.-Iranian dual nationals solely as Iranian citizens subject to Iranian laws. Thus, U.S. citizens who were born in Iran, who became naturalized citizens of Iran (e.g. through marriage to an Iranian citizen), and children of such persons—even those without Iranian passports who do not consider themselves Iranian—are considered Iranian nationals by Iranian authorities. Therefore, despite the fact that these individuals hold U.S. citizenship, under Iranian law, they must enter and exit Iran on an Iranian passport, unless the Iranian government has recognized a formal renunciation or loss of Iranian citizenship. Dual nationals may be subject to harsher legal treatment than a visitor with only American citizenship. (See section on Special Circumstances below.)

Iranian authorities have prevented a number of American citizen academics, scientists, journalists, and others who traveled to Iran for personal/cultural/business reasons from leaving the country, and in some cases have detained, interrogated and imprisoned them on unknown or various charges, including espionage and being a threat to the regime. Americans of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities may deny dual nationals’ access to the United States Interests Section in Tehran, because they are considered to be solely Iranian citizens. 

As a precaution, it is advisable for U.S.-Iranian dual nationals to obtain in their Iranian passports the necessary visas for the countries they will transit upon their return to the U.S. so that, if their U.S. passports are confiscated in Iran, they may depart Iran with their Iranian passport. These individuals can then apply for a new U.S. passport in the country they are transiting.

Dual nationals whose U.S. passports are confiscated may also obtain a “Confirmation of Nationality” from the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland, which is the U.S. protecting power. This statement, addressed to the relevant foreign embassies in Tehran, enables the travelers to apply for third-country visas in Tehran. Dual nationals finding themselves in this situation should note in advance that the Swiss Embassy would issue this statement only after the traveler's U.S. nationality is confirmed and after some processing delay. Dual nationals must enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports.

Visa extensions are time-consuming and must be filed at least one week in advance of the expiration date. As of March 21, 2006, a foreign national and anyone accompanying him/her will pay a fine of 300,000 rials or 30,000 tomans per day for each day of unauthorized stay in Iran. 

All Iranian nationals, including U.S.-Iranian dual nationals, must have an exit permit stamped in their Iranian passports in order to depart Iran. The stamp is affixed to the Iranian passport when it is issued and remains valid until the expiration date of the passport. All Iranian nationals residing abroad, including U.S.-Iranian dual nationals, are no longer required to pay an exit tax regardless of the duration of their stay in Iran. More specific information on Iranian passport and exit visa requirements may be obtained from the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.

Non-Iranian-national women who marry Iranian citizens gain Iranian nationality upon marriage. If the marriage takes place in Iran, the woman’s American passport will be confiscated by Iranian authorities. Women must have the consent of their husbands to leave Iran or, in his absence, must gain the permission of the local prosecutor. Iranian law, combined with the lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran, means that the Swiss U.S. Interests Section in Tehran can provide only very limited assistance if an American woman married to an Iranian man has marital difficulties and/or encounters difficulty in leaving Iran. 

After divorce or death of the husband, a foreign-born woman has the choice to renounce her Iranian citizenship, but any of the couple’s children will automatically be Iranian citizens and their citizenship is irrevocable. They will be required to enter and depart Iran on Iranian passports. For a divorce to be recognized it should be carried out in Iran or, if outside Iran, in accordance with Sharia law. Upon divorce, custody of the children normally goes to the mother until the child reaches age 7, at which point custody is automatically transferred to the father. However, if the courts determine that the father is unsuitable to raise the children, they may grant custody to the paternal grandfather or to the mother, if the mother has not renounced her Iranian citizenship and is normally resident in Iran. If the courts grant custody to the mother, she will need permission from the paternal grandfather or the courts to obtain exit visas for the minor children (under age 18) to leave the country. It should be noted that the term "custody" in the U.S. does not have the same legal meaning in Iran. In Iran a woman is granted "guardianship", and only in very rare cases is actually granted "custody". Even if the woman has "custody/guardianship”, all legal decisions, e.g., application for a passport, permission to exit Iran, etc., would still require the consent of the father. Iran is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
 
Information about
dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

U.S. citizens who travel to Iran despite the Travel Warning should exercise caution throughout the country, but especially in the southeastern region where westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. American citizens should avoid travel to areas within 100 kilometers of the border with Afghanistan, within 10 kilometers of the border with Iraq, and generally anywhere east of the line from Bam and Bandar Abbas toward the Pakistan border.
 
