How do I get a visa to travel to Iran?
When you make your decision to travel to Iran, you might find it difficult to get an Iranian visa. The process seems slow and unpredictable with its confusing rules. But with our tips, you can easily get a visa within a short time and start planning your trip to Iran. Those who have traveled to Iran often contend that in practice, they had little trouble in obtaining a visa, though the procedure seemed more complex from the outside. The rules and regulations of obtaining a visa differ slightly based on your nationality. So read and you are sure to find the answer to your questions.
Who needs an Iranian visa?
Under the new visa requirement regulations, Citizens of Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt, and Syria can travel to Iran and stay there without a visa from 15 to 90 days. Everyone else needs to arrange a visa in advance or take a risk on getting a 30-day visa on arrival at an airport. Also, nationals of all countries are allowed to travel to free economic zones of Kish, Qeshm and Chabahar without a visa for stays of 14 days or less.
British, American and Canadian citizens are welcome, yet they cannot travel independently. They need to be on a tour or accompanied by a local guide. Nor are they awarded a visa on arrival. Due to the current political climate, Israeli passport holders will not get a visa. If you’ve got an Israeli entry stamp, there is a slight chance you may be refused entry to Iran.
It is important to know that your passport should be valid for six months beyond the length of stay and with at least three blank pages to enter Iran. If it is not, you should get a new one and then apply for your visa.
What kind of visa do you need to travel to Iran?
Generally, as a traveller you can get three visa types, which include Tourist visa, Tourist visa on arrival and Transit visa. With a touristic visa, you may not work; you are especially advised to refrain from any journalism-related activities. The process for obtaining a journalistic visa is separate and due to lack of space not explained here.
This option is best for those who wish to be safe and who have a set itinerary. Your visa is issued for up to 30 days and is extendable for another 30 days. It must be obtained before travelling to Iran and valid to enter for 90 days from the issue date. This is the safest option. You can go directly through Iran consulate in your country and apply for visa, which saves an agency fee but actually, it usually takes more than three weeks and is not always easy.
Are you in a rush?
If you wish to expedite the process, obtain an Authorisation Number (also called a Reference number) before-hand. Having this number means that the Iranian Foreign Ministry has given you permission to enter Iran. You can easily get this document through any an authorised Iranian-based travel agency. It usually takes four to five working days (a bit longer for American or British Passport-holders) to get your authorisation number, but once you’ve got it you just need to show up at your nominated Iranian consulate, fill in a form and present a passport photo (women must wear a headscarf in the photo) and finally get your visa.
How much does a tourist visa cost you?
The Iranian-based travel agency usually charges you for the obtainment of the Authorisation Number. This is not the fee for visa processing. The Iranian Foreign Ministry, i.e. the consulate that issues your visa, will charge that. The fee depends on your nationality and is between 30 to 120 dollars. Most Europeans countries are charged 50 Euros. Please consult the website of the consulate for up-to-date information and the documents you need to present (the recommendation here is 1stQuest.com). The websites also provide information on payment methods and directions for remote applications. As you get a visa label in your passport, you need to either hand in or mail your passport to the consulate. You need to include a return envelope if you opt to mail it.
How long does it take to issue a touristic visa?
In most consulates, with an Authorisation Number already obtained, the visa is issued on the spot (it usually takes about 30 minutes); alternatively, they might ask you to leave your passport and collect it in a few hours. Please note that holidays (Iranian or non-Iranian) might bring about a greater workload and hence prolong the process. If you are traveling overland and do not have a set date of entry into Iran, this is the best option for you. Most of those who hitchhike through Europe obtain this number and apply for their visa in say, Trabzon, Erzurum or Ankara, just imagining that you are coming from Turkey. In short, with an Authorisation Number, you can show up at any Iranian consulate and get your visa in a few hours. Please note that you must inform the travel agency your desired consulate.
Tourist Visa On Arrival (VOA)
Under the new visa requirement regulations, Tourist Visa on Arrival (VOA) is issued 30-day tourist visas on arrival at the airports of Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz to people from about 58 countries, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Germany, Austria, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Spain, Australia, Slovenia, Slovak, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ukraine, Italy, Ireland, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunet, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Romania, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, France, Palestine, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Croatia, South Korea, North Korea, Colombia, Cuba, Kuwait, Georgia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Poland, Malaysia, Hungary, Mongolia, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Venezuela, Vietnam, Netherlands, India, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Tourist visa on arrival can be extended for 15 days.
Please consult the website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry for the most recent changes.
Citizens of the USA, UK, Canada, Somali, Bangladesh, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan cannot obtain a visa upon their arrival in airports, and they are required to have the visa stamped in their passport in advance.
Instant visa is obtainable for tourists from the above-mentioned countries and it does not apply to those who hold official passports as well as businessmen and journalists.
There is no restriction for foreign tourists to obtain a visa upon their arrival at Iranian airports several times within a year.
The VOA is convenient but relatively risky as you might be denied entry. The process is exactly the same as before, except that the office of Foreign Ministry at say, IKA airport issues you an Authorization Number and then your visa. So there is no intermediary body to impede your application and it is instantaneous. It may take 30 minutes or more. Other than the processing fee which you pay in cash (in common international currencies like Euro and USD), we advise you to have a copy of your passport and a biometric photo, though you might not be asked to present any of them. As you can well imagine, this is one of the most convenient ways to enter Iran, but only available at select airports.
Transit visa is issued for five to seven days. You must enter and exit via different countries, and have a visa or a ticket to an onward country. An Iranian transit visa can be obtained in one or two days and, critically, no authorization number is required. It is not available to American, British or Canadian passport holders.
Applying for Iran Visa
1stQuest provides tourist visa for travellers to Iran. In order to apply for an Iranian Visa, you can easily fill Iran visa application form, also there is an online support waiting to help travellers.
Details you should include are: your nationality, trip duration and your preferred departure date(s).
Also for more information and visiting other services you may need, it is better to visit 1stQuest : Traveling to Iran.
Disclaimer: This post is brought to you by 1stQuest, all opinions are Travelling Weasels own as always.
We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same!