1. Who Needs A Visa To Visit Iran?
All nationalities are very welcome to visit Iran. The only exception is citizens of Israel. Due to the current political climate, Israeli citizens will be refused entry under all circumstances.
Nationals of the following countries do not require a visa to enter Iran: Turkey, Malaysia, Syria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador. Kish island DOES NOT REQUIRE A VISA for any country including US citizens.
Nationals of the following countries can apply for a visa on arrival: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile (2 weeks), China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore (2 weeks), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.
US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. However, US citizens must have an MFA-approved guide to accompany them for the entire trip and must have an exact itinerary. This generally precludes crossing into Iran at any border, as your guide would have to meet you at the border. Tour guides, however, are generally friendly to Americans, understand the process, and can work with you to set up a custom itinerary for you.
To get the visa, US citizens must work in advance with an Iranian travel agency to set up a guided itinerary; only then, that travel agency may apply for a visa authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once approved, the authorization number is transmitted to the interest section. At that point, the applicant can then apply for the visa. Turnaround times can be as short as a week, but the interest section does not reliably answer emails or phone calls.
2. What Type Of Iran Visa Will Be Needed?
- Iran Tourist Visa (single or multiple entry)
- An Iran Tourist Visa is required by foreign nationals who wish to travel to Iran for sightseeing purposes or to visit their friends and family. The maximum duration of stay for a tourist visa is 30 days.
- Iran Entry Visa (single, double or multiple entry)
- An Entry Visa is effectively a Business Visa. It is required by foreign nationals who wish to travel to Iran for economic, commercial, cultural or industrial purposes. It is also required by those attending economic or cultural conferences or those participating in sporting events. The authorized duration of stay is usually up to 30 days. Commercial visitors must obtain an invitation letter from the company/organisation they intend to visit.
- Iran Press Visa
- An Iran Press Visa is required by foreign journalists who wish to travel to Iran on business. Applications for press visas must be made to the dedicated Press Section of the embassy.
- Iran Transit Visa
- An Iran Transit Visa is required by foreign nationals who intend to pass through Iran on their way to a third country.
- Iran Work Permit Visa
- An Iran Work Permit Visa is required by all foreign nationals who intend to work in Iran. The company you are going to work for must obtain your work permit before you can apply for a work permit visa.
- Iran Pilgrimage Visa
- An Iran Pilgrimage Visa is required by foreign Muslim pilgrims who wish to visit the sacred sights and shrines of Iran.
- Iran Student Visa
- An Iran Student Visa is required by all foreign nationals who intend to study in Iran.
- Iran Diplomatic and Service Visa
- An Iran Diplomatic and Service Visa is required by holders of diplomatic and service passports who intend to travel to Iran, either to undertake an official visit at Iran’s invitation, or to work in a diplomatic or consular mission.
3. How To Get An Iranain Visa?
If you have plenty of time before you intend to travel (at least 8 weeks), you can apply for a visa by contacting your nearest Iranian Embassy.
You can use Apply Iran Visa (AIV) to take care of all the details and get your visa for you.
To apply independently you need to contact the Iranian Embassy nearest to where you live and ask for/download a visa application form. Next, you will need to obtain a Letter of Invitation from a sponsor in Iran. For Tourist Visas, the sponsor will normally be a tour operator or a hotel.
Once you have your Letter of Invitation you need to send this to your nearest Embassy along with your visa application form, two photographs, and the appropriate visa application fee. The Embassy will then send details of your application to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Tehran.
Once your visa has been authorized by the MFA, a visa authorization number will be sent back to the Embassy. The Embassy will then contact you and tell you your visa authorization number. Please note that this reference number means that your visa has been authorized but is not the visa itself.
To obtain the actual visa in your passport, you need to fill out a visa collection form which you obtain/download from the Embassy. On this form you enter your visa authorization number.
You can then either post or take this form to the Consulate Section of the embassy along with your passport and the appropriate visa collection fee. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry into Iran, and must have at least two blank pages.
If take your passport to the consulate in person, you will normally have to return the following day to get your passport back. If you post your passport to the consulate, either there will be an extra fee to cover the costs of them sending it back to you recorded delivery, or you will have to provide a stamped, self-addressed envelope. You should normally receive your passport back about one week from when the consulate first receives it.
4. How Long Will It Take To Obtain An Iranian Visa?
For independent visa applications, the whole process will normally take a minimum of one month. Please note, however, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is the sole decision-making authority as to whether or not to issue your visa. If they have any concerns about your application, this could hold up the application process. It is advisable, therefore, to allow at least eight weeks before you intend to travel.
5. How Much Does An Iranian Visa Cost?
There are two costs involved. First, there is the visa application fee which you send off with your visa application form. Second, you have to pay a visa collection fee in order to get the visa stamped into your passport. If you post your passport to the embassy there will be an extra charge for them to post it back to you by recorded delivery.
For up to date Iranian visa fees you need to check with the Embassy in your country.
