SyriaOfficial Name: Syrian Arab Republic
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 may be required. See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements below and our Polio Fact Sheet
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended operations in February 2012 and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Syria.
The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its Embassy in Damascus, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria. The range of consular services the Czech Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus at USIS_damascus@embassy.mzv.cz.
U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance in Syria, and are unable to reach the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan:
U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan
Telephone: +(962) (6) 590-6950 (Daily 2-3:30 local time)
Emergencies: +(962) (6) 590-6500
If you seek information about U.S. citizens’ services in Syria from the Office of Overseas Citizens’ Services in Washington, please e-mail: SyriaEmergencyUSC@state.gov.
In light of the escalating violence and volatility of the current security situation in Syria, the Department of State has issued a Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommending that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. Those who choose to remain in Syria or to visit despite this advice should be aware that the U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended operations in February 2012 and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Syria. The Government of the Czech Republic, acting through its Embassy in Damascus, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria.
The range of consular services the Czech Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of Syria.
The Syrian Arab Republic is ruled by an authoritarian regime dominated by the Socialist Ba'ath Party currently engaged in a full-scale civil war with the armed Syrian opposition. The Ba'ath party espouses a largely secular ideology; however, Islamic traditions and beliefs provide a religious foundation for the country's customs and practices. While the 1963 Emergency Law, which authorized the government to conduct preventive arrests and override constitutional and penal code provisions against arbitrary arrest and detention, was rescinded on April 19, 2011, the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention has not abated.
The Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors. U.S. citizens visiting Syria should be aware that any encounter with a Syrian citizen could be subject to scrutiny by the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) or other security services. Sustained interactions with average Syrians – especially if deemed to be of a political nature – may subject that Syrian to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions by state security elements. Furthermore, loitering or photographing of facilities or buildings or behavior deemed suspicious may result in U.S. citizens being arrested or detained by security services. Since 1979, the United States has designated Syria a State Sponsor of Terrorism due to its support for organizations such as Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The combination of terrorist organizations, a porous border with Iraq and long-standing border issues with all of its neighbors (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Israel) have made Syria a destabilizing factor in the region and a potential target for reprisal. Tourist facilities are available and vary in quality depending on price and location. Many establishments will only accept cash. Read the Department of State’s Human Rights Report, Trafficking in Persons Report, International Religious Freedom Report, and Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Syria for additional information.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport and a visa are required. Visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Syria from a Syrian diplomatic mission located in the traveler’s country of residence. Visas issued by the Syrian Honorary Consulates generally have a maximum validity of two entries. Travelers planning to remain in Syria for an extended period, however, should submit their visa applications to the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC, where they may request a multiple-entry visa with a six-month validity. Persons planning to visit neighboring countries while in Syria (even for a short day trip) should apply for a multiple-entry visa from the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC. Visit the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2215 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-6313 or visit the website of the Syrian Embassy for the most current visa information.
Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian immigration authorities by their 15th day. Syrian-American men or American men of Syrian origin, even those born in the United States, may be subject to compulsory military service unless they receive a temporary or permanent exemption from a Syrian diplomatic mission abroad prior to their entry into Syria. Syria usually will not issue visas or residency permits to students wishing to study religion or Arabic in private religious institutions. For authoritative information concerning visas for study at private religious institutions, consult with the Embassy of Syria before you travel. (Please see the section on Special Circumstances below.)
Syria charges a departure tax at its land and sea borders for all visitors except those on diplomatic passports. As of June 2011, the land/sea departure tax is 550 Syrian Pounds (~$12) for all visitors; however children under the age of 11 are exempt from paying the fee.
The Syrian government rigidly enforces restrictions on prior travel to Israel, and does not allow persons with passports bearing Israeli visas or entry/exit stamps to enter the country. Likewise, the absence of entry stamps from a country adjacent to Israel, which the traveler has just visited, will cause Syrian immigration officials to refuse admittance. Overland entry into Syria directly from Israel is not possible. U.S. citizen travelers suspected of having traveled to Israel have been detained for questioning.
Syrian security officials are also sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which U.S. citizens, especially those of Arab descent, believed to have traveled to Iraq were detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Iraq through Syria have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Syria has been closed without notice, stranding U.S. citizens on either side of the border.
