|Travel Security Advice for Iraq|
In 2005, Iraqi citizens adopted a new constitution and participated in legislative elections to create a permanent, democratic government, and in May 2006, a new Government of Iraq (GOI), led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was sworn in. A new Security Agreement between the United States and Iraq came into effect on January 1, 2009. Although the GOI has made political, economic and security progress, Iraq still faces many challenges, including overcoming three decades of war and government mismanagement that stunted Iraq's economy, sectarian and ethnic tensions that have slowed progress toward national reconciliation, and ongoing, albeit decreasing criminal and terrorist violence. Conditions in Iraq are dangerous. While Iraqi Security Forces now take the lead in providing security in most provinces, Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) continues to assist the Iraqi government in providing security in many areas of the country pursuant to the conditions in the Security Agreement between Iraq and the United States. The workweek in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday. Visit the Department of State Background Notes on Iraq for the most current visa information.
The Travel Warning on Iraq urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Iraq. However, Americans living or traveling in Iraq despite that Warning are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at the Department of State travel registration page, so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Passports valid for at least six months and visas are required for most private American citizens. An Iraqi visa may be obtained through the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. Travelers should not rely on obtaining a visa upon arrival at an airport or port of entry in any region of Iraq. Visitors to Iraq who plan to stay for more than 10 days must obtain a no-fee residency stamp. In Baghdad, the stamps are available for all visitors at the main Residency Office near the National Theater.
Travelers arriving to Iraq via the Kurdistan Region are required to obtain a visa through the Iraqi Embassy. Immigration officials in the Kurdistan Regional Governorate (KRG) routinely allow Americans to enter Iraq without a valid visa, however, the airport-issued visa is not valid outside of the KRG and Americans will not be permitted to travel within Iraq with the KRG-issued document. In addition, it is difficult for Americans to obtain residency authorization outside the KRG without first obtaining a valid Iraqi visa. Americans working or living in Iraq without a valid visa are strongly advised to depart Iraq and obtain a valid Iraqi visa at a Government of Iraq Embassy or Consulate.
There is a 10,000 Iraqi dinar (USD 8) penalty for visitors who do not obtain the required residency stamp. In order to obtain a residency stamp, applicants must produce valid credentials or proof of employment, two passport-sized photos, and HIV test results. An American citizen who plans to stay longer than two months must apply at the Residency Office for an extension. Americans traveling to Iraq for the purpose of employment should check with their employers and with the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. for any special entry or exit requirements related to employment. American citizens whose passports reflect travel to Israel may be refused entry into Iraq or may be refused an Iraqi visa, although to date there are no reported cases of this occurring.
U.S. citizens who remain longer than 10 days must obtain an exit stamp at the main Residency Office before departing the country. In Baghdad, they are available for all visitors at the main Residency Office near the National Theater. Contractors in the International Zone may also obtain exit stamps at the Karadah Mariam Police Station (available Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00-14:00). Exit stamp fees vary from USD 20 to USD 200, depending on the length of stay, entry visa and other factors. Those staying fewer than 10 days do not need to get an exit stamp before passing through Iraqi immigration at the airport. Visitors who arrive via military aircraft but depart on commercial airlines must pay a USD 80 departure fee at the airport.
Iraq does not allow visitors with HIV/AIDS to enter the country. At this time there is no waiver available for this ineligibility. However, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Iraq before you travel for any changes.
Visit the Iraqi Embassy website for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at 1801 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone number is 202-742-1600; the fax is 202-333-1129.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the dangers inherent in travel to Iraq and recommends against all but essential travel in country given the fluid security situation. While the security environment has shown significant improvement over the past year, Iraq remains dangerous and unpredictable. The security situation in Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk Governorates in northern Iraq has been relatively more stable than the rest of Iraq in recent years, but violence persists and conditions could deteriorate quickly. Even though there have been fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in those governorates than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains fluid. Violence associated with the status of Kirkuk is likely to continue, at least within Kirkuk itself.
Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)-led military operations continue, and attacks persist against MNF-I and the ISF in many areas of the country. Turkish government forces have carried out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK)) terrorist group that are located along Iraq’s northern border. Despite recent improvements in the security environment, Iraq remains dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in Baghdad’s International (or “Green”) Zone. Foreign nationals and their facilities as well as Government of Iraq officials and buildings are targeted. Such attacks can occur at any time. Kidnappings still occur; the most recent kidnapping of an American citizen occurred in July 2008. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), and mines often are placed on roads, concealed in plastic bags, boxes, soda cans, dead animals, and in other ways to blend with the road. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses and placed on vehicles at intersections, particularly in crowded areas. Rockets and mortars have been fired at hotels, and vehicle-borne IEDs have been used against targets throughout the country. Occasionally, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to certain areas depending on prevailing security conditions. The Embassy has directed U.S. government personnel to use the “buddy system” when traveling in the International Zone, especially at night. In addition to terrorist and criminal attacks, sectarian violence occurs often. Detailed security information is available on the U.S. Embassy Baghdad's website and on the U.S. Central Command's website .
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs' website. It contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Travelers are also referred to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Warden Notices which are available on the U.S. Embassy Baghdad's website.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. 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 .
