The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of widespread terrorist and criminal activity. Militants associated with both the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) operate with relative impunity throughout large parts of the country, including Mogadishu, and attack civilian, military, and government targets. U.S. citizens should be aware that kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks and other violent incidents are common throughout Somalia, including Somaliland. There is no U.S. embassy presence in Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated January 11, 2017.
There is a particular terrorist threat in places where large crowds gather and Westerners frequent, including airports and seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas. Somali government, military, and Western convoys are also regularly targeted for attack. There have been numerous attacks on hotels, restaurants, and the international airport in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab has repeatedly attacked Mogadishu’s international airport complex with improvised vehicle bombs, mortars, and direct weapons fire. The group has conducted attacks from within the airport’s secure perimeter and detonated an explosive device hidden in a laptop on an airplane shortly after it took off from the airport on February 2, 2016.
ISIS’s demonstrated capabilities in Somalia have steadily increased since rising to public prominence in late 2015. Since that time, adherents based in Puntland claimed credit for a suicide bombing targeting regional security forces at a checkpoint in Bosasso, took responsibility for a raid at a popular hotel in that city, and conducted several other attacks against government officials in Puntland in the months prior. The group briefly occupied the coastal town of Qandala in late 2016.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) containing information on the U.S. prohibition against U.S. civil aviation operations in airspace over Somalia. For further background information regarding FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
U.S. citizens should avoid sailing near the coast of Somalia due to the risk of pirate attacks. Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational craft all risk seizure and detention by pirates in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia. See the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
For further information:
See our Fact Sheet on Somalia for information on U.S. - Somalia relations.
Requirements for Entry:
Visit the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations/Department of Immigration and Naturalization websites or the nearest Somali embassy or consulate for visa information. Direct visa inquiries for Somaliland and Puntland to the person/organization you will be visiting, as there is no office in Kenya to issue these visas.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Somalia.
See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Somalia.
The U.S. government cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Somalia. You will have to rely on your own resources or journey to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in an emergency.
Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia attack government authorities and facilities, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) personnel and bases, and civilian and non-governmental targets, including, but not limited to: hotels, restaurants, airports, seaports, and shopping areas. Inter-clan and factional violence is also a regular occurrence throughout Somalia.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qa’ida-affiliated foreign terrorist organization based in Somalia, has repeatedly attacked the Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport (MGQ) with mortars and other weapons such as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The group successfully breached the airport’s perimeter during an attack in December 2014 and has conducted attacks from within the airport’s perimeter since that incident. In February 2016, terrorist operatives detonated an explosive device concealed in a laptop on a commercial flight shortly after take-off.
Protests and civil unrest occur regularly throughout the country, including in the capital, often without advanced warning and sometimes turning violent. Such unrest has, at times, taken on an anti-American tone. Anti-Western attitudes are strong in some parts of Somalia. These attitudes may result in the violent harassment of foreigners, including U.S. citizens of Somali descent. U.S. citizens should:
Somalia - Kenya border: Cross-border violence occurs periodically, ranging from large-scale clashes between al-Shabaab government security forces and/or AMISOM troops, to kidnappings and grenade attacks on international aid workers. Dozens were reported killed in a recent al-Shabaab attack against a Kenyan military base in southern Somalia in late January 2017. The previous year, a similar assault killed nearly 160 Kenyan soldiers.
Crime: Violent crime such as kidnapping, bombings, indirect fire attacks, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, and illegal roadblocks by armed individuals in uniforms occur throughout Somalia, including the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault or domestic violence should contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya for assistance.
Report crimes to the local police nearest to you and contact the U.S. Embassy in Kenya at (+254) (20) 363-6000. The emergency number in Mogadishu is 888.
For further information:
See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. You may be taken in for questioning by the police if unable to produce an acceptable form of identification. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long prison sentences and heavy fines.
There is no organized system of criminal justice, nor is there any recognized or established authority to administer a uniform application of due process. Enforcement of criminal laws is, therefore, haphazard to nonexistent. Locally established courts operate under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic Shari'a law, some of which may be hostile towards foreigners.
Arrest Notifications: If arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy in Kenya immediately. Due to the absence of a U.S. diplomatic mission in Somalia, such notification is unlikely. Our ability to provide consular services is severely restricted as a result of ongoing security concerns. Furthermore, dual U.S. - Somali citizens are recognized as Somali citizens by authorities which impedes our ability to provide any consular assistance. See our webpage for further information.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Water, health, and electricity systems are poor.
Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and key infrastructure such as airports and border controls. You could be detained or arrested, fined, and have your equipment confiscated. Do not take photos of people without their permission.
