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Afghanistan
Official Name:

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Last Updated: January 19, 2017
Further Safety and Security Information

Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.

Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.

Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Kabul

Great Massoud (Airport) Road
Kabul, Afghanistan

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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

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Must be valid for six months at time of entry 

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

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One page required for entry stamp

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

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Yes

VACCINATIONS:

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Polio vaccination up to 1 year before travel is recommended. See our Polio Fact Sheet

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

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$20,000

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

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$20,000

Country Map

U.S. Embassy Kabul

Great Massoud (Airport) Road
Kabul, Afghanistan

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, disrupting terrorist organizations, recovering from three decades of civil strife, and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure.  

Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Afghanistan for additional information.

Passport and Visas: 

  • U.S. Citizens must have a valid U.S. passport and Afghan visa to enter and exit. 
  • You cannot obtain a visa upon arrival at Kabul International Airport.
  • Travelers arriving without a valid visa are subjected to deportation or confiscation of their passport and heavy fines.

Dual Nationals/Afghan Heritage:

  • U.S. citizens born in Afghanistan of Afghan parents are considered to be Afghan nationals and are not required to have an entry visa.
  • For U.S. citizens of Afghan parentage, but not born in Afghanistan, an entry permit is required.  You should contact the Embassy of Afghanistan for more information.  In addition, U.S. lawful permanent residents of Afghan heritage without Afghan passports should also contact the Embassy of Afghanistan to see what entry documents are appropriate.   

Military:

  • U.S. citizens may enter and depart Afghanistan via military air carriers with their military ID card.  Members of the U.S. military who entered Afghanistan on their military ID card should depart the country on military air carriers because they will have considerable difficulty departing Afghanistan on commercial airlines since their U.S. passports will not have an Afghan visa and/or an entry cachet recording their arrival.  
  • Anyone arriving on military air should move quickly to legitimize their immigration status if there is any chance of departing Afghanistan on a commercial air carrier.

Registration:

  • Travelers are expected to register with a representative of the Ministry of Interior’s Foreigners’ Registration Office upon arrival at Kabul International Airport.
  • If the airport office is closed, you should register at the Ministry of Interior’s Statistics Office in Kabul, located at Kart-e-Parwan Square in front of Nadirya High School, and bring two passport-size photos.
  • 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 U.S. government personnel traveling on official passports.  

Medical Requirements:

  • The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents of Afghanistan.

Visit the website of the Embassy of Afghanistan for the most current visa information.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.  The security situation is extremely unstable and the threat to all U.S. citizens 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 and terrorist elements, including the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, and Da’esh, remain violently opposed to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign entities in Afghanistan.  The risk of kidnapping and hostage taking throughout Afghanistan, particularly against Westerners, has reached perhaps its most critical state in recent years.  Information regarding demonstrations in Afghanistan can be found on the U.S. Embassy Kabul website.

Terrorist Attacks: Militant attacks throughout the country continue to occur.  Three deadly terrorist attacks occurred on January 10, 2017 with two suicide bombings near the Parliament in Kabul, an explosion at the Kandahar province government compound and suicide bombing in Helmand province.  These strikes left dozens of people dead and injured, including U.S. citizens.   Taliban militants attacked the German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif on November 10, 2016 killing six Afghan civilians and wounding over 120.  The next day a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a bomb at Bagram Airfield, killing and wounding a number of service members.  On the evening of August 24-25, the American University in Afghanistan campus was attacked by Taliban militants, killing 13 Afghan civilians and wounding over 36. In early August, Taliban fighters ambushed a bus containing a group of European and American tourists in Herat province. In addition to these attacks, militants have also attacked Afghan Government Ministry buildings (such as the September 5 suicide bomb attack which killed at least 30 and wounded more than 90 near the Afghan Ministry of Defense), guesthouses catering to foreigners (most recently the August 1 detonation of a vehicle-borne explosive device at the Northgate Hotel in Kabul), western NGO compounds, and other non-military targets during the past year. Da’esh was responsible for six attacks in Kabul since June;  the attack on July 23 at a demonstration in Kabul was the biggest mass-casualty attack in Kabul in recent history killing over 80 and wounding 230 more. The same risk for terrorist attacks also exists in all other major cities in Afghanistan.         

