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Iran
Official Name:

Islamic Republic of Iran

Last Updated: February 24, 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

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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:

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6 months

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:

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One page required for entry stamp

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:

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Yes, except for Kish Island

VACCINATIONS:

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None

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:

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Over $10,000 must be declared

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:

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Over $10,000 must be declared

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Embassy of Switzerland – Foreign Interests Section

No. 39, Shahid Mousavi (Golestan 5th)
Pasdaran Avenue
Tehran, Iran

Telephone: (98) (21) 2254-2178 and (98) (21) 2256-5273

Fax: (98) (21) 2258-0432

All consular services require prior appointments which can be made by phone. The Foreign Interests Section can be reached by phone Sunday through Thursday between 7:45 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The Interests Section does not issue U.S. visas or accept visa applications. The Foreign Interests Section provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens in Tehran including:

  • Registering U.S. citizens
  • Responding to inquiries concerning the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens in Iran
  • Rendering assistance in times of distress or physical danger
  • Providing U.S. citizens with passport and Social Security card applications and other citizenship forms for processing at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland
  • Performing notarial services
  • Taking provisional custody of the personal effects of deceased U.S. citizens

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Iran for information on U.S.-Iranian relations.

Before traveling to Iran, please consider the current Travel Warning.

To obtain a visa, contact the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. The Iranian press has reported that foreign tourists may obtain tourist visas at the airport in Tehran, however U.S. citizens are not eligible to receive these visas and must obtain valid visas from the Iranian Interests Section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C., or at an Iranian diplomatic mission in a third country. Travelers should not attempt to enter mainland Iran from Kish Island without a visa. Possession of a valid Iranian visa will not guarantee entry into the country. U.S. citizens traveling to Iran are fingerprinted upon entry.

U.S. passports are valid for travel to Iran. However, the Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality and will treat U.S.-Iranian dual nationals solely as Iranian citizens. Under the Iranian civil code, Iranian nationality may be acquired through birth to an Iranian father, birth in Iran under certain circumstances, residence in Iran under certain circumstances, marriage to an Iranian man, and other forms of naturalization. Thus, Iranian authorities may consider some U.S. citizens – even those without Iranian passports who do not consider themselves to be Iranian – to be Iranian nationals. U.S.-Iranian dual nationals must enter and exit Iran on Iranian passports.

Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security. Iranian authorities have also prevented the departure, in some cases for months, of U.S. citizens who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities routinely deny dual nationals access to the Foreign Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Tehran because they consider dual nationals to be solely Iranian citizens.

U.S. government employees, including contractors, are strictly prohibited from traveling to Iran for official purposes. In addition, private travel to Iran is forbidden for many U.S. government employees, including contractors, without prior authorization from the Department of State. Any U.S. government employee or contractor considering private travel to Iran should contact the Department of State’s Office of Iranian Affairs for guidance.

We recommend that U.S.-Iranian dual nationals obtain, in their Iranian passports, the necessary visas for the countries they will transit on their return trip to the United States so that if the U.S. passports are confiscated in Iran, they may depart Iran with their Iranian passports. These individuals can then apply for new U.S. passports in the country they are transiting. Dual nationals must enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports and enter and depart Iran on Iranian passports.

Dual nationals whose U.S. passports are confiscated may also obtain a “Recommendation Letter” from the Foreign Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland, the U.S. protecting power. This statement enables the travelers to apply for third-country visas in Tehran, provided they meet criteria for a visa of the country they are transiting. The Swiss Embassy can issue this statement only after the traveler's U.S. nationality is confirmed, which may take some time. A “Recommendation Letter” would be considered in lieu of the standard invitation letter that all visa applicants are required to present; however, it does not guarantee issuance of an entry visa.

Iranian visa extensions are time-consuming and must be filed at least one week in advance of the expiration date. A foreign national and anyone accompanying him/her will pay a fine between 300,000 and 350,000 rials (IRR) or between 30,000 and 35,000 tomans per day for each day of unauthorized stay in Iran. 

U.S. citizens who stay in Iran longer than one year, and who reside outside Iran, need to obtain an exit permit to leave the country. U.S. citizens residing in Iran on permanent resident visas must obtain an exit permit each time they depart Iran, regardless of the period of stay. Although an exit stamp is no longer inserted into the passport, the exit tax must still be paid. All holders of an Iranian passport are required to pay an exit tax regardless of the duration of their stay in Iran. More specific information on Iranian passport and exit permit requirements may be obtained from the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C.