A child under the age of eighteen whose father is Syrian or of Syrian descent must have his/her father’s permission to leave Syria, even if the parents are separated or divorced and the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court. On occasion, the families of Syrian-American women visiting Syria have attempted to prevent them from leaving the country, generally in order to compel the woman to marry. Although under Syrian law a woman does not need her husband's explicit consent every time she wishes to leave Syria, a Syrian husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. government cannot help U.S. citizens to leave Syria.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors or foreign residents of Syria. AIDS tests are mandatory for foreigners from ages 15 to 60 who wish to reside in Syria. The AIDS test must be conducted in Syria at a facility approved by the Syrian Ministry of Health. A residence permit will not be issued until the absence of the HIV virus has been determined. Foreigners wishing to marry Syrian nationals in Syria must also be tested for HIV. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Syria before you travel.
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 Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The Syrian regime has used deadly force to quell anti-government protests and is engaged in a full-scale civil war with the armed Syrian opposition. The government is no longer in control of vast swathes of the country, particulary in northern and eastern Syria. Some Syrian opposition groups have utilized car bombs, improvised explosive device/indirect-fire attacks, sniper fire, and kidnappings throughout the country. Foreign combatants – including Iranian regime elements, Hizballah fighters, Islamic extremists, and al Qaida-linked elements – are also participating in hostilities.
Syrian regime military operations have involved the use of ballistic missiles, aerial attacks, heavy artillery, and chemical weapons targeting civilian centers. Attacks from these various groups could happen with little or no warning, no part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, terrorist attacks, large and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture.
The United States intelligence community assesses with high confidence that the Asad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against theSyrian people multiple times over the past year. The continuing violence, deteriorating security situation, and Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program creates a particularly volatile situation. The security situation throughout the country is very likely to remain volatile and unpredictable for the foreseeable future, with some areas, especially in the contested population centers, experiencing substantially increased levels of violence. The conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths with many thousands wounded, more than 2.3 million refugees and over 6.5 million internally displaced persons.
There is an ongoing and increased risk of kidnapping of U.S. citizens and Westerners in general throughout the country. In August 2012, a U.S. citizen journalist was kidnapped near Damascus and in November 2012, another U.S. citizen journalist was kidnapped in Idlib Governorate; the status of these U.S. citizens is unknown. In early April 2013, an Italian journalist was kidnapped, and in late April 2013, two Orthodox Christian Bishops were abducted in the northern city of Aleppo. It is unknown what entity carried out these kidnappings. Most recently, on June 7, 2013, two French journalists were taken in Aleppo. Other U.S. citizens have gone missing and are believed kidnapped since 2012, from diverse backgrounds ranging from academia to humanitarian work. Since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in March 2011, the U.S. has received reports of 256 foreigners kidnapped in Syria, 80 of whom are still in captivity. The majority of the victims were journalists and aid workers.
A porous border with Iraq and long-standing border issues with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, have contributed to a complex security environment in Syria, compounded by a protracted violent conflict and influx of foreign fighters. There have been multiple reports of Syrian shelling of neighboring countries near border areas throughout 2012 and 2013 and now in 2014, most significantly in Lebanon, Turkey, and the Golan Heights. Indirect fire has crossed into Lebanon on several occasions, illustrating the continued potential for spillover of Syria’s conflict throughout the region.
Syria has been a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1979 and has given political support to a variety of terrorist groups affecting the stability of the region. Among the groups currently fighting the regime, the Al-Nusrah Front has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist acts in Syria and as of June 2013, had claimed responsibility for 57 of the 70 suicide attacks in Syria during the conflict.
Terrorists often do not distinguish between U.S. government personnel and private U.S. citizens. Terrorists may target areas frequented by Westerners, such as tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other frequently visited areas. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to depart Syria immediately. U.S. citizens who choose to remain despite this warning should maintain a high level of vigilance and be aware of their surroundings. It is especially important for travelers to be unpredictable in their movements by varying times and routes and maintaining a low profile.
