Issued for up to 30 days., it is extendable and must be granted before travelling.
There are two ways to obtain tourist visa.
- Do It Yourself:
You can go directly through a consulate, which saves you some amount but takes at least three weeks or longer. You can download and fill out the application form in your home country; Then send the forms, passport, photos, fee and proof of your travel insurance to the embassy. Your documents will be sent to Tehrān for approval. You will be contacted, few weeks later. In rare cases this process can take just a few days.
- Use an Agency Visa:
In most cases you fill out an electronic form with details of your itinerary and where you’d like to collect your visa, attach digital copies of photo and passport, and the agency sends these to Tehrān. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced that it takes between 5 to 10 working days to assess the application. There is no refund if your application fails, but few are rejected. Once the authorization number is received, the agency will forward it and you are asked to call the Iranian embassy/consulate. You need to go through the application process as a formality. In most consulates the visa is issued on the spot.
If you’re British, Canadian or American, the process is slower and costlier. The Iranian Embassy in London will often hold an interview and requests fingerprints from British applicants. For US citizens, three months is needed.
Tourist visa requires passport, application form, four passport-sized photos, and reference number issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehrān.
Extending a tourist visa is very easy and can be done in most cities. As it is very time consuming in Tehrān, applying for visa extension is recommended in other cities. Extending a visa for second time requires the passport to be sent to a department in Tehrān (no matter where you are applying) and thus takes longer than the first time.
Although it has become easier to get a tourist visa in recent years, whether the process takes one day or one month depends on your nationality. Please apply to the Iranian embassy in your own country at least three months before your departure, but it is one month in other countries, with varying degrees of difficulty. Women need to make sure they are wearing the Hijab or a head scarf in their submitted passport-sized photos.
Tourist Visa on Arrival (VOA)
Iran usually issues 30-day tourist visas on arrival (Airport Visa) for people from about 65 countries, including most European, Asian, Arab Gulf and Central Asian countries, several South American countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Notable absentees are Britain, Canada and the USA.
Tourist visas are available at all international airports, but it is recommended to fly for Tehrān’s Imam Khomeini International Airport to avoid possible problems. At the time of writing, to obtain the visa on arrival the following were required:
- Insurance documents in advance, otherwise you may purchase insurance at the airport;
- Insurance can be purchased (US$16); it is strongly recommended that you purchase insurance before the visa process;
- Hotel reservation documents
- For most Western nationalities, the fee is €75 (Australians pay €145) or the equivalent US dollar. Visa fees can be paid in both Euros or US dollars.
Issued for five to seven days. Transit visas are not available to US passport holders. For other nationalities, the visa can be granted in one or two days and no authorization number is required.
Who Needs a Visa?
Passport-holders from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia and Turkey get a three-month tourist visa on arrival. Everyone else needs to arrange a visa in advance or seek a 30-day visa on arrival at an airport. Contrary to popular misconception, US citizens are welcome. Israeli passport holders, and anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport (or exit stamps at the relevant Jordanian or Egyptian border crossings into Israel), will not get a visa.
For US Citizens
US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. However, US citizens must have an MFA-approved guide for the entire trip and detailed itinerary. This includes entering Iran from any border. Friendly tour guides will follow up the process, and help you to set up an itinerary for you.
To get the visa, US citizens should communicate with an Iranian travel agency in advance, to set up a guided itinerary; The travel agency may apply for a visa authorization number to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once approved, the authorization number is issued to the interest section. Then the applicant applies for the visa. The interest section does not reply emails or phone calls.
Good news: there is usually little difficulty in extending a 30-day tourist visa to 60 days. It’s possible, but harder,
to extend up to a maximum of 90 days. The following summary includes the extension procedure and is subject ed to change.
Choose Your City
If you want a long extension, it is better to plan your itinerary to be somewhere friendly when the extension is needed. In general, cities familiar with tourists are best: Shirāz and Isfahān have been the cities of choice for years, with good background. Second options include Kermān, Yazd and Tabriz, but these cities don’t always issue the full 30-day extension.