The Iranian civil code states that non-Iranian women who marry Iranian men acquire Iranian nationality. Under Iranian law, the appropriate Iranian authorities must be notified of and recognize a marriage whether it is contracted in Iran or abroad. If the marriage takes place in Iran, the woman’s U.S. passport may be confiscated by Iranian authorities. A woman must have the consent of her husband to leave Iran or, in his absence, consent from another suitable authority. A husband may provide blanket permission when his wife receives her Iranian passport or require her to obtain permission for each trip abroad. Due to the nature of Iranian law and lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran, the Foreign Interests Section in Tehran can provide only limited assistance if a U.S. citizen woman married to an Iranian man has marital difficulties and/or encounters difficulty in leaving Iran. In addition, if marriage to an Iranian citizen is not officially recognized by the Iranian government, the couple will be committing the crime of adultery if they travel together. Under Iranian law, the maximum penalty for adultery is death; at the very least, such couples would be unable to travel or stay at a hotel together in Iran.

After divorce or death of her Iranian husband, a foreign-born woman may renounce her Iranian citizenship unless she is a widow with children from the marriage who are under 18 years old. The children would remain Iranian citizens unless they completed the renunciation process as adults as prescribed in the Iranian civil code. They will be required to enter and depart Iran on Iranian passports. Under Iranian law, the appropriate Iranian authorities must be notified of and recognize a divorce whether it is granted in Iran or abroad. Upon divorce, custody of the children normally goes to the mother until children reach age seven, at which point custody automatically transfers to the father. Even if the courts grant custody to the mother, she will need permission from the paternal grandfather or the courts to obtain exit visas for children under age 18. The term "custody" in the United States does not have the same legal meaning in Iran. In Iran a woman is granted "guardianship," and only in very rare cases is actually granted "custody." Even if the woman has "custody/guardianship”, all legal decisions (e.g., application for a passport, permission to exit Iran, etc.) still require the consent of the father. Iran is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Iran. If you intend to reside in Iran, you must submit to a blood test, which may include an HIV test, in order to apply for a residency permit. Permits will be refused if the HIV test is positive.

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

U.S. citizens who travel to Iran despite the Travel Warning should exercise caution throughout the country, but especially in the southeastern region where Westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to areas within 100 kilometers of the border with Afghanistan, within 10 kilometers of the border with Iraq, and generally anywhere east of the line from Bam and Bandar Abbas toward the Pakistani border. 
 
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings. Continued political tension between Iran and the West is a cause of concern for U.S. citizen travelers. Large-scale demonstrations in response to politically motivated events have taken place sporadically throughout the country, resulting in a significant security presence, arrests, and clashes between demonstrators and security officials. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. U.S. passport holders who are arrested or detained by Iranian authorities should request assistance from the Foreign Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
 
Iranian security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, computers, fax machines, and other electronics may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. The Iranian authorities may also confiscate cell phones, computers, and other devices. U.S. citizens should consider not taking electronic devices to Iran or deleting personal information from them beforehand.

Iran is prone to earthquakes, many of them severe. To learn more about the seismic regions of Iran, including the most recent earthquakes, please visit the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Crime: Foreigners occasionally become victims of petty street crime, including robberies and bag-snatchings, in Iran. There have been reports of robberies by police impersonators, usually in civilian clothing. Insist on seeing the officer’s identity card and request the presence of a uniformed officer/marked patrol car. Travelers should take the following precautions:

  • Do not surrender any documents or cash.
  • Make a copy of your U.S. passport (biographical data page and the page with your Iranian visa) and keep it separate from your original passport.
  • Do not carry large amounts of hard currency while on the streets.
  • Keep important documents such as passports and valuables in hotel safes or other secure locations.
  • Take pre-booked taxis, which are safer than those hailed from the street.
  • Check with your hotel or tour guide for information on local scams. 
  • Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, purchasing them may also violate local law. 

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

Victims of Crime:

Report crimes to the local police at 110 and contact the Swiss Foreign Interests Section at (98) (21) 2254-2178. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Iran is: 115 for ambulance service, 125 for fire, and 110 for police. English speakers, however, are generally unavailable. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

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
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Swiss Foreign Interests Section for assistance. U.S. citizens should keep in mind, however, that the Foreign Interests Section may be able to provide limited assistance only and that Iranian law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Iranian authorities consider domestic violence to be a private matter and seldom discuss it publicly. As noted in the Department of State’s 2015 edition of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, some nongovernmental shelters and hotlines assisted victims during the year, but such services were virtually nonexistent outside major cities.

For further information:

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. 

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Basic medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities, but may not be available in rural areas in Iran. Medical facilities do not meet U.S. standards and sometimes lack medicines and supplies.

Very high pollution levels from cars, particularly in Ahvaz, Tehran, and Zabol, can trigger respiratory problems.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Criminal Penalties: While you are traveling in Iran, you are subject to its laws even though you are a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizens in Iran who violate Iranian laws, even unknowingly, including laws unfamiliar to Westerners, may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned (long prison terms and solitary confinement are common), or subject to other punishments depending on the crime including execution, amputation, flogging, blinding, stoning, and fines.  

Examples of local laws that you may be unfamiliar with include:

  • Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible execution.
  • Drinking, possession of alcoholic beverages, and drugs are illegal. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iran are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Iran executes many people each year on drug-related charges. Penalties for the possession, use, or smuggling of alcoholic beverages may include fines, jail time, or flogging.
  • Men and women must adhere to the government-sanctioned dress code; this includes covered hair, arms, and legs for women. Failure to adhere to the government’s dress code and public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex is considered to be a crime.
  • Relations between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal, as are adultery and sex outside of marriage, which are punishable by the death penalty.
  • DVDs depicting sexual relations and magazines showing unveiled women are forbidden.
  • Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited and could result in serious criminal charges, including espionage, which carries the death penalty.
  • Importation of pork products is banned.
  • Insulting the government or Muslim faith is strictly forbidden, including on social media. Such violations of Iranian law may result in imprisonment.

Carry a copy of your U.S. passport (biodata page and page with Iranian visa) and some other form of identification with you at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available.

If you are arrested while in Iran, request that the police and prison officials notify the Foreign Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran immediately to ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances. Under Iranian law, detainees may also request legal representation, although the authorities often fail to allow timely access to an attorney according to the Department of State’s 2015 edition of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Some laws are also prosecutable in the U.S., regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal: The Iranian government reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed claims against Iran at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague pursuant to the 1981 Algerian Accords. In addition, the Iranian government reportedly has compiled a list of the claimants who were awarded compensation in the Iran Claims Program administered by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Iranian government has allegedly been targeting award-holders who travel to Iran. It has been reported that upon some claimants' entry into Iran, Iranian authorities have questioned them as to the status of payment of their respective awards with a view to recouping the award money. The Iranian government has also reportedly threatened to prevent U.S. claimants who visit Iran from departing the country until they make arrangements to repay their award either in part or its entirety.

Dual Nationality: Iran considers dual nationals to be solely Iranian citizens. Dual nationals sometimes have their U.S. passports confiscated and may be denied permission to leave Iran, or encounter other problems with Iranian authorities. Likewise, Iranian authorities may deny dual nationals’ access to the Foreign Interests Section in Tehran. Refer to the above section entitled "Entry/Exit Requirements" for additional information concerning dual nationality.

U.S. citizens who also possess Iranian citizenship are subject to laws that impose special obligations on citizens of Iran, such as military service or taxes. Iranian-citizen males aged 18-34 are required to perform military service, unless exempt.  This requirement includes Iranian-Americans, even those born in the United States.  Young men who have turned 17 years of age will not be allowed to leave Iran without completing their military service.

Employment: Do not work illegally. You will be deported, fined, and/or imprisoned. You may also be prevented from re-entering the country. The Iranian government has seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners who work in Iran on tax/commercial disputes.

Codes of Behavior and Dress: Islamic law is strictly enforced in Iran. Alcohol is forbidden. Women must wear a headscarf and a long jacket that covers the arms and upper legs while in public. Men may be required to wear long pants and cannot go bare-chested or wear tank tops, especially near religious sites or in conservative areas. There may be additional dress requirements at certain religious sites. Consult a guide book on Iran to determine how to dress and behave properly and respectfully. During the holy month of Ramadan, you should generally observe the Muslim tradition of not eating, drinking, or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset each day, though there are exemptions for foreign travelers who eat in hotel restaurants. In general, it is best to ask before taking photographs of people. Hobbies like photography and those involving the use of binoculars (e.g., bird-watching) can be misunderstood and may cause trouble with security officials.