If you choose to use an Iranian Visa Service Provider such as Apply Iran Visa (AIV) there will be a handling charge on top of the visa application and visa collection fees. This charge will vary but many people find that the benefits of an efficient and worry-free service are well worth the money. Full English speaking staff handle your application and you can talk to them whenever you like to follow up your application and find out how it is progressing. Also, the entire process can be a lot quicker than applying independently.
6. What Are The Main Procedures To Obtain An Iranian Visa?
Iran has a visa validity of 17 days so getting a tourist visa to Iran is a simple procedure. Approved Iranian travel agents can apply and get visa for all foreign nationals (except Israeli passport holders). The Iranian Foreign Ministry does not allow US passport holders to travel to Iran independently. US citizens are required to travel on tours, either as part of a tour group, or a tailor made individual tour. An exact itinerary, to which you must adhere, is compulsory.
To apply and get your visa you must contact an approved Iranian travel agent. After receiving your personal data, they apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your visa will then be authorized by the MFA and faxed to the Iranian Consulate near you. Your travel agent gives you a visa authorization number with which you can refer to the consulate to get your visa. The visa authorization number, however, is valid only in the consulate you have asked them your visa to be issued in. The number they give you is just an "authorization". This reference number means that your visa has been authorized and approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but is not the visa itself.
Depending on your nationality, you may be required to present at the Iranian consulate in your country to have your fingerprints taken. British and American passport holders will be fingerprinted upon arrival.
After your travel agent tells you your visa authorization number you should first get a visa application form from the consulate and follow the requirements of the application form (you may either personally go to the consulate to get the application forms or, if the service available, download it from the web site of the Iranian embassy in your country). Then, you should refer to the consulate to lodge your passports and application forms with the visa number they gave you (it can be either a physical presence or by post). Then it might take from 1-5 days for the consulate to issue your visa .
You may also need to provide a letter of recommendation from your embassy if you are applying outside your home country, a photocopy of your air tickets in and out of Iran and any student or press card .
Normally, all tourist visas issued by Iranian consulates have a 3-month validity. The visa allows you to stay in Iran for up to 30 days, although the duration of your visa is at the discretion of the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Rarely, you may be asked to provide a letter from your employer or proof of fund. Visas are generally valid for three months that is you must enter Iran within three months of issue. Depending on your nationality, issuing a visa may take 30 days or more.
7. How To Obtain An Iranian Visa On Arrival?
A valid passport and a visa are required for the citizens of most countries for travel through Iran. Although in 2006, the rules had been eased, since the presidential elections protests in 2009, the unofficial policy became subject to rapid changes. Theoretically speaking, the VOA (Visa On Arrival) is still available, but arrange visas in advance at an Iranian consulate. after presidency of Hassan Rouhani the procedure of visa has been eased and you can easily get your visa on arrival.
VOAs are issued at the Imam Khomeini and Mehrabad airports in Tehran, and also the airports at Mashad, Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan. The visa is valid for up to 15 days. You will receive the forms on arrival. You are advised to bring passport photos with you. However, in many cases they are not collected.
Visas are issued at the airport for holders of ordinary passports only from the states below and Kish Island does not need visa for any country:
Albania, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Luxembourg,Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore (2 weeks), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.
It is generally not possible to get an extension for the 15-day visa. If you wish to stay for longer than 2 weeks, or you are not resident of one of the countries listed above, you will need to apply for a Tourist Visa before you arrive in Iran.
Chances are your bags will not be searched for salacious material, but if it is found, it will be confiscated and will complicate your arrival. Don't try to bring in any magazines or books that might offend strict Islamic sensibilities or criticise the government.
8. How To Extend An Iranian Visa While In Iran?
It is normally pretty straightforward to get an extension to Tourist, Entry and Pilgrimage Visas. To get an extension you need to go the nearest Police Department of Alien Affairs before your Visa expires. You will be asked for the reasons for your request for an extension. Extensions are normally granted for up to two months.
Diplomatic and Service Iran Visas will be extended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) upon the request of the relevant foreign diplomatic mission in Tehran.
Work Permit Visas can be extended by the Police Department of Alien Affairs in coordination with the Department of Alien Employment at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Any request must be supported by an Iranian sponsor.
Extending a Tourist Visa is very easy and can be done in most cities. Some travel guides say not to do this in Tehran as it is very time-consuming. This is no longer the case and the process of extending a Visa in Tehran can be done in just 1 hour (including tea offerings and being the object of curiosity in the office). Extending a Visa a second time requires the passport to be sent to a department in Tehran (no matter where you extend your visa from) and thus takes longer time than doing this the first time.
Although it has become easier to get a Tourist Visa in recent years, whether the process takes one day or one month depends largely on your nationality and the staff of the embassy you are applying to. Your best bet is to apply to the Iranian Embassy in your own country at least three months before your departure, but it is possible to obtain one while traveling in other countries, with varying degrees of difficulty. Women need to make sure they are wearing the Hijab or a head scarf in their submitted passport-sized photos.