While most Syrians appear genuinely friendly towards foreigners, underlying tensions can lead to a quick escalation in the potential for violence. Elements within both the regime, as well as opposition groups, maintain anti-American or anti-Western sentiment, which may intensify following significant events in the region, particularly those related to U.S.-Syria relations, international intervention in the ongoing conflict, Israeli-Palestinian issues, the status of Jerusalem, and clashes in Lebanon.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against traveling to Syria. Pre-existing tensions and instabilities continue and U.S. interests and citizens have been targeted. On July 11, 2011, the U.S. Embassy and other embassies in Damascus were violently attacked by people participating in a pro-government demonstration. Similarly, in October 2011, the U.S. Ambassador’s convoy was attacked in a Damascus suburb while he met with an opposition figure. Both indicidents caused significant property damage.
Security personnel frequently place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, internet connections, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in questioning, detention and/or confiscation of the images. Additionally, U.S. citizens should be aware that conversations on the topics of politics, religion and other social issues could lead to arrest. It is also illegal in Syria to possess specific-use electronic devices including GPS, short-wave or handheld radio equipment, or similar devices.
U.S. citizens should increase their vigilance if they travel to the border area with Iraq or Israel, the Golan Heights, or the Al-Jazira region. Movements in these areas are subject to Syrian security surveillance and could lead to questioning or detention.
Additional information about safety and security in Syria can be found in the Overseas Security Advisory Council 2010 Crime and Safety Report for Syria.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- 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 Syria on Twitter and by visiting the Embassy’s website.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. 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: The rate of crime in major Syrian cities is difficult to determine because of the country is currently in the midst of violent civil war. The current unrest and significant deterioration of the Syrian economy have led to a perceived increase in criminal activity. Since the closure of our Embassy in Damascus in February of 2012, we have not been able to provide accurate information about crime to U.S. citizens visiting or living in Syria. The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.
Additional information about safety and security in Syria can be found in the Overseas Security Advisory Council 2010 Crime and Safety Report for Syria.
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. As the U.S. Embassy in Damascus has suspended operations, U.S. citizens are reminded that the Czech Government, through the Czech Embassy in Damascus, currently serves as the Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria; however, their ability to provide services is limited. A U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of a violent crime such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate locallaw enforcement authorities and contact family members or friends at your request.
- 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 and that the U.S. government does not provide legal advice or assistance with legal fees associated with private legal or other services.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Syria are 110 for ambulance, 113 for fire, and 112 for the police. Syrian operators, however, do not usually speak English.
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 Syria, you are subject to Syrian law. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own.
For example, under the Narcotics Act, article 39, Syria imposes the death penalty for drug trafficking or cultivation. Women who are arrested under suspicion of immoral behavior (e.g. being alone in a room with a man who is not the woman’s husband, or being in a residence where drugs or alcohol are being consumed) may be subjected to a virginity test. In addition, the Syrian government monitors the activities of all groups, including religious groups, and discourages proselytizing, which it deems a threat to relations among religious groups.
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 automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen detention or arrest 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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Syria is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The Department of State strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. U.S. citizens who remain should carry a photocopy of their U.S. passport with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, they will have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.
Although Syria is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until weeks after the arrest, if at all. Moreover, security officials have also in the past not responded to U.S. requests for consular access, especially in cases of persons detained for “security” reasons.
Syrian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Syria of items such as weapons, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, cheese, fruit, pharmaceuticals, modems, cosmetics, and some electrical appliances. You should contact the Embassy of Syria in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs. requirements. Please refer to our Customs Information page.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Syrian pounds only by licensed moneychangers, the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS), the Real Estate Bank, and at private banks, some of which maintain offices inside fourand fivestar hotels. Fourand fivestar hotels and high-end stores in Syria generally accept credit cards, although most restaurants, stores and shops operate exclusively in cash. Foreigners visiting Syria are required to pay hotel bills in U.S. dollars, Euros or other non-Syrian hard currency. Traveler’s checks are not accepted in Syriaand banks will not cash them unless the traveler has an account at the bank in question. There are no U.S.-based banks operating in Syria. There are fourteen private banks operating in Syria, with branches and ATMs in most major cities. These ATMs usually honor major debit/credit systems. U.S. banks are restricted by law from transacting business with the largest public bank in Syria, the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS), so U.S. banks will not process ATM transactions from CBS branches. Funds may be transferred into Syria through Western Union. Wiring of funds through private banks is possible only if the traveler already holds an account with the bank in Syria; transferring funds through the Commercial Bank of Syria is not possible due to U.S. sanctions. Restrictions on wire transfers from Syria to locations abroad and restrictions on withdrawing U.S. dollars have changed several times in 2011 because of the fluctuating political situation; private citizens seeking to transfer funds outside of Syria or to withdraw U.S. dollars from a bank in Syria should check with the relevant financial institution for the most up-to-date regulations.