Money: Non-Iranian credit cards and bank cards cannot be used in Iran. You will not be able to access U.S. or foreign bank accounts using ATMs in Iran. You can exchange U.S. dollars for rials, either at banks or with certified money changers but it is rarely possible  to exchange traveler’s checks. Do not exchange currency on the street, and keep your exchange receipts. Bring enough hard currency to cover your stay, but make sure you declare this currency upon entry into Iran. There is no Western Union or similar institution and bank transfers are not possible. Due to economic sanctions on Iran, financial institutions have been known to block or freeze accounts of persons accessing financial accounts via the Internet from Iran. Any import and/or export of over 10,000 USD (or its equivalent in other foreign currencies) must be declared by submitting the relevant bank notice or any other document which proves that the amount was withdrawn from a foreign currency account or the sale of foreign currency.

Communication: Pre-paid overseas calling cards are available at most newsagents. The Internet is widely used in Iran. There are Internet cafes in most hotels; however, usage may be monitored. The Iranian government blocks access to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Sanctions: U.S. government economic sanctions prohibit most economic activity between U.S. citizens and Iran. In general, unless licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), goods, technology, or services may not be exported, re-exported, sold or supplied, directly or indirectly, from the United States or by a U.S. citizen, wherever he or she is located, to Iran or the Government of Iran. With limited exceptions, goods or services of Iranian origin may not be imported into the United States, either directly or through third countries.

OFAC regulations provide general licenses authorizing the performance of certain categories of transactions. Such general licenses include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • articles donated to relieve human suffering (such as food, clothing, and medicine)
  • the import of gifts valued at 100 USD or less
  • licensed exports of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices
  • transactions involving information and informational materials

All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran, including baggage costs, living expenses, and the acquisition of goods or services for personal use are permitted. OFAC has the authority by means of a specific license to permit a person or entity to engage in many transactions or services which would otherwise be prohibited.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which lifted certain nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran’s taking steps to ensure that its nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful, the United States committed to license U.S. persons to engage in three additional categories of activity with Iran. See OFAC’s JCPOA Frequently Asked Questions page for more information on these allowable activities.

For further information, consult OFAC’s Iran sanctions resource page or contact OFAC’s Compliance Programs Division at 202-622-2490, or obtain information via fax at 202-622-0077.

For information concerning licensing of imports or exports, contact OFAC’s Licensing Division at by phone at 202-622-2480 or fax at 202-622-1657.

Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.

LGBTI Travelers: Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Iran and is punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Security forces have executed, harassed, arrested, and detained individuals suspected of being gay. 

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and Section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: You may find accessibility and accommodations very different from what you find in the United States. In 2009, Iran acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but declared it does not consider itself bound by any provisions of the Convention that may be incompatible with its rules. There are no laws in Iran that mandate access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers: See our tips for Women Travelers. Female travelers to Iran should be aware that they will be unable to get birth control in Iran, will be subject to the aforementioned dress code, and will be prohibited from attending public sporting events, riding bicycles, and traveling with an Iranian-citizen partner unless party to a marriage recognized by the Iranian government.

Road Conditions and Safety: While in Iran, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Travelers in possession of International Driver’s Permits may drive in Iran, though the Foreign Interests Section in Iran does not recommend that tourists drive in Iran. Iran has a very high rate of traffic accidents, the second highest cause of mortality in the country. Drivers throughout Iran tend to ignore traffic lights, traffic signs, and lane markers. Urban streets are not well lit; it is therefore particularly dangerous to drive at night. Sidewalks in urban areas exist only on main roads and are usually obstructed by parked cars. In residential areas, few sidewalks exist. Drivers almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. If you are involved in an accident, no matter how minor, do not leave the scene; wait until the police arrive to file a report.

Iranian authorities sometimes set up informal roadblocks, both in cities and on highways, often manned by young, inexperienced officers who are suspicious of foreigners. Carry identification with you and avoid getting into disputes.

See 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 Iran, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Iran’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.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Iran should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Security Communications with Industry WebPortal. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website and as a broadcast warning on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s website.

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