Phone Service: Cellular phones are used extensively. SIM cards can be purchased locally and used with a compatible cell phone.
Currency: The Somali shilling is the unit of currency except in Somaliland, which uses the Somaliland shilling. U.S. dollars are accepted. We would not encourage using your credit card in Somalia, even if accepted. It is not possible to obtain currency advances against a credit card. Credit cards and traveler's checks are generally not accepted, and there are only a very limited number of ATMs in Mogadishu.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
LGBTI Travelers: Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by imprisonment from three months to three years. Antidiscrimination provisions do not apply to LGBTI individuals. Society considers sexual orientation a taboo topic, and so there is no known public discussion of this issue in any region. Severe societal stigma typically prevents LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation publicly known.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Access to transportation, lodging, and public buildings is limited. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators.
Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips. We are aware of allegations that some boarding schools in Somalia engage in abusive practices such as corporal punishment, physical restraint, and confiscation of travel documents.
Women Travelers: There are no laws against spousal violence, including rape. There are documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of displaced women and members of minority clans. Authorities rarely use formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffer from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.” Domestic and sexual violence against women remain serious problems despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C is almost universally practiced throughout the country. Up to 98 percent of women and girls have reportedly undergone FGM/C, primarily between the ages of 5-14 years.
Consult the CDC website for Somalia prior to travel.
Medical care and services are extremely limited. Medicines are in short supply and many pharmacies stock ineffective or counterfeit medications. Most care providers expect payment in U.S. dollars/Somali shillings prior to treatment.
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 (our webpage) to cover medical evacuation.
Carry personal supplies of medications. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
Malaria is endemic. Use CDC recommended mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR-3535. Sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended for all travelers, even for short stays.
Food-borne and water-borne illnesses are common.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Road Conditions and Safety: Road conditions are poor. Night driving is particularly dangerous due to the absence of lighting. Other risks include:
Refer to 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 Somalia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Somalia’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.
The FAA has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) containing information on the U.S. prohibition against U.S. civil aviation operations in airspace over Somalia. For background information and advisories consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.
Maritime Travel: Recreational vessels should avoid the region. Consult the International Maritime Bureau's Live Piracy Report for information. See also www.marad.dot.gov/msci, https://homeport.uscg.mil/, and https://msi.nga.mil/NGAPortal/MSI.portal.
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND MAY NOT BE TOTALLY ACCURATE IN A SPECIFIC CASE. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THE APPROPRIATE FOREIGN AUTHORITIES OR FOREIGN COUNSEL.
While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent. Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:
The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.
To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.
For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney.
Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.
For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.
Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.
Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.
Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.
Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).
Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.
Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.
Unavailable. Although the United States formally recognized the new government of Somalia on January 17, 2013, there continues to be no recognized competent civil authority to issue civil documents. The Government of Somalia ceased to exist in December of 1990, and the country underwent a destructive and brutal civil war, in the course of which most records were destroyed. Those few records not destroyed are in the hands of private individuals or are otherwise not retrievable. There are no circumstances under which immigrant visa applicants can reasonably be expected to recover original documents held by the former government of Somalia.
Unavailable. Please instead submit an affidavit of birth per 9 FAM 201.2-4.
Unavailable. Please instead submit an affidavit of death per 9 FAM 201.2-4.
Unavailable. Please instead submit an affidavit of marriage per 9 FAM 504.4-4(F).
Unavailable. Please instead submit an affidavit of divorce per 9 FAM 504.4-4(F).
Unavailable. If an applicant has refugee status in another country, please submit copies of refugee or asylee documents. Examples include: 1) Government of Kenya Refugee Certificate or Alien Card or 2) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identification (often called the "UNHCR Mandate") 3) Government of Kenya/UNHCR Proof of Registration for refugees, 4) Ugandan Asylum Seeker/Family Attestation Certificate or Ugandan Refugee Identity Card.
The Department has determined that Somali passports are not valid for visa-issuance purposes. Most immigrant visa beneficiaries will not be required to present a passport under the various subsections of 22 CFR 42.2 and will be issued visas using Form DS-232 per 9 FAM 9 FAM 504.10-3(B)(2). Diversity visas for Somalis may require individual passport waivers per 22 CFR 42.2(g) and will be issued using Form DS-232 per 9 FAM 9 FAM 504.10-3(B)(2). Somali nonimmigrant visa beneficiaries, including K1 visa recipients, will also require a passport waiver per guidance in 9 FAM 9 FAM 403.9-6(B).
Mogadishu (Embassy) - No visa services
IV and NIV cases for nationals of Somalia are processed by the Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.