AfghanistanOfficial Name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Must be valid at time of entry
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Polio vaccination up to 1 year before travel is recommended. See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements below and our Polio Fact Sheet
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Great Massoud (Airport) Road
Telephone: 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 0700-108-001
Fax: (00 93) (0) 700-108-564 or (0)202-300-546
Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban was deposed in 2001 but still faces daunting challenges, including fighting an insurgency, preventing the return of terrorist organizations, recovering from three decades of civil strife, and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure. The U.S. Coalition and the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) work in partnership with Afghan security forces to combat violent, extremist groups that continue to terrorize civilian populations and challenge all levels of government authority. These groups, while inching toward political engagement as presidential and provincial elections approach, continue to engage in a fallback strategy of perpetrating violence against civilian targets, which continue to suffer the brunt of assassinations, suicide bombings, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
As Afghanistan prepares for presidential and provincial elections in April 2014, internal problems following years of war and an ongoing insurgency continue to compromise efforts by the Afghan government to improve the country’s governance and stability. The government faces challenges in trying to develop a more effective police force, a fairer and more accessible legal system, and provincial and local institutions that work in partnership with traditional leaders to meet the needs of the population. Although Afghan security forces took over responsibility for security nationwide in June 2013, the United States and the international community continue to work closely with the Afghan government to bolster its capacity at all levels. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Afghanistan for additional information.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport. U.S. citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passports and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passports until they can obtain a valid visa. U.S citizens who are considered Afghan nationals by virtue of their birth in Afghanistan are not required to have entry or exit visas.
For U.S. passport holders who are of Afghan parentage and the place of birth listed on their passports is other than Afghanistan, a visa is not required for entry. However, they should contact the Embassy of Afghanistan for an entry permit confirming Afghan nationality, which can be used for entry into the country. In addition, U.S. lawful permanent residents without Afghan passports and U.S. citizens born in Afghanistan may still wish to apply for an entry permit as some have experienced difficulties because they do not have a visa in their non-Afghan travel document.
U.S. citizens arriving in the country via military air carriers may have considerable difficulty if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial airlines because their passports lack an entry cachet indicating that they entered the country legally. Anyone arriving on military air should move quickly to legitimize his or her residency and work status if there is any chance of departing the country on commercial air.
Travelers may be asked to register with a representative of the Ministry of Interior’s Foreigners’ Registration Office upon arrival at Kabul International Airport. Upon registration, the traveler will be issued a card that he or she should surrender upon departure. Immigration authorities in Afghanistan have also implemented a fingerprinting system for all foreign visitors, with the exception of diplomats and U.S. government personnel traveling on official passports.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet, or visit the website of the Embassy of Afghanistan for the most current visa information. The consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, telephone 202-298-9125.
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
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan and states clearly that the security situation remains critical. No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time. Insurgent elements, including the Haqqani Network, Hizb-e Islami, and the Taliban, remain violently opposed to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Additionally, criminal organizations such as weapons and narcotics traffickers undermine peace and stability throughout the country. These groups exploit weak laws and law enforcement in Afghanistan and do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims.
Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults, and kidnappings. Despite numerous interdiction operations by Afghan and coalition forces, insurgents conducted several high profile attacks in Kabul and Herat in 2013. These attacks consisted of complex assaults, improvised explosive device (IED) detonations and suicide bombings. Insurgents continue to target various U.S. and Afghan government facilities, including two attacks in June 2013 against a U.S. government facilityand the Afghan Supreme Court located in the same vicinity of Kabul, and the September 2013 attack against the U.S. Consulate in Herat.
There is also an increased risk of kidnapping and attacks targeting foreigners and civilians throughout the country. In February 2014, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle-borne IED into a convoy on the outskirts of Kabul killing two U.S. citizens. In January 2014, insurgents with suicide vests and small arms targeted a restaurant near the ISAF headquarters and U.S. Embassy, killing 21 people, including three U.S. citizens. Previously, in May 2013, insurgents conducted a complex attack against the office of International Organization of Migration (IOM) headquarters, in which insurgents occupied an adjacent building and, from an elevated position, fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on nearby buildings. The attack resulted in five deaths and wounded a number of civilian employees and security personnel.
Riots, sometimes violent, have occurred in response to various political and social tensions. U.S. citizens should avoid rallies and demonstrations; even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little warning. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. The country faces a difficult transition period in the near term, and U.S. citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable events. There is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance. Private U.S. citizens should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns, including contracting for medical evacuation, personnel recovery, and insurance services.
