COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Iraq is a parliamentary democracy located in the Middle East with a population of over 31 million people. Iraq held parliamentary elections in March 2010 and has a coalition government. Iraq is a country with a developing infrastructure and extremely limited tourist facilities. Iraqi forces have full responsibility for providing security in Iraq. The Government of Iraq (GOI) has made significant political, economic, and security progress in recent years, but the country still faces many challenges. Those challenges include 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 criminal and terrorist violence. The slight decline and leveling off in the number of insurgent attacks and overall improvements in security have spurred economic growth in Iraq; however, conditions in the country remain dangerous. For additional information, read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Iraq and stay up to date on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Worldwide Caution via the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Iraq, we strongly encourage you to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. citizens who choose to visit or reside in Iraq despite the Department of State’s Travel Warning are urged to take responsibility for their own personal security and belongings (including their U.S. passports); avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations; and to inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq. A list of private security companies is available on the U.S. Embassy website. The Embassy takes substantial security precautions when moving personnel. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of Protective Security Details (PSDs).
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates. In addition to the Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. Mission in Iraq includes Consulates General in Basrah and Erbil, and a Consulate inKirkuk. These constituent posts do not offer routine consular services for U.S.citizens. The full range of consular services typically provided at U.S. embassies and consulates (passports, notarials, and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, among others) are currently available only at Embassy Baghdad.
U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Located in the International Zone
Telephone: 240-553-0581, ext. 4293 or 2413 (U.S. dial numbers that ring in Baghdad).
U.S. Citizen Emergency After-hours Telephone: 011-964-770-443-1286 from the U.S. or 0770-443-1286 from within Iraq (for emergency matters involving U.S. citizens that cannot wait until normal business hours only).Visa questions will not be answered on this phone.
U.S. Consulate General Basrah
Basrah, Iraq (near Basrah International Airport)
U.S. citizens in Basrah requiring emergency assistance, should call the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at 0770-443-1286 or from the U.S. 011-964-770-443-1286.
U.S. Consulate General Erbil
413 Ishtar, Ankawa
U.S. Consulate for Kirkuk
U.S. citizens who have questions are encouraged to contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit via e-mail whenever possible. ACS strives to answer all inquiries within one business day.
The International Zone (IZ) is a restricted-access area. Iraqi authorities control access to the IZ. U.S. citizens seeking to enter the IZ to obtain consular services at the U.S. Embassy should email the American Citizens Services unit for IZ entry information.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Entry and exit requirements for foreign citizens in Iraq, as stipulated by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) require all U.S. citizens tohold passports valid for at least six months after dates of travel. Visas are required for all U.S. citizens. An Iraqi visa may be obtained through the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. Visas are available upon arrival at the port of entry only if the traveler receives prior visa approval in the form of an Entry Visa Approval Memorandum from the Ministry of Interior Residency Office. Travelers who obtain this approval must enter Iraq within 90 days of the issuance of the memorandum for a single entry visa or within 6 months of the issuance of the memorandum for a multi entry visa. Once admitted into the country, visitors must obtain an arrival sticker and submit a blood sample taken by the Iraq Ministry of Health within 10 days of entry. Arriving passengers are reminded of this requirement upon admission.
The Government of Iraq’s requirements for entry and residency for U.S. government contractors differ. Persons traveling to Iraq to work on U.S. government contracts should check with their contracting company and contracting officer’s representative to determine entry and residency procedures and requirements.
Visitors who plan to stay for more than 10 days must also obtain a residency stamp. Visitors who exceed the 10-day period will be fined USD $125. Diplomatic and official passport holders have up to 30 days to obtain a residency stamp. In Baghdad, the arrival stickers and residency stamps are available for all visitors at the main Residency Office near the National Theater.
There is a USD $40 penalty (subject to change) for visitors who do not obtain the required residency stamp. A U.S. citizen who plans to stay longer than two months must apply at the Residency Office for an extension. U.S. citizens 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. Contractors receive an Iraqi visa tied specifically to the contract and will be in violation of Iraqi immigration law if found to be violating the terms of the visa, including by overstaying.