Terrorist explosions have killed a number of people since 2005. Be aware that the Iranian government has blamed the U.S. and/or UK governments for involvement in the February 2007 bombing that killed Iranian military forces in Zahedan in the southeast, the 2005/2006 bombings in Ahvaz/Khuzestan in the southwest, and the May 2009 bombing of a mosque in the south-east Iranian city of Zahedan.
 
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings. Increased tension between Iran and the west over the past several years is a cause of concern for American travelers. Large-scale demonstrations in response to the 2009 Presidential election continue to take place sporadically throughout the country.  American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. U.S. passport holders who are arrested or detained by Iranian authorities should request assistance from the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
 
Iranian security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited and could result in serious criminal charges, including espionage, which carries the death penalty
.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada or, from outside the United States and Canada by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Major crime is generally not a problem for travelers in Iran, although foreigners occasionally have been victims of petty street crime. Young men in unmarked cars have robbed foreigners and young men on motor bikes have snatched bags. There have been reports of robberies by police impersonators, usually in civilian clothing. Insist on seeing the officer’s identity card and request the presence of a uniformed officer/marked patrol car. Travelers should not surrender any documents or cash.
 
Travellers should not carry large amounts of hard currency while on the streets. In view of the possibility of theft, passports, disembarkation cards, other important documents and valuables should be kept in hotel safes or other secure locations. Pre-booked taxis are safer than those hailed from the street.

Americans should check with their hotel or tour guide for information on local scams.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
 

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Iran, the processing time for a replacement passport takes much longer at the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy than elsewhere.
 
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Interests Section for assistance. The staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, Swiss Embassy officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. 

The local equivalent of the “911” emergency line in Iran is as follows: 115 for ambulance service, 125 for fire and 110 for police. English speakers, however, are generally unavailable.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Iranian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Fines, public floggings, and long prison terms are common. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible execution. Drinking, possession of alcoholic beverages and drugs, un-Islamic dress, as well as public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex are considered to be crimes. Relations between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal. Adultery, sex outside of marriage and gay sex are all illegal under Iranian law and carry the death penalty. DVDs depicting sexual relations and magazines showing unveiled women are forbidden. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iran are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Iran executes many people each year on drug-related charges.

Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

U.S. citizens in Iran who violate Iranian laws, including laws that are unfamiliar to Westerners (such as those regarding the proper wearing of apparel), may face severe penalties.

The Iranian Government reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed claims against Iran at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague pursuant to the 1981 Algerian Accords. In addition, the Iranian Government reportedly has compiled a list of the claimants who were awarded compensation in the Iran Claims Program administered by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Iranian government has allegedly been targeting award-holders who travel to Iran. It has been reported that upon some claimants' entry into Iran, Iranian authorities have questioned them as to the status of payment of their respective awards with a view to recouping the award money. The Iranian Government has also reportedly threatened to prevent U.S. claimants who visit Iran from departing the country until they make arrangements to repay part of or their entire award.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

The Iranian Government has seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners who work in Iran on tax/commercial disputes.  In addition to being subject to all Iranian laws, U.S. citizens who also possess Iranian citizenship are also subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of Iran, such as military service or taxes. Iranian-citizen males aged 18-34 are required to perform military service, unless exempt. This requirement includes Iranian-Americans, even those born in the US. Young men who have turned 17 years of age will no longer be allowed to leave Iran without first having completed their military service.

Dual nationals sometimes have their U.S. passports confiscated and may be denied permission to leave Iran, or encounter other problems with Iranian authorities. Likewise, Iranian authorities may deny dual nationals’ access to the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran, because they are considered to be solely Iranian citizens. Refer to the above section entitled "Entry/Exit Requirements" for additional information concerning dual nationality.

U.S. citizens who are not dual U.S.-Iranian nationals are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport (biodata page and page with Iranian visa) with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available. Carry some other form of identification with you at all times as well, such as a driver’s license or other photo identification.

Credit cards and bank cards cannot be used in Iran. It is easy to exchange U.S. dollars for rials, either at banks or with certified money changers; however, you will not be able to access U.S. bank accounts using ATMs in Iran. While in Iran, avoid accessing a U.S. bank account via internet, since the account will immediately be frozen or blocked by the bank due to U.S. Government economic sanctions. Traveler’s checks can be difficult to exchange. Bring enough hard currency to cover your stay, but make sure you declare this currency upon entry. There is no Western Union or similar institution and bank transfers may not be possible. Exchange money only at banks or an authorized currency exchange facility, not on the street, and keep your exchange receipts

Pre-paid overseas calling cards are available at most newsagents. The Internet is widely used in Iran. There are Internet cafes in most hotels. Usage may be monitored.
Do not work illegally. You will be deported, fined and/or imprisoned. You may also be prevented from re-entering the country.

