Syrian Arab Republic
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.
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:
Must be valid at time of entry
One page required for entry stamp
In light of violent,volatile conditions in Syria and the ongoing civil war, the Department of State has issued a Travel Warning, to advise U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately.
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 through its U.S. Interests Section (USIS) is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than they would at U.S. embassies or consulates outside 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 Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors. 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 Hizbollah, 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. Read the Department of State’s Human Rights Report, Trafficking in Persons Report, International Religious Freedom Report, Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Syria, and Department of State's Syria page for additional information.
Since September 2014, the United States and other countries’ militaries have been involved in military strikes on Syrian territory.
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. The Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic in Washington, DC, however, suspended all operations, including consular services on March 18, 2014 and has not appointed a protecting power.
Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian immigration authorities by the 15th day of their stay.
Syria charges a departure tax at its land and sea borders for all visitors except those on diplomatic passports and children under the age of 11.
Israel Travel: 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.
Dual Nationality: U.S. males holding dual Syrian citizenship or non-dual U.S. citizen 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.
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 U.S.-Syrian 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 applicant is determined HIV negative. Foreigners wishing to marry Syrian nationals in Syria must also be tested for HIV. Please verify this information with the Syrian government before you travel.
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, if they are able to depart safely, per the U.S. Department of State’s Syria Travel Warning. The Syrian regime has used deadly force to quell anti-government protests and is engaged in a full-scale civil war with armed groups. The Syrian government is no longer in control of vast swathes of the country, particularly in northern, southern and eastern Syria and Damascus suburbs. Some armed groups have utilized car bombs, improvised explosive device/indirect-fire attacks, sniper fire, and carried out kidnappings throughout the country. Foreign combatants – including Iranian regime elements, Hizballah fighters, Islamic extremists, and al Qaida- elements – are also participating in hostilities.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al- Qaida affiliate, has consolidated power in the northeastern city of Idlib. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls large amounts of territory in the east of the country where it has committed atrocities against civilians, including the murder of U.S. citizens.
Syrian regime military operations have involved the use of ballistic missiles, aerial attacks, heavy artillery, and chemical weapons targeting civilian centers. Attacks from the regime or other 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 U.S. intelligence community assesses with high confidence that the Asad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the Syrian people multiple times over the past year. ISIS is also likely responsible for several small-scale sulfur mustard attacks in Syria. The continuing violence, deteriorating security situation, and Syria’s continuing 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 over 400,000 deaths with many thousands more wounded. The Syrian conflict has resulted in over 5.1 million Syrian registered refugees, and approximately 6.3 million people are displaced inside Syria, while 4.53 million remain in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.
There is an ongoing and increased risk of kidnapping of U.S. citizens and Westerners throughout the country. U.S. citizens remain a specific target, with several high profile abductions having occurred since mid-2012. U.S. citizen victims have had diverse backgrounds, including journalism and humanitarian work. U.S. citizens held captive by ISIS have been murdered by the group, which released videos of killings and publicly took responsibility for their deaths. U.S. citizens have been abducted by other individuals and groups in Syria, and from various locations, including the Damascus and Aleppo areas. Other U.S. citizens have gone missing and are believed to have been kidnapped since the outbreak of hostilities,. The risk for kidnapping is high and persists for U.S. citizens of all backgrounds, in all areas of Syria.
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. Since 2012, there have been multiple reports of Syrian shelling of neighboring countries near border areas, most significantly in Lebanon, Turkey, and the Golan Heights. Indirect fire has crossed into Lebanon on several occasions and Syria-based extremists associated with ISIL and al-Nusrah Front have conducted several incursions into Lebanon, illustrating the continued potential for spillover of Syria’s conflict throughout the region. The Government of Turkey severely restricts crossings of its border with Syria, limited exclusively to individuals working for organizations engaged in the authorized provision of humanitarian assistance. Individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
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. 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 still in Syria 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 many 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 non-state actor groups, maintain anti-U.S. 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.
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 (eastern Syria) region.
CRIME: The rate of crime in major Syrian cities is difficult to determine because of the ongoing civil war. The current unrest and significant deterioration of the Syrian economy have led to a perceived increase in criminal activity. Since the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus in February of 2012, the U.S. government has 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.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact 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 U.S. Interests Section of the Czech Embassy in Damascus, currently serves as the Protecting Power for U.S. interests in Syria; however, their ability to provide services is extremely limited. A U.S. embassy or consulate in a neighboring country can:
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, and contact with security services has the potential to result in arbitrary arrest, detention, or disappearance.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Interests Section or U.S. Embassy Amman for assistance.
For further information:
Basic medical care and medicines are available in Damascus and some coastal areas, but not necessarily in other areas. Serious illnesses and emergencies may require evacuation to a neighboring country or Western medical facility.
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. You might also wish to ask whether your insurance will cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation within country, to the United States or a third country. In addition, you might wish to check whether your insurance will cover injuries sustained in a conflict zone.
Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
In recent years, there have been multiple reports of polio and measles outbreaks in Syria. The ongoing conflict has reduced the ability to contain and control the spread of such infectious diesases.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreaks of measles, chickenpox, pertussis and mumps are common in Syria and children and adults traveling should ensure that they have adequate immunization. Vaccine-derived polio outbreaks are occuring. Polio immunization should be up to date for children, and adults should have a documented adult dose of polio vaccine. Meningococcal vaccination is also recommended for children over 6 years of age who will be staying in Syria.
Other Health Concerns: Diarrheal disease risk is high throughout Syria, especially in degraded urban areas, but is also common in deluxe accommodations. Consider bringing azithromycin and loperamide for treatment if needed.
Further health information:
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.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
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.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the Czech Embassy in Damascus immediately. See our webpage for further information.
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, in previous cases security officials have not responded to U.S. requests for consular access, especially in cases of persons detained for “security” reasons.
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 despite the U.S. Department of State’s Syria Travel Warning 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.
Customs Requirements: 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. Please refer to our Customs Information page for additional information.
Banking and Commerce:
Military Service: U.S.-Syrian and U.S.-Palestinian men who have never served in the Syrian military and who are planning to visit Syria despite the U.S. Department of State’s Syria Travel Warning should contact the Syrian government 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:
Consult Syrian government authorities if you seek additional information.
Trade and Sanctions: Since May 11, 2004, measures imposed in accordance with the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act have prohibited 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 the exportation of U.S.-origin dual-use items to Syria, consult the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Treasury web sites.”
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.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
LGBTI 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. There are open source reports indicating that LGBTI individuals could be murdered for engaging in homosexual acts in ISIL-controlled areas. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for additional information.
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 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.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
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, harassment, and abduction at both official and unofficial security checkpoints on roads throughout the country. You should exercise caution if driving in Syria because conditions are hazardous, in addition to the threat posed by the active conflict.
Although drivers generally follow traffic signs and signals in urban centers, they maneuver aggressively and show little regard for vehicles traveling near them. Lane markings are usually ignored. Different from the United States, vehicles within Syrian traffic circles must give way to entering traffic. 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 unlighted roads at night.
Pedestrians should 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. Drivers and passengers are subject to demands for money, harassment and abduction throughout the country. Rule of law, including traffic laws, and law enforcement is absent in many areas of the country.
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 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.
MARITIME TRAVEL: Mariners planning travel to Syria should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts within the MARAD website. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website. Select “broadcast warnings” from within the NGA site.