Head for the Police Department of Aliens Affairs (Edareh Gozarnameh) is the alternative name for the Passport & Immigration Police by the time you arrive. You’ll need:
- Your passport and two or three Photos;
- Two copies of your passport, your current visa, entry stamp and other extensions you’ve had (most offices provide photocopy service)
- The extension fee is approx. IR 500,000 and subject to change.
Timing & Overstaying
In theory, you can only apply for an extension two or three days before the visa is to expired. The extension starts on the day it’s issued, not the end of your original visa. Check the Persian calendar so as to know exactly when your visa expires.
In case of any health problem, a doctor’s note on official stationery is required, stating your inability to obtain a quasi-extension at the border, or be used for a short extension in the nearest Aliens Bureau.
Timing for Visa
In order to make sure, start applying visa at least two months before you plan to travel. Some nationalities can get a visa on arrival in the airport.
The vast majority of people obtain a visa within two or three weeks. But it reasonable to apply sooner.
US citizens should be aware that Iran has periodically limited US citizens to obtain visas, most recently after US restrictions on barring immigrants from Iran and six other Muslim countries.
Types of visa: Transit, Business, Tourist and Journalist. The fee varies based on the applicant nationality.
All visa applicants, except for transit visas must be ‘approved’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Tehrān.
If you’re approved, the MFA sends an authorization number to the consulate, which studies your application document to issue the visa. Fees vary depending on your country of origin; Visit the Iranian embassy website.
Transit visa is cheaper than tourist visa, since it doesn’t require approval from Tehrān authorities. The duration is about seven days.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Assuming you have a visa, most immigration and border officials are efficient and tourists rarely get too much hassle. Land borders can take longer if you’re on a bus or train. Women need to be adequately covered from the moment they get off the plane or arrive at the border. Arriving without a visa is risky, as the visa-on-arrival process sees a lot of people rejected.
Contrary to popular belief, Iranian formalities are fairly relaxed about what foreigners are carrying. You are allowed to import duty-free, 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars, and a ‘reasonable quantity’ of perfume.
You’ll probably allowed with any book.
You should have no trouble bringing in your laptop, smartphone, shortwave radio, iPad and video equipment. Visitors are supposed to declare cash worth more than US$1000.
Officially, you can take out anything you legally imported into Iran, and anything you bought, including handicrafts other than rugs up to the value of US$160, as long as they are not for ‘the purpose of trade’. Many traders will undervalue goods on receipts issued to foreigners. A ‘reasonable number’ of rugs can be exported with no limit on value.
You can also take out 150g of gold and 3kg of silver, without gemstones. If you want to exceed these limits, you will need an export permit from a customs office. Officially you need permission to export anything ‘antique’ (i.e. more than 50 years old), including handicrafts, gemstones and coins.
Planning a Trip Before You Go
One of the main considerations when planning a trip to Iran is whether to travel independently, take a tour or do a bit of both.
- Drivers & Guides
Using drivers and guides are cheaper and more flexible option for group tours and plenty peoples recommend this way of travelling.
- Individual Travel
The advantages of independent travel in Iran is more than its disadvantages. It’s easier as a man or as part of a couple than as a woman, but is eminently possible regardless of your sex. Air, rail and bus transport is efficient and safe, sights are cheap and enough people speak English, or are willing to help, that it’s hard to get into trouble.
- Traveling with a Group
Nearly all Iran tours start and finish in Tehran, with a quick look around the capital before concentrating on the must-sees: Shiraz and Persepolis, Isfahan and Yazd are next destinations. There are plenty of other itineraries, and agencies will happily build a trip to suit your interests. Costs depend on length, mode of transport, type of accommodation and the exchange rate. Expect to pay in Dollars or Euros. Iranian tour guides are generally very good so you can expect comprehensive explanations of sights and cultural happenings, and answers to all your questions. Best of all, they act as a translator when you meet locals..
Arriving in Destination
Imam Khomeini International Airport, Tehran
Mehr-Abad International Airport
Isfahan International Airport (Shahid Beheshti Airport)
Kish International Airport
Mashhad International Airport (Shahid Hashemi- Nejad Airport)
Shiraz International Airport (Shahid Dast-Gheib Airport)
Tabriz International Airport (Shahid Madani Airport)