Islamic law is strictly enforced in Iran. Alcohol is forbidden. Importation of pork products is banned. Consult a guide book on Iran to determine how to dress and behave properly and respectfully. Women should expect to wear a headscarf and a long jacket that covers the arms and upper legs while in public. There may be additional dress requirements at certain religious sites; e.g., women might need to put on a chador (which covers the whole body except the face) at some shrines. During the holy month of Ramadan, you should generally observe the Muslim tradition of not eating, drinking or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset each day, though there are exemptions for foreign travelers who eat in hotel restaurants.

In general, it is best to ask before taking photographs of people. Hobbies like photography and those involving the use of binoculars (e.g., bird-watching) can be misunderstood and get you in trouble with security officials. (See Safety and Security section above for warnings on photography.)

For specific information regarding Iranian customs regulations, contact the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.  Please see our Customs Information for U.S. regulations.

It is unlawful to bring controlled items, such as laptops and satellite cell phones, into Iran, even on a temporary basis, unless specifically authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in a manner consistent with the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 and other relevant law.

U.S. Government economic sanctions prohibit most economic activity between U.S. persons and Iran. The importation of most Iranian-origin goods or services into the United States is prohibited without a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury (OFAC) except for gifts valued at $100 or less, information or informational materials, certain foodstuffs intended for human consumption, and certain carpets and textile floor coverings. The exportation or re-exportation of most goods, technology or services directly or indirectly from the United States or by a U.S. person to Iran also is prohibited without a license, except in the following cases: articles donated to relieve human suffering (such as food, clothing and medicine), gifts valued at $100 or less, licensed exports of agricultural commodities, most medicine and medical devices, and information and informational materials. All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran, including baggage costs, living expenses, and the acquisition of goods or services for personal use, are permitted.  The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Department of Treasury, provides guidance to the public on the interpretation of the current economic sanctions. For further information, consult OFAC’s Compliance Programs Division, at 202-622-2490, visit OFAC’s web site, or obtain information via fax at 202-622-0077. For information concerning licensing of imports or exports, contact OFAC’s Licensing Division at:

Licensing Division
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Treasury Annex
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480; Fax (202) 622-1657

Iran is prone to earthquakes. Many people have died in recent years, most notably in the city of Bam in 2003, killing 30,000. In February 2005, an earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale struck Zarand in southeast Iran. In March 2006, several earthquakes occurred in Restan province, western Iran, killing around 100 and injuring 1200. In 2008 there were several earthquakes in the Ahwaz and Bandar Abbas region.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Basic medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities, but may not be available in rural areas. Medical facilities do not meet U.S. standards and sometimes lack medicines and supplies.  In 2006, there were reports of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, mostly in the southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan province. Iranian authorities confirmed outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) in January 2008 in northern Iran, as well as earlier reports of outbreaks among wild swans in the Anzali Wetlands and in domestic poultry in the northern provinces of Azerbaijan and Gilan. There have been a number of confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in 2009. 

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Iran.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Iran is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Travelers in possession of International Driver’s Permits may drive in Iran, though the U.S. Interests Section in Iran does not recommend that tourists drive in Iran. Iran has a very high rate of traffic accidents, the second highest cause of mortality in the country. Drivers throughout Iran tend to ignore traffic lights, traffic signs and lane markers. Urban streets are not well lit. It is therefore particularly dangerous to drive at night. Sidewalks in urban areas only exist on main roads and are usually obstructed by parked cars. In the residential areas, few sidewalks exist. Drivers almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. If you are involved in an accident, no matter how minor, do not leave the scene. Wait until the police arrive to file a report. 

Iranian authorities sometimes set up informal roadblocks, both in cities and on highways, often manned by young, inexperienced officers. They are often suspicious of foreigners. Ensure you carry a form of identification with you and avoid getting into disputes.

Pollution levels from cars are very high, particularly in Tehran, which can trigger respiratory problems.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the U.S. by carriers registered in Iran, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site. Civil aviation in Iran continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including several fatal airline crashes in recent years. 

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.


This replaces the Country Specific Information for Iran dated February 5, 2009, to update the sections on Country Description, Registration/Embassy Location, Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Victims of Crime, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Aviation Safety Oversight.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Iran HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

There is also a Travel Warning for Iran HERE.....

Be advised, there is a Malaria Warning for Iran HERE......

Regards

The SW Team...

 

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