U.S. citizens must also obtain an exit stamp at a 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 IZ may also obtain exit stamps at the Karadah Mariam Police Station (available Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00-14:00). In Basrah, the Residency Office is located on Kuwait Street in Ashar. Exit stamp fees vary from USD $20 to USD $200, depending on length of stay, type of entry visa, and other factors. Travelers who hold a tourist passport with no visa or an expired visa are required to purchase an exit visa for USD $80 and pay a fine of USD $45 for a total of USD $125. Visitors who arrive via official aircraft but depart on commercial airlines must pay USD $82 single entry visa departure fee at the airport. Visitors who intend to return to Iraq will require a re-entry visa, also available through a local residency office.
As of the date of this report, immigration officials in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) were routinely allowing U.S. citizens to enter Iraq without a valid Iraqi visa; however, the airport-issued IKR visa is not valid outside the IKR, and U.S. citizens are not permitted to travel within the rest of Iraq with only the IKR-issued visa. This visa is valid only in the IKR for a period of 10 days. U.S. citizens who plan to stay for longer than 10 days require an extension to their visa; this can be obtained by visiting the local residency office. In addition, it is difficult for U.S. citizens to obtain residency authorization outside the IKR without first obtaining a valid Iraqi visa.
Iraq recognizes dual nationality. Travellers to Iraq should check the MFA’s website and the Ministry of Interior’s website for the most current information about rights and responsibilities regarding dual citizens and their stay in Iraq.
Iraq has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on all visitors. At this time, there is no waiver available for this ineligibility.Please verify this information with the Embassy of Iraq before you travel.
There are legal restrictions on the transfer of currency outside Iraq. Transporting large amounts of currency is not advisable. Iraqi law prohibits adult Iraqis and foreigners from holding and transporting more than USD $10,000 in cash out of Iraq. In addition, adult Iraqi and resident foreigners may hold and transport out of the country 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.) For additional details, please consult the website for the General Commission for Customs (available in English).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 U.S. Embassy.
Visit the Embassy of Iraq for the most current visa information. The Embassy of Iraq is located at 3421 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20007; phone number is 202-742-1600; fax number is 202-333-1129.
Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan
Region (IKR). However, violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist. While violence and threats against U.S. citizens
have lessened in the past six months, threats of attack against U.S. citizens in Iraq continue. U.S. citizens in Iraq remain
at risk for kidnapping. Methods of attack in the past have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including
Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs, mines placed on or
concealed near roads; mortars and rockets, and shootings using various direct fire weapons. Numerous insurgent groups, including
Al Qaida in Iraq, remain active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations against these groups continue,
terrorist activity persists in many areas of the country. While sectarian and terrorist violence occurs at levels lower than
in previous years, it occurs often, particularly in the provinces of Baghdad, Ninewa, Salahad Din, Anbar, and Diyala.
The security situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), which includes the provinces of Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk, has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but threats remain. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security detail when traveling outside secure facilities. Although there have been significantly fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in the IKR than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains dangerous. Increasingly, many U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and almost always with security advisors and teams.
The Turkish military continues to carry out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (formerly Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK) located along Iraq's northern border. Additionally, extensive unmarked minefields remain along the same border. The Governments of Turkey and Iran continue to carry out military operations against insurgent groups in the mountain regions bordering Iraq. These operations have included troop movements and both aerial and artillery bombardments. U.S. citizens should avoid areas near the Turkish or Iranian borders because of these ongoing military operations. Borders in these areas are not always clearly defined. In 2009, three U.S. citizens were detained by Iranian authorities while hiking in the vicinity of the Iranian border in the Kurdistan region. The resources available to the U.S. Embassy to assist U.S. citizens who venture close to or cross the border with Iran are extremely limited. The Department of State discourages travel in close proximity to the Iranian border.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them
to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of
Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to
U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available at the
U.S. Embassy website.
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CRIME: Petty theft is common in Iraq; this includes pick-pocketing in busy areas (e.g. markets), as well as the theft of money, jewelry, or other valuables from hotel rooms. Historically, carjacking by armed thieves has been very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad. Both foreigners - especially dual American-Iraqi citizens - and Iraqi citizens are targets of kidnapping. Kidnappers often demand money but have also carried out kidnappings for political/religious reasons. Many hostages have been killed.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
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:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Iraq is “130” from both mobile and fixed line telephones. Please note that responders do not speak English.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Iraq, 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. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. Criminal penalties will vary. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, for example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.If you break local laws in Iraq, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you go. Persons violating Iraq’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for the possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Iraq are severe, and convicted offenders may anticipate long jail sentences and heavy fines, and in some cases may be subject to the death penalty.
