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Travel Security Advice for Libya

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Officially known as the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Libya has a developing economy. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws, and practices. Tourist facilities are not widely available. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Libya for more information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Libya 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 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.  

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

U.S. Embassy Tripoli


Jarraba Street
Ben Ashour District
Telephone: (+218) 91-379-4560
American Citizen Emergency Only telephone (+218) 91-266-3696

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

Passports and visas are required. The restrictions on the use of U.S. passports for travel to, in, or through Libya were lifted in February 2004. Please see the section below on Special Circumstances.

The Libyan government announced a new biometric requirement for visa applicants that became effective on December 1, 2008.  This requirement necessitates personal appearance at a Libyan Embassy by all visa applicants.  At present, this change affects only applicants for Libyan visas in London and Paris, but will likely expand to other Libyan embassies in the near future.  In addition, the Libyan government recently released a list of documents required for visa processing.  These documents are similar to those required from Libyan citizens for travel to many European countries, and include proof of insurance, a round-trip air ticket, and hotel reservations. American citizens seeking to travel to Libya should contact the Libyan embassy where they plan to apply to determine exact requirements.

The Libyan government, on November 11, 2007, “reinstated” a requirement that all foreign travelers must have an Arabic translation of their personal biographic data added to their passport in order to apply for a Libyan visa and to enter Libya. This requirement includes foreigners who already received visas before the requirement was put into place, including those foreigners currently resident in Libya. Since that date, foreign travelers whose passports do not have Arabic translations have been denied entry into Libya or refused boarding by airlines on flights into Libya.

The U.S. passport is a U.S. travel document that meets all generally recognized international standards. While the Libyan government has the right to impose its own requirements for travelers in connection with obtaining a Libyan visa, it also has the responsibility to give travelers information on where and how to meet these requirements. Travelers should be aware that in some cases, Libyan officials may ask that U.S. citizens obtain translations from U.S. Government-approved translation services; however, U.S. consular officers have no authority to designate or certify private translations, nor do they have authority to place a consular authentication stamp over a privately-obtained translation.

American citizens who hold Libyan visas or who intend to apply for a visa are advised to contact the nearest Libyan embassy or consulate for information on how to obtain an acceptable translation. Information from Libyan embassies and consulates may vary from country to country. American citizens may also contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy or consulate for additional information.

The Government of Libya does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps from Israel to enter the Libya. As of April 1, 2009, the United States provides visa services to the general public in Libya. The Libyan government does not yet provide this service to the public in the United States; therefore, U.S. visitors to Libya should plan to obtain a visa via a third country. Libyan visas require an invitation or sponsor, can take up to several months to process, and must be obtained prior to travel. Americans who apply for Libyan visas are experiencing significant delays, often waiting several weeks or months if their applications are approved at all.  All visas are vetted and approved by immigration departments in Tripoli and only issued by the appropriate Libyan Embassy upon receipt of that approval. There may be another wait for actual visa issuance once approval has been received. For tourists, the visa application procedure in most cases requires a letter of invitation from an accredited tour company in Libya; for business travelers, a letter of invitation is needed from the Libyan business entity. With few exceptions, Libya has stopped issuing tourist visas to Americans. It is recommended that Americans always obtain individual Libyan visas prior to travel, rather than group visas. Americans who expected to enter on group tour visas or individual airport visas arranged by Libyan sponsors have routinely been denied entry at air and sea ports and have been forced to turn back at the airport or remain onboard ship at the port while other nationals disembark. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli cannot provide assistance to American citizens seeking Libyan visas.

Inquiries about obtaining a Libyan visa may be made through the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC. The Embassy is located at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 705, Washington, DC 20037, phone number 202-944-9601, fax number 202-944-9606. Neither the Libyan Mission to the UN in New York nor the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC accepts visa applications from the general public. The closest Libyan visa-issuing office to the continental United States is the Libyan People’s Bureau in Ottawa, Canada; however, that office frequently declines to accept visa applications from American citizens.

The land borders with Egypt and Tunisia are subject to periodic closures even to travelers with valid Libyan visas. Short-term closures of other land borders may occur with little notice. Within three days of arrival in Libya, visitors must register at the police station closest to where they are residing or they may encounter problems during their stay or upon departure.

Women and children in Libya are often subject to strict family controls.  This can be a particular problem for young single women of marriageable age. Although a woman does not need her father’s or husband's explicit consent every time she wishes to leave Libya, a Libyan husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. While not illegal, it is unusual for women and children to travel alone. Children under 18 whose fathers are Libyan must have the father's permission to depart Libya, even if the mother has been granted full custody by a Libyan court.

The Libyan Government requires all its citizens, including dual nationals of Libyan descent, to enter and depart Libya on Libyan documents. In some cases American citizens of Libyan descent have entered Libya on an old or expired Libyan identity document and then discovered that they cannot depart Libya without obtaining a valid Libyan passport, which can be a cumbersome process.

HIV/AIDS restrictions. Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Libya.  Please verify this information with the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC before traveling.

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.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

As Libya has taken steps to cooperate in the global war on terrorism, the Libyan Government’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was rescinded on June 30, 2006. Recent worldwide terrorist alerts have stated that extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the region. Therefore, any American citizen who decides to travel to Libya should maintain a strong security posture by being aware of surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, and varying times and routes for all required travel.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling in desert and border regions of Libya. All U.S. citizens in Libya are encouraged to comply with local regulations regarding desert travel, to maintain a high level of vigilance with regard to their personal security, and to remain aware of local developments. There have been no instances in which U.S. facilities or citizens in Libya have been targets of terrorist attacks; however, recent terrorist attacks in Algeria, the June 2009 murder of an American teacher in Mauritania, kidnappings of Western tourists in desert regions of Tunisia and Egypt in 2008 and Mali in January 2009, and the terrorist activity of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa are indicative of a continued threat in the region.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under observation. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be inspected. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

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, 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.

CRIME:

Crime against foreigners is a growing problem in Libya. The most common types of crime are property crimes of opportunity, including vehicle burglaries. Pick-pocketing and residential burglaries are also on the increase. Women routinely face verbal harassment. While physical violence is not common, there have been instances of assault against women, ranging from sexual groping or assault/battery to attempted rape.

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.  .

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s 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 may be transferred.

Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are 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.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Libya is 193. This number is generally monitored only in Arabic.

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

Persons violating Libyan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Libya are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

 Libya's economy operates on a “cash-only" basis for most transactions, even though U.S. law now permits the use in Libya of credit cards and checks drawn on U.S. banks. A few hotels, restaurants, and major airlines are the only businesses known to accept credit cards (Visa is accepted more often than MasterCard). It is recommended that travelers consult their credit card entity prior to travel to ensure that transactions from Libya can be accepted by that entity. A number of ATM machines are being put into service at a few large hotels, major office complexes, the airport, and one or two markets. Foreign visitors should be aware that the penalties for use of unauthorized currency dealers are severe. Foreign visitors should also be aware that in the event of a business dispute, their passports might be confiscated and/or they may not be permitted to depart Libya until the dispute has been settled. The Libyan workweek is Sunday-Thursday. Most U.S. economic sanctions against Libya were terminated effective September 21, 2004. For further information, please contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

On June 30, 2006, the U.S. Department of State officially rescinded Libya’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. On August 31, 2006, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published an amendment to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) in the Federal Register to update the BIS license requirements for Libya under the EAR due to its removal from the State Sponsors List. For further information specific to Libya, contact the BIS Office of Nonproliferation and Treaty Compliance/Foreign Policy Controls Division at (202) 482-4252. Libya-related information is also found on the BIS web site.

Libyan customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the introduction into Libya or removal from Libya of firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and currency. Importation of pornographic materials is illegal. The importation and consumption of alcohol and pork products are illegal in Libya.

At times, passengers arriving in Libya have been required to bring varying amounts of convertible currency into Libya.  This requirement is subject to a border check, and the passenger faces possible deportation if this requirement is not met. It is advisable to contact any Libyan Embassy abroad for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our Customs Information.

In addition to being subject to all Libyan laws, U.S. citizens of Libyan origin may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Libyan citizens.  The Government of Libya considers all children born to Libyan fathers to be Libyan citizens even if they were not issued a Libyan birth certificate or a passport. Dual Libyan-American nationals may not enter or leave Libya on their U.S. passports, and must obtain a Libyan travel document before traveling to Libya.  Persons with dual nationality who travel to Libya on their Libyan passports are normally treated as Libyan citizens by the local government.  The ability to provide U.S. consular assistance to those traveling on Libyan passports is extremely limited.  For additional information, please see our dual nationality flyer.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

While some health care providers have been trained in the United States or Europe, basic modern medical care and/or medicines may not be available in Libya. Many Libyan citizens prefer to be treated outside of Libya for ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. A representative list of healthcare providers is available at the U.S. Embassy Tripoli’s web site.

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 Libya is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Paved roads in rural areas are satisfactory; however, many rural roads are unpaved (i.e., dirt roads). Also, major highways along the seacoast and leading south merge into single-lane highways once they are outside the cities. These roads are heavily trafficked and can be precarious to navigate, especially at night and during the winter rainy season. The presence of sand deposits, as well as domestic and wild animals that frequently cross these highways and rural roads, makes them even more hazardous.

The availability of roadside assistance is extremely limited and offered only in Arabic. In urban areas and near the outskirts of major cities there is a greater possibility of assistance by police and emergency ambulance services, although they are usually ill-equipped to deal with serious injuries or accidents. Very few streets are marked or have signage, and highway signs are available only  in Arabic.

Driving in Libya can be hazardous, and there is a high accident rate. Police enforcement of traffic laws is rare. As a result, it is often difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers on Libyan streets and highways. Wind-blown sand can reduce visibility without warning. Road conditions are poor, and public transportation, which is limited to occasional bus service, is poor. Taxis are available, but many taxi drivers are reckless and untrained, and English-speaking drivers are extremely rare.  The sidewalks in urban areas are often in bad condition and cluttered, but pedestrians are able to use them.

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 carriers registered in Libya, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

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 Libya dated July 29, 2009, to update the sections on Registration/Embassy Location and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information on Libya HERE..

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

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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