Kidnapping:  In 2016 the threat of kidnapping to Westerners in Afghanistan rose to its highest level since 2001.  In a four-month period in late 2016, four Westerners were kidnapped by militants and/or criminal groups.  These victims include two American University of Afghanistan foreign professors kidnapped at gunpoint, and an Australian NGO worker abducted in November.  

Demonstrations and Riots: 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.  Peaceful demonstrations have been the targets of terrorist attacks.  Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. 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 travel to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns, including contracting for medical evacuation, personnel recovery, and insurance services.

Explosives: Kabul remains at high risk for militant attacks, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks, direct and indirect fire, and suicide bombings.  The same risk for terrorist attacks also exist in all other areas in Afghanistan.

Property: 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, and imprisonment, and at times have successfully carried out the threats using extralegal means. Property and/or personnel may be seized and used as collateral pending the resolution of such disputes. 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. 

Communications: Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated.  The few roads that exist are mostly in poor condition.  Landline 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.

CRIME:  Afghanistan is considered a critical threat environment for crime. 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. Common petty or street crime exists, primarily in cities, and was on the rise in 2016 due to the worsening economic situation and increase in refugees.  Leaving valuables, expensive electronics, and cash in plain view increases the chance of being targeted by criminals.  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 be aware of sudden and unanticipated violent events.

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.

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 in violation of U.S. law outside of the United States.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

VICTIMS OF 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.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas

If you are a victim of a crime, we can: 

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence:  U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.

For further information:

Insurance:  Make sure your health insurance plan covers you when you are outside of the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul cannot pay your medical bills.

U.S. Medicare does not pay overseas.

Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation, since medical transport out of the country can be prohibitively expensive or logistically impossible.  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.  It is advisable to make advance arrangements with an employer or medical evacuation company operating in Afghanistan.

See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.  

Medical Care: It is limited and well below U.S. standards. 

Well-equipped medical facilities are rare in Afghanistan, particularly outside of the major cities.

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.

Public hospitals in Afghanistan should be avoided.

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 or severe medical emergencies.  See Medical Clinics in Afghanistan on the Embassy’s website.

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.

Prescriptions: Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. 

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations, per CDC’s information. 

Further Health Information:  

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.

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 from 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.

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 whom 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.

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 is potentially punishable by a sentence of 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.

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.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law.  For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

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 are 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.

Arrest Notification:

If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.  See our webpage for further information.

Religion and Islam:

Although the Constitution of Afghanistan allows for the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be deemed contrary to Islam and harmful to society.

Producing or distributing material deemed blasphemous or critical of Islam may also be punishable in Afghanistan.

Apostasy may carry a maximum penalty of death for Muslims who denounce Islam or convert to another religion.  Allegations of conversion of Afghan citizens are taken particularly seriously. 

Sexual relations between unmarried couples are generally forbidden.  Visitors to Afghanistan should be discreet in this regard.

Islam/Sharia Law:

Islam provides the foundation for Afghan 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.

Financial Debts

U.S. citizens have also been arrested in cases involving financial debts to Afghans or contract disputes.

In Afghanistan, debt 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.

Women Travelers:

Women, especially when traveling outside Kabul, should ensure their shirts cover their arms, collarbone, and waistband, and their pants/skirts cover their ankles.

Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; women should carry scarves for this purpose.

Female visitors to Afghanistan should be aware of the risk of sexual assault and take appropriate precautions to avoid becoming a victim. 

If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Students: See the Department of State Students Abroad page.

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTI Rights: While homosexuality is not explicitly illegal under Afghan law, individuals may be prosecuted under laws forbidding sodomy.  LGBTI individuals face discrimination, violence, and persecution in Afghan society.  See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Afghanistan, individuals with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from 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. 

Banking: 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.

Communication: 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.

Customs: 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.

Firearms: 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.

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 the Department of State’s additional information on Road Safety.

Aviation Safety and 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.

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