The U.S. Embassy and MNF-I are working with Iraqi authorities to establish law enforcement and civil structures throughout the country. U.S.military personnel are providing police protection as well as the security situation permits. Petty theft is common in Iraq, including thefts of money, jewelry, or valuable items left in hotel rooms and pick-pocketing in busy places such as markets. Carjacking by armed thieves is very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad. Foreigners, primarily dual American-Iraqi citizens, and Iraqi citizens are targets of kidnapping. The kidnappers often demand money but have also carried out kidnappings for political/religious reasons.
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.
VICTIM OF CRIMES:
If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates ). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you 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, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
There is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Iraq.
Please see our information on victims of crime , including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Iraq’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iraq are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
As of September 21, 2006, Iraqi law prohibits adult Iraqis and foreigners from holding and transporting more than U.S. $10,000 in cash out of Iraq. In addition, it permits adult Iraqi and resident foreigners to hold and transport no more than 200,000 Iraqi dinars to cover travel expenses. Iraqi law also prohibits taking more than 100 grams of gold out of the country. Iraqi customs personnel are taking action to enforce these laws and may pose related questions to travelers during immigration and customs exit procedures. (Civil customs personnel also will verify passport annotations related to any items such as foreign currency, gold jewelry, or merchandise that were declared by passengers upon entry into Iraq on Form-8.)
All U.S. citizens are reminded that it is their duty to respect Iraqi laws, including legal restrictions on the transfer of currency outside of Iraq. If you are detained at the airport or at any other point of exit regarding your attempt to transfer currency out of Iraq, you should contact – or ask that Iraqi authorities immediately contact -- the American Embassy.
Customs and MNF-I officers have the broad authority to search persons or vehicles at Iraq ports of entry. Officers may confiscate any goods that may pose a threat to the peace, security, health, environment, or good order of Iraq or any antiquities or cultural items suspected of being illegally exported. Goods that are not declared may be confiscated by an officer. Persons may also be ordered to return such goods, at their expense, to the jurisdiction from which they came. Please see our Customs Information.
The banking and financial infrastructure has been disrupted and is in the process of rebuilding. Hotels usually require payment in foreign currency. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are extremely limited but the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) provides ATM services in dinars and U.S. dollars at the TBI head office in central Baghdad and two other locations.
Public telephone (landline) service is very limited; however, calls may be made from hotels, restaurants, and shops. Cellular service (mobile wireless) is available in urban areas but is still not very reliable, and users may frequently experience dropped calls. Internet service is available through Internet cafes, but broadband Internet service to homes is currently limited.
Due to security conditions, the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is able to provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens. Because police and civil structures are in the process of being rebuilt, emergency service and support will be limited.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Basic modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. The recent conflict in Iraq has left some medical facilities non-operational and medical stocks and supplies severely depleted. The facilities in operation do not meet U.S. standards, and the majority lack medicines, equipment and supplies. Because the Baghdad International Airport has limited operations for security reasons, it is unlikely that a private medical evacuation can be arranged.
The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information .
The WHO and Iraqi authorities have confirmed human cases of the H5NI strain of avian influenza, commonly known as the "bird flu." Travelers to Iraq and other countries affected by the virus are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. In addition, the CDC and WHO recommend eating only fully cooked poultry and eggs. For the most current information and links on avian influenza, see the State Department's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad. Important questions are 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 Iraq is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Vehicular travel in Iraq can be extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous and should be avoided. There have been attacks on civilian vehicles as well as military convoys on Highways 1, 5, 10 and 15, even during daylight hours. Travelers are strongly urged to travel in convoys in daylight hours only. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, in and between al-Hillah, al-Basrah, Kirkuk, and Baghdad and between the International Zone and Baghdad International Airport, and from Baghdad to Mosul is particularly dangerous. Buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Poorly maintained city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. Long distance buses are available, but are often in poor condition and drive at unsafe speeds. Jaywalking is common. Drivers usually do not yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and ignore traffic lights (if available), traffic rules and regulations. Roads are congested. Driving at night is extremely dangerous. Some cars do not use lights at night and urban street lights may not be functioning. Some motorists drive at excessive speeds, tailgate and force other drivers to yield the right of way. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by air carriers registered in Iraq, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA safety assessment page .
On rare occasions, though not recently, military aircraft arriving and departing from Baghdad International Airport (ORBI) have experienced small arms and missile fire. Travelers choosing to use civilian aircraft to enter or depart Iraq should be aware that, although there have been no recent attacks on civilian aircraft, the potential threat still exists. Official U.S. Government (USG) personnel are encouraged to use U.S. military or other USG aircraft when entering or departing Iraq. All personnel serving in Iraq under Chief of Mission (COM) authority are required to enter or depart Baghdad, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah on U.S. military or other USG aircraft unless they receive COM approval to use commercial airlines, which is granted on a case-by-case basis. Other personnel not under COM authority must be guided by their own agencies.
Located in the International Zone
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Iraq dated October 2, 2008, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Special Circumstances and Aviation Safety Oversight.
There is also a Travel Warning for Iraq HERE..
Be aware of Malaria in Iraq, more information HERE.....
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has more information regarding Iraq HERE....
The SW Team......