Iranian visas used to be easy: you would get an authorisation code from a tour operator, go to the embassy, and get a visa. These days, things are a bit more complicated. While some passports are visa-free and many can get visa on arrival at the airport, applying at the embassy has been complicated with the malfunctioning e-visa system.
Since the US sanctions of November 2018, some embassies have started doling out rejections.
Only a limited number of countries can come visa-free.
Citizens of the following countries can enter Iran without a visa. This rule is definitely followed at the airport, but it is not clear if it also counts at land borders. Updates welcome here.
1 – if arriving by air directly from Damascus
All tourists, may stay on Kish Island or Qeshm Island for 14 days or less without obtaining any visa, except citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Iraq (can visit Kish island without visa), Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States.1 – if arriving by air directly from Damascus
Visa on arrival
Visa on arrival is issued in all Iranian airports. There is always a slight risk of being rejected, but it is a very slight risk nowadays. Reports are welcome in our Iran VOA forum thread.
Although you can only arrive by airplane, you can leave at any land or sea border with the visa on arrival.
You do not need the visa authorisation code for a visa on arrival. Just arrive at the airport, pay, and you are on your way.
The standard visa on arrival is valid for 30 days, but we know of at least 3 travelers who have gotten 60 days on arrival. Do not count on this as a rule, though. Just ask politely. If you put less days on your application form you might get less than 30 days based on your itinerary. Fill in the full 30 days.
You no longer need to apply through the e-visa site at least 2 days in advance to present the submission notice at the visa desk in the airport. Although it does seem to help you get processed faster on arrival. No need to wait for anything from the system, just print the confirmation and fly!
- Everyone can get an Iran visa on arrival except for nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Somalia, Israel, UK & US.
- The visa on arrival is issued free of charge for citizens of Lebanon.
- You can exit Iran through a land border with a visa on arrival.
- Getting 2 visa on arrivals on the same passport is not a problem should you return to Iran at a later date.
When arriving at the airport, you will be asked to buy a health insurance policy if you cannot produce