Syrian-American and Palestinian-American men who have never served in the Syrian military and who are planning to visit Syria should check with the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. prior to traveling concerning compulsory military service.
Effective June 1, 2011, the period of mandatory military service for men who have completed the fifth grade is 18 months. The period of mandatory military service for men who have not completed the fifth grade is 21 months.
U.S. citizen men over the age of 18, even those who have never resided in or visited Syria, and whose fathers are of Syrian descent, are required to complete military service or pay the exemption fee. Possession of a U.S. passport does not absolve the bearer of this obligation. The amount of the exemption fee depends upon a combination of factors:
- For Syrians (including U.S. citizens of either Syrian or Palestinian origin) born outside of Syria and residing abroad until the age of 18, the fee for exemption from military service is $500;
- For Syrians born in Syria, but who left Syria before reaching the age of 11 and who have resided outside Syria for more than 15 years, the fee for exemption from military service is $5,000;
- For persons who do not meet the above criteria, but who reside abroad, the fee for exemption from military service is $6,500.
Contact the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC, for more information (see Entry/Exit Requirements section above).
Since May 11, 2004, Syria has been subject to an executive order implementing sanctions in accordance with the Syria Accountability Act. These sanctions prohibit the export to Syria of products of the United States other than food or medicine, and prohibit any commercial aircraft owned or controlled by the Syrian government from taking off from or landing in the United States. Under the authority provided in Section 5(b) of the Act, the President has determined that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive the application of these sanctions in certain cases and for certain products, as specified in the Department of Commerce's General Order No. 2. For additional information about implementation of the Syria Accountability Act, consult the Department of Commerce web site.
Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations prohibit U.S. persons from receiving unlicensed donations from the Syrian government. You can review the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Syria Sanctions page for more information. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions which a U.S. person knows or has reasonable cause to believe pose a risk of furthering terrorist acts in the United States. For additional information about Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations, consult the terrorism brochure on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page or via OFAC's info-by-fax service at (202) 622-0077.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Syrian law criminalizes consensual same sex conduct under penal code article 520, which states that each sexual act "contrary to nature" is punishable by as long as three years imprisonment. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Syria, 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.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Syria, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Syrian law protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in education, access to health, or provision of other state services; but the government has not effectively enforced these provisions. Sidewalks are generally unevenly paved and often blocked by parked cars. Stairs must be used to access many public buildings, restaurants, cafes and other tourist spots.
Basic medical care and medicines are available in Syria’s principal cities, but not necessarily in outlying areas. Serious illnesses and emergencies may require evacuation to a Western medical facility.
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, including information for the Syrian Arab Republic.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Syria, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Because of the ongoing conflict, there is increased likelihood that visitors will encounter hostile activity and harassment at both official and unofficial security checkpoints on roads throughout the country. In addition to the threat posed by the active conflict, driving in Syria may be hazardous and requires great caution.
Although drivers generally follow traffic signs and signals, they often maneuver aggressively and show little regard for vehicles traveling near them. Lane markings are usually ignored. Vehicles within Syrian traffic circles must give way to entering traffic, unlike in the United States. At night, it is very difficult to see pedestrians, who often walk into traffic with little warning. Outside major cities, it is common to find pedestrians, animals and vehicles on unlit roads at night. Pedestrians must also exercise caution. Parked cars, deteriorating pavement, and guard posts obstruct sidewalks, often forcing pedestrians to walk in the street. Vehicles often do not stop for pedestrians, and regularly run red lights or “jump” the green light well before it changes.
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 Syria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Syria’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.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
Embassy of the Czech Republic
The Government of the Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus at USIS_damascus@embassy.mzv.cz. U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance in Syria and are unable to reach the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan: