Afghanistan remains an extremely dangerous country. Terrorist organizations, extremist groups and organized criminal syndicates are active throughout Afghanistan, and the security situation remains volatile and unpredictable. All foreigners are potential targets, including non-governmental organization employees, aid workers, clergy, medical workers, journalists, teachers, tourists, and others. Please refer to the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Afghanistan for additional information.
Passport and Visas: U.S. Citizens must have a valid passport and Afghan visa to enter and exit Afghanistan. Travelers arriving without a valid visa are subjected to deportation or confiscation of their passport and heavy fines. Visit the website of the Embassy of Afghanistan for the most current visa information.
U.S. Government Travelers: All official U.S. government travel requests must be submitted via the country clearance process and are limited to mission critical travel. U.S. government employees wishing to conduct unofficial travel to Afghanistan must also fill out a country clearance request.
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. Contact the Embassy of Afghanistan for more information. U.S. lawful permanent residents of Afghan heritage without Afghan passports should also contact the Embassy of Afghanistan to for guidance on the proper entry documents.
Military: U.S. military ID card holders on official duty in Afghanistan may fly directly into the country on U.S. military air. Such individuals must also depart the country on military air. Persons who enter the country using a U.S. military ID card will not be able to depart the country on a commercial flight without legitimizing their status and obtaining an exit visa from the Ministry of Interior.
Registration: Foreigners arriving in Afghanistan are fingerprinted during the immigration process. Foreign passengers arriving at the Kabul International Airport are expected to register with a representative of the Ministry of Interior’s Foreigners’ Registration Office. If the airport office is closed, registration may take place at the Ministry of Interior’s Kabul Statistics Office located at Kart-e-Parwan Square in front of Nadirya High School. The registration card must be surrendered upon the foreign national’s departure from Afghanistan.
Medical Requirements: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents of Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Travel Advisory warns U.S. citizens to forgo all travel to the country. The security situation is extremely unstable and the threat to 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. U.S. citizens who do decide to come to Afghanistan should maintain a low profile and exercise extreme discretion in disclosing their movement plans and personal information. Security alerts for Afghanistan can be found on the U.S. Embassy Kabul’s website.
Terrorist Attacks: Decades of disorder and warfare have made Afghanistan fertile territory for international terrorism. U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals are primary targets of terrorist organizations. Extremist groups across Afghanistan continue to utilize a variety of tactics to expand their territorial influence, disrupt governance, and create a public perception of instability. Such tactics include the use of attackers laden with suicide vests, vehicle-borne explosive devices, magnetic explosive devices, indirect fire (rockets and mortars), and direct fire (shootings and rocket propelled grenades). Military and security personnel, Afghan government buildings, foreign embassies, non-government organization offices, and soft targets, such as hotels, markets, schools, hospitals, and public gatherings, are common attack targets. Kabul has been and remains a high-profile location for large-scale insurgent attacks, as successful operations in the capital tend to generate media coverage. U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should familiarize themselves with their residential compound or hotel’s emergency planning, and rehearse the steps they would take if the venue were to come under attack.
Kidnapping/Hostage Taking: Extremist groups and kidnapping syndicates are actively targeting foreign nationals, specifically U.S. citizens, in Afghanistan, including journalists, aid workers, teachers, medical professionals, and individuals associated with international and non-governmental organizations. Criminal groups in Afghanistan will target any individual perceived to have money for kidnapping and/or extortion. Kidnap-for-ransom syndicates may also sell their captives to terrorist groups, with victims potentially spending years in captivity.
Demonstrations and Riots: U.S. citizens should avoid all rallies and demonstrations, as even events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little warning. Public gatherings and demonstrations have also been the targets of terrorist attacks.
Property/Business Disputes: Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property often become involved in complicated real estate disputes involving threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping and assassinations. Similarly, U.S. citizens involved in business or commercial disputes have been threatened with detention, arrest, and imprisonment, and had their property seized to use as collateral. U.S. citizens have reported being physically attacked and family members have also been harmed as the result 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. Hiring a private attorney, early on the dispute, especially one who can act on behalf of the U.S. citizen when he/she is outside Afghanistan, is recommended.
Communications: Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated and landline telephone communications remain limited. Cell phone service is unpredictable, and areas outside major urban centers suffer from irregular and weak signals. Insurgents have been known to attack telecommunications infrastructure and coerce operators into turning off cell phone towers. U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should always carry backup communications such as satellite phones or handheld radios, along with a vehicle/personal tracking device.
Crime: Afghanistan is considered a critical threat environment for crime. Criminal organizations, including weapons and narcotics traffickers, undermine peace and stability throughout the country. Common petty or street crime exists, primarily in cities. Transient populations and internally displaced peoples may contribute to crime and lawlessness.
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. The emergency line may not be answered and response times are usually 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 during business hours at +93 (0)700-114-000 or through the Embassy switchboard at +93 (0)700-108-000 after hours. Please note that due to the security environment in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan, the Embassy is limited in the type of support it can provide to U.S. citizens.
Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime committed in Afghanistan, but travelers should not rely on significant assistance from such authorities in resolving legal disputes. This is especially true of U.S.-based companies and their employees seeking local protection from extralegal efforts to resolve contract disputes. Property maybe seized and personnel may be detained as collateral pending the resolution of such disputes.
The U.S. Embassy can help crime victims in Afghanistan:
See the Department of State’s webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas for additional details.
To stay connected:
Criminal Penalties: U.S. citizens in Afghanistan are subject to Afghan laws. A 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. Persons violating Afghan laws, even unknowingly, may be fined, arrested, imprisoned, or possibly executed. Penalties in Afghanistan can be more severe than for similar offenses in the United States. Due to security and travel limitations, the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance for U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for persons outside Kabul.
Photography of military installations, including equipment or troops, may lead to arrest or detention. Possession of alcohol is illegal as is driving under the influence. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe, with offenders often facing long jail sentences and heavy fines. Sexual relations between unmarried couples are generally forbidden in Afghanistan.
U.S. citizens should also note that they 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.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. The Department of State’s website has further information on U.S. citizen arrests or detentions. The security environment and Embassy travel restrictions severely limit consular staff’s ability to visit U.S. citizens detained or imprisoned in Afghanistan.
Religion and Islam: 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.
Although the Constitution of Afghanistan allows for the free exercise of religion, proselytizing may be deemed contrary to Islam and harmful to society. Committing a blasphemous act or producing or distributing material deemed critical of Islam is punishable by long-term incarceration or the death sentence. 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. False accusations of blasphemy or insulting Islam have led to deadly mob violence.
Financial Debts: U.S. citizens in Afghanistan have been detained and arrested in cases involving financial debts and contract disputes, as these disputes are generally considered as criminal matters in Afghanistan. Hiring an attorney in the early stages of such a dispute is recommended. The Embassy maintains a limited list of lawyers in Afghanistan.
Women Travelers: Afghanistan is a traditional country, particularly when it comes to gender roles and behavior. To help maintain a low profile, women should ensure their shirts cover their full arms, collarbone, and waistband, and their pants/skirts cover their ankles, especially when traveling outside Kabul. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; female travelers are advised to carry scarves for this purpose. Women visiting Afghanistan should be alert of the risk of sexual assault and are recommended to review the Department of State’s travel tips for women travelers.
LGBTI Rights: While homosexuality is not explicitly illegal under Afghan law, individuals may be prosecuted under laws forbidding sodomy, and sexual relations between unmarried individuals is generally forbidden. 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.
Forced Marriage: The Embassy is aware of cases involving U.S. citizen women of Afghan heritage who have been convinced by their families to travel to Afghanistan, usually under the guise of visiting relatives, only to find themselves forced into marriage. The U.S. government considers forced marriage to be a violation of basic human rights and in the case of minors, a form of child abuse. Forced marriage is defined as one in which one or both parties have not consented to the marriage (or are incapable of providing meaningful consent), and differs from arranged marriage. Often, victims of forced marriage are subjected to non-consensual sex, physical and emotional abuse, and isolation. Individuals who refuse a forced marriage may be threatened with violence or with being disowned by their families, who also often confiscate their belongings (including passports). In such situations, the U.S. Embassy may be able to replace stolen or wrongfully retained passports and identify resources for return travel to the United States.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Afghan law protects the rights of persons with disabilities, but the provisions are not implemented in practice. Persons with disabilities face limited access to transportation, public buildings, hotels, and communication accommodations. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack elevators.
Banking: Access to banking facilities in Afghanistan is limited and unreliable. The economy generally operates on a cash-only basis, though the use of credit cards is becoming more common in larger cities. ATMs are available in major cities, but U.S. banks often deny transactions from Afghanistan unless a traveler provides advanced notice of the transaction. International wire transfers options are limited.
Customs: Afghan customs authorities generally enforce strict regulations on the import/export of certain goods such as alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medication, precious stones and metals, and printed materials. U.S. citizen travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. Specific information on customs requirements is available from the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington or the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
Weapons/Firearms: U.S. citizens, including security contractors and military personnel, should carefully review Afghan import/export restrictions on weapons, firearms, and ammunition, including antique or display models. It is also important to review the regulations of any country through which you may transit, as many countries have strict rules prohibiting these items, even in checked luggage. Consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for information on traveling with such items into or out of the United States.
Basic medical care is available in major Afghan cities but is limited in rural areas. Facilities vary in quality and range of services, and are generally below U.S. standards. Doctors and hospitals often require cash prepayment for services. Ambulances are few, lack medical equipment, and are not necessarily staffed by medical personnel. Western-style private clinics can be found in Kabul offering a variety of basic emergency and routine preventative-type care, but their hours are limited and such facilities may not be suitable for complex trauma cases or severe medical emergencies. Individuals without licenses or medical degrees operate private clinics, and there is no public agency that monitors their operations. A list of Medical Clinics in Afghanistan is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
Travelers are strongly urged to obtain sufficient supplies of prescription and commonly used over-the-counter medications prior to arrival. Many U.S. -brand medications are not available in Afghanistan. Travelers should be alert that many pharmaceuticals found in Afghanistan are counterfeits, and the quality of locally-produced medications is uneven.
Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan will cover you outside of the United States, and specifically covers care when you are in Afghanistan, as many insurance companies consider the country to be an active warzone and specifically exclude coverage for individuals residing or traveling here. Please also note that U.S. Medicare does not pay overseas. U.S. citizens are strongly recommended to obtain supplemental medical evacuation insurance as medical transport out of Afghanistan can be prohibitively expensive. When selecting medical evacuation provider, be sure to confirm that the company offers such services in Afghanistan, and obtain a list of clinics and hospitals that may be used as a medical evacuation point. Please note that the U.S. Embassy cannot pay your medical bills.
Vaccinations: You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions in Afghanistan on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: Road conditions in Afghanistan are generally poor. Many urban streets in Afghanistan have large potholes and are not well lit, and rural roads are frequently not paved. There have also been reports of cave-ins and erosion on the Ring Road (the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat-Mazar highway). Vehicles are often poorly maintained and overloaded. Traffic laws are often not enforced, and roadside assistance is non-existent. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and drivers must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals. With congested roads, non-standard traffic patterns, 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. Owners of vehicles with tinted windows can be arrested. Please see the Department of State’s additional information on Road Safety.
U.S. citizens should also be aware that land mines and large quantities of unexploded ordnance exist throughout the countryside and along roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robberies and kidnappings are also prevalent on the roads outside Kabul.
Aviation Safety 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 aviation safety standards. Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Afghanistan, the FAA has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.