The absence of property ownership records and differing laws and competing legal regimes from the numerous political changes that have gripped Afghanistan in the past three decades have left the issue of property rights in disarray. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping and assassinations. Similarly, U.S. citizens involved in business disputes -- a common legal problem in Afghanistan -- have reported that adversaries in the disputes have threatened detention, arrest, imprisonment, and at times, have successfully carried out the threats using extralegal means. U.S. citizens who find themselves in such situations should not assume that either local law enforcement or the U.S. Embassy will be able to assist them in resolving such disputes.
Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated. The few roads that exist are mostly in poor condition. Land line telephone communications remain extremely limited. Cell phone service, while significantly improved from a decade ago, still suffers from irregular and weak signals, sometimes due to insurgents attacking cell phone towers or coercing operators into turning off the towers, or from intentional jamming by Coalition and Afghan forces. U.S. citizens traveling in or outside of Kabul who find themselves in trouble may be unable to call for assistance and should always carry backup communication, such as satellite phones or handheld radios. In addition, a vehicle/personnel tracking device should be utilized if substantial ground movement to remote areas is planned.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Twitter and visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Afghanistan is considered a medium to high threat environment for crime. Common petty or street crime exists in cities, particularly when valuables and cash are left in plain view. Burglaries and home invasions are rare, but violence against expatriates has risen in recent years in large part due to increased insurgent activity, civil unrest, and current economic conditions.
Many Afghans are under or unemployed and have moved to urban areas in search of work. Transient populations and internally displaced peoples throughout Afghanistan may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Any U.S. citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant and take similar precautions to those they utilize in any urban center in the United States.
Travelers should not rely on significant assistance from local or national authorities in Afghanistan in resolving legal disputes. This is especially true of U.S.-based companies and their employees that are seeking local protection from extralegal efforts to resolve contract disputes. Property and/or personnel may be seized and used as collateral pending the resolution of such disputes, especially as U.S. companies begin to exit Afghanistan in 2014.
Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. The participation of U.S. citizens in the unauthorized reproduction and sale of copyrighted works is still in violation of U.S. law outside of the United States and may also be in violation of local laws.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
The local equivalent to the U.S. “911” emergency line is “119” in Afghanistan. Please note that local operators do not speak English and that emergency services are restricted to the major cities. At times, the number may not be answered and response times may be much longer than in the United States. U.S. citizens who find themselves in a truly exigent emergency in Afghanistan can reach the U.S. Embassy at any time by calling 0700-10-8001.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Afghanistan, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own and may not afford the same protections available to you under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. In addition, U.S. citizens are still subject to U.S. federal laws while traveling or living abroad. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
In some areas of Afghanistan, you could be detained for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. Taking pictures of military installations or personnel may result in your questioning or detention. Possession of alcohol and driving under the influence could land you in jail for several months. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
If you break local laws in Afghanistan, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution and may result in heightened attention by police and prosecutors, some of who may seek to exploit your status as a U.S. citizen for financial or political gain. It is very important to know what constitutes legal and illegal actions in the area where you are traveling. Persons violating Afghan laws, even unknowingly, may be fined, arrested, imprisoned, or possibly executed.
Although the Constitution of Afghanistan allows for the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be deemed contrary to Islam and harmful to society. Afghan law carries a maximum penalty of death for those convicted of proselytizing. Evidence may consist of possession of non-Islamic religious material, especially in local languages. Allegations of conversion of Afghan citizens are taken particularly seriously. The testimony of three individuals is enough to convict someone of the act of proselytizing. The same penalty exists in law for Afghan citizens who convert to another religion. All Afghan citizens are considered Muslim from birth. Converts are subject to arrest regardless of where the conversion took place, and Afghan-U.S. dual nationals are also subject to this law.