U.S. citizens should avoid unauthorized photography, especially of Iraqi security forces, which is strictly prohibited. Iraqi military personnel may confiscate equipment and temporarily detain individuals taking unauthorized photographs. Pictures inside the International Zone are forbidden. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that might not always be the case. 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: The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens outside Baghdad is particularly limited given the security environment. Host government emergency services and support are limited.
Iraq continues to suffer from serious problems in all public services. Many areas have only a few hours of electricity per day; many families supplement their state-provided electricity through local cooperatives that share generators.
Travelers should be aware that Iraqi fire and rescue services are still developing, and hotels may not be fully equipped with fire safety equipment. When staying in a hotel, you should request a room on a lower floor and make sure you have identified the exits nearest your room.
Telephone (landline) service is very limited; however, calls may be made from hotels, restaurants, and shops. While cellular service (mobile wireless) has expanded rapidly into urban areas, reliability can vary by region. Even in urban areas, users may frequently experience dropped calls. Internet service is available through Internet cafes, but broadband Internet service to homes is currently limited.
Please be aware that large wire transfers may require Central Bank of Iraq approval due to measures in place to combat money laundering. Such approvals can be obtained by the sending bank if a customer provides information on the origin of the funds and the reason for their transfer. Additional information on banking in Iraq is available on the Central Bank of Iraq’s website.
Customs officers have the broad authority to search persons or vehicles at Iraqi ports of entry. Officers may confiscate any goods they deem may pose a threat to the peace, security, health, environment, or social order of Iraq. Antiquities or cultural items suspected of being illegally exported may also be confiscated, as with goods that are not declared. Visitors 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 is in the process of rebuilding. Hotels usually require payment in foreign currency. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are extremely rare in most of Iraq, but the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) provides ATM services in dinars and USD at its main branch in central Baghdad.
The work week in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday.
Accessibility:While in Iraq, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and other state services. The government enforces the law in the public sector, but not in the private sector. Access for persons with disabilities to buildings and in educational and work settings remains inconsistent. Public and government buildings, as well as public bathrooms, may not be accessible.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Basic modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. Conflict 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. Some private companies facilitate medical evacuations.
Blood banks exist in Iraq, though blood supply may not be sufficient in the event of an emergency. In addition, many areas suffer rolling power outages and generators are not always available for back-up. 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. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Iraq. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume that your insurance will cover you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
- Does my policy apply when I am out of the United States?
- Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?
In many places, doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you when you travel, it is a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Iraq, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Vehicular travel in Iraq can be extremely dangerous. There have been attacks on civilian vehicles as well as Iraqi military and security convoys on roads and highways throughout Iraq, both in and outside metropolitan areas. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is more dangerous and should be avoided. Such attacks have been random and unpredictable, and have involved small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) capable of destroying the average vehicle. Travel throughout the country by road involves the significant potential for attacks. While Baghdad has seen the majority of insurgent activity over the past year, significant incidents have also occurred in outlying cities, indicating a high risk to travelers on roadways. Anyone traveling by vehicle through Iraq should consider the risk of IED attacks carefully and plan accordingly. 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, andregulations. Roads are congested. 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: There is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Iraq, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. The FAA maintains prohibitions on certain flight operations within Iraq by U.S. commercial operaters and airmen under a Special Federal Aviation Regulation, however beginning January 7, 2013 these prohibitions do not apply to the airports at Erbil (ORER) or Sulaymaniyah (ORSU).
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: The U.S. Embassy has encountered multiple cases of female U.S. citizens whose Iraqi-born husbands will not allow them or their children to depart Iraq; in certain cases, their husbands have withheld U.S. travel documents to prevent them and their children from leaving the country. The U.S. Embassy will seek to assist U.S. citizens in these situations, but Iraqi family law differs substantially from U.S. law, and individuals in these situations may find it difficult to obtain legal relief. Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Iraq dated December 23, 2011 to update sections on Country Description, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/Embassy Location, Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens, Threats to Safety and Security, Victims of Crime, Special Circumstances, Accessibility, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Aviation Safety Oversight.