Getting a visa for Iran used to be a time-consuming and complicated process. Not anymore! During the past few years with a boost in tourism, Iran has been making it relatively easy for travelers to apply from a tourist visa and has also extended the visa duration from 2 weeks to 30 days.
Following Trump’s travel ban, The Iranian government also started issuing visa’s on a piece of paper rather on passports. As for now, you won’t be getting any visa stamps on your passport upon getting an Iran visa.
Do I need a visa for Iran?
Unless you’re from one of the countries listed below, you’d need to get a visa to travel to Iran. The listed nationalities will only need to have a 6-month valid passport in order to enter Iran visa-free. Having travel insurance is also not mandatory.
- Armenia for 90 days within 180 days of each visit
- Azerbaijan for 30 days
- Bolivia for 30 days
- China for 15 days
- Egypt for 30 days
- Georgia for 45 days
- Lebanon for 30 days
- Malaysia for 15 days
- Oman for 30 days
- Syria for 90 days within 180 days of each visit (only via direct flights from Damascus)
- Turkey for 90 days
- Venezuela for 15 days
ATTENTION! All nationalities except US, UK, Colombia, Jordan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Somalia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan can enter the free trade zones of Kish island, Qeshm island, Chabahar, Maku, Arvand, Aras and Anzali without a visa and stay for no more than 14 days.
This is most practical for expats living in the Persian Gulf region who’d like to visit Kish for a break.
Who can get a visa for Iran?
Apart from citizens of Israel who are banned from traveling to Iran, everyone else is pretty much eligible for an Iran visa.
There’s are a widespread rumor that people who have visited Israel before are not allowed to enter Iran. That’s not completely true. According to the foreign ministry, your current passport should not have any stamps showing that you’ve traveled to Israel. If you’ve traveled to Israel with no stamps or you have a new passport, you’ll get away with it. This is kind of a blurry line as I’ve also witnessed people with Israeli stamps to be allowed entry, but you’d probably want to avoid it.
Can Americans travel to Iran?
Yes! Americans can totally travel to Iran but they are required to join a tour that’s guided by a government certified tour guide and has a pre-fixed itinerary and accommodation. As an American, you can have an agency to arrange a private tour and itinerary according to your taste but you’d still be accompanied with a guide at all times and you can’t really make spontaneous decisions along the way.
Intrepid and Pasargad agency in Iran are both excellent choices. The latter will end up cheaper as you won’t be paying double commissions. But they’ve super professional and they’ve been handling American tours for decades.
Your visa to Iran will be totally arranged by the agency of your choice and it might take up to 2 months. There is no other way that Americans can apply for a visa.
Iran visa procedure for UK citizens and Canadians
British and Canadians are entitled to pretty much the same procedure as the Americans. They have to join a guided tour. The only difference is that the observation is slightly looser.
As UK citizens and Canadians, you’ll get free time to wander on your own and some agencies accept for you to come in a day ahead of the tour or stay a day longer without having to be with a guide. You would still have to stay at accommodations pre-arranged by the agency. But the extra free day and free time during the tour allow you to join daily tours and have a better chance of communicating with the Iranian people.
The visa process for them is exactly as the Americans and it’s will all be arranged by the agency of your choice.
How to apply for an Iran visa
There are 2 ways to apply for a tourist visa to Iran:
#1 Iran visa on arrival
Who can get Iran visa on arrival?
Iran visa on arrival is issued for all tourists holding normal passports apart from the citizens of the USA, UK, Canada, Colombia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. VOA is valid for 30 days and can be extended twice for 30 days each.
Who CANNOT get Iran visa on arrival?
- Visa on arrival for Iran is not issued at land borders, so if that’s how you’re entering Iran, make sure you’ve already got your visa in advance.
- If you’ve been rejected entry to Iran before, do not apply for a visa on arrival.
- Journalists and reporters should get a visa in advance as there’s a big chance of getting rejected at the airport.
What are the required documents for VOA?
- A valid passport with 6 months validity
- Confirmed return ticket
- A photo to be used on your visa (no headscarves needed)
- Hotel reservation voucher for your first night in Iran (if you’re staying at a friend make sure you have their contact details as they might call up and check)
- Travel insurance – Your insurance must clearly indicate that it covers Iran, worldwide or Middle East won’t be accepted. Just have your company to send you a new copy of their policy with a clear statement if it’s not already mentioned in what you have. Otherwise, you’d have to buy travel insurance at the airport which costs:
- 1 to 31 days: 14€
- 32 to 45 days: 23€
- 46 to 62 days: 28€
- 63 to 92 days: 34€
If you don’t have travel insurance that covers Iran, we suggest buying one in advance from 1stQuest and avoiding the process at the airport.
- Cash – It can vary from 40€ to 150€ depending on your nationality and you pay only in Euros of USD. Check out the list below to find out how much you must pay:
How does it work?
Getting a VOA is fairly simple. You can apply for it in one of the following airports in Iran:
- Imam Khomeini International Airport (Tehran)
- Bandar Abbas International Airport (Bandar Abbas)
- Isfahan International Airport (Isfahan)
- Kish International Airport (Kish Island)
- Mashhad International Airport (Mashad)
- Qeshm international Airport (Qeshm Island)
- Shiraz International Airport (Shiraz)
- Tabriz International Airport (Tabriz)
Once you arrive at the airport look for the visa counter where you’ll be handed a form to complete with your basic information and another for your visa fee. You fill the form and you’re directed to the bank where you will pay the visa fee and receive a receipt. You then walk back to the visa counter and hand in your form, receipt, and passport. After this, you just have to be patient and wait for your name to be called which can sometimes take up to a few hours.
After that, you’re done.
Congratulations! Your visa to Iran is ready!
#2 Getting Iran E-Visa and authorization code in advance
There are 2 ways you could apply for an E-visa: either through the website of the ministry of foreign affairs or through an agency in Iran like 1stQuest. I’d highly suggest the latter as it’s much faster and there’s less risk of rejection. Many people who’ve applied through the MFA have reported around 30 days wait to get their authorization code and there tends to be a 20% bigger chance of rejection.
So what’s an authorization code you may ask? It’s basically a number that proves you have been given a visa and with which you can pick up your visa at either one of the main airports in Iran or at an Iranian embassy. You just have to mention where you will be collecting it once you apply.
Getting an authorization code through 1stQuest takes only 1-3 working days and there’s a minimum chance of rejection.
So how does the E-Visa work?
You just fill in the application on 1stQuest, upload a photo and a scan of your passport and take care of the costs. You will then have to wait a few days to receive the code. Once you get it, you’re good to pick it up. In case you’re picking up your visa at the embassy just call them a day ahead to check if they’ve got your visa and make sure you have the original documents to present either at the embassy or the airport.
Please take note that nationalities such Afghanistan are not eligible to pick up their visa at the airport and they should do it at the embassy.
When to apply for E-visa/authorization code?
Your authorization code is valid for 30 days and it’s recommended to start the process 3-4 weeks ahead of your departure.
Why getting an E-visa is your safest option?
- You won’t have any issues entering Iran through the land border.
- There’s no need to wait for a couple of hours to get a visa on arrival.
- There’s no risk of getting rejected at the airport and having to get a flight back home.
How to extend your visa in Iran?
You can extend your visa in Iran twice for 30 days each. To extend your visa, you must go to the police department of alien affairs. It’s recommended to do this at smaller cities like Yazd for a quicker process.
The Police Department of Alien Affairs is open Saturday to Wednesday from 7:30 am – 2 pm. Make sure you go early. There’s not much work done around noon.
What documents do you need to extend your Iran visa?
- 2 copies of your current visa (either the first one or the extended one)
- 2 passport photos
- Fee: 500,000 Rials at the moment (you’ll be directed to the closest Bank Melli to pay the fee and return the receipt)