U.S. citizens have also been arrested in cases involving financial debts to Afghans or contract disputes. In Afghanistan, debts and contract disputes are not exclusively civil matters as they are in the United States. The Ministries of Commerce and Interior, the Afghan Investment Support Agency, the Afghan National Police, and the Afghan courts have all facilitated the criminalization of commercial disputes involving U.S. citizens in recent years. If involved in a commercial dispute, hiring an Afghan attorney early can be beneficial. See Lawyers in Afghanistan on the Embassy’s website. The Embassy does not endorse any attorney listed, and the list is not comprehensive.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or for using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas. To ensure that the U.S. Embassy is aware of your circumstances, request that the police or prison officials notify the emergency line of the Embassy at 0700-10-8001 as soon as you are arrested or detained.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Most of Afghanistan's economy operates on a cash-only basis, though the use of credit cards has become more common in the major cities. International wire transfers are limited. ATMs offered by the Afghan International Bank (AIB) participate in the U.S. clearinghouses, including Mastercard and Visa. U.S. banks may deny the transaction, however, and travelers are advised to notify their U.S. bank in advance of their travel plans.
International communication is difficult, though it has improved remarkably in recent years with the advent of 3G services in all the major cities of Afghanistan. Cellular phone service is available locally in most parts of the country, with service more reliable in Kabul and other large cities. Outside of these cities, injured or distressed travelers could face delays before being able to request the assistance of the U.S. Embassy, family or friends. Internet access is primarily offered over existing cell phone networks at slower speeds than travelers may be accustomed to in the United States, though several telecommunication companies are currently preparing to lay fiber optic cable in the major cities.
In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, Afghan-Americans may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. Please see Department of State’s information on dual nationality. We encourage U.S. citizens to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. Due to security and travel limitations, consular assistance for U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital.
Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws, and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops, and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside Kabul, may want to ensure that their shirts have long sleeves and to cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; U.S. citizen female travelers should carry scarves for this purpose.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Afghanistan. Homosexuality and cross-dressing are considered serious crimes in Afghanistan and possible punishment may include death. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Afganistan, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the import or export of items such as alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. U.S. citizen travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. Anyone interested in traveling with such items should first contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington or the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Afghanistan for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Contractors and U.S. military personnel traveling to Afghanistan should fully consider restrictions on the movement of firearms into or out of Afghanistan, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at the destination country's embassy and for those countries you will be transiting to learn about any firearms regulations and to fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for more information on traveling with firearms to or from the United States.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Afghanistan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you would find in the United States. The Constitution of Afghanistan requires the state to assist and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including the rights to health care and financial protection, but does not mandate access to buildings and transportation. Most buildings, public transportation, communication, and road crossings are inaccessible to persons with physical limitations.
Well-equipped medical facilities are rare in Afghanistan. Western-manufactured pharmaceuticals are available in limited quantities and may be expensive and difficult to find. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Generic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, China and India are available but may be counterfeit or lack pharmacologic efficacy. There are a number of western-style private clinics in Kabul that offer a variety of basic emergency and routine preventative-type care but are not always open and may not be suitable for the management of complex trauma cases, heart attacks, and strokes. Therefore, it is always advisable to have emergency medical evacuation insurance and to make advance arrangements with an employer or medical evacuation company operating in Afghanistan. See Medical Clinics in Afghanistan on the Embassy’s website.
Public hospitals in Afghanistan should be avoided. Individuals without licenses or medical degrees often operate private clinics, and there is no public agency that monitors their operations. You will generally not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel outside Kabul. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation from Afghanistan is often limited to an evacuation from the major cities and could take days to arrange. If you have medical evacuation insurance, you should first confirm with the insurance provider that such assistance is available in Afghanistan and obtain a list of clinics and hospitals that may be used as a medical evacuation point.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Afghanistan, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistan is provided for general reference only and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
All drivers face the potential danger of encountering land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated five to seven million land mines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and crime, particularly kidnappings, are also prevalent on highways outside Kabul.
The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, though the international community continues to pave or harden existing roads. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are frequently not paved. There have also been recent reports of the Ring Road, i.e., the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat-Mazar highway, experiencing critical failures due to cave-ins and erosion from inadequate maintenance. Vehicles are often poorly maintained and overloaded, and traffic laws are often not enforced. Roadside assistance is non-existent. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals.
In 2011, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior convened a committee for the purpose of bringing better security, traffic movements, and functionality to the streets of Kabul. This committee has implemented several restrictions, including outlawing tinted windows of vehicles operating in Kabul. Owners of vehicles with tinted windows can be arrested if they fail to eliminate tinting or replace such windows.
With congested roads, non-standard traffic rules, and abundant pedestrian traffic, vehicle accidents are a serious concern and can escalate into violent confrontations when involving foreigners. All drivers are urged to drive defensively, drive only in the daylight, and pay close attention to their surroundings. Please see Department of State’s additional information on Road Safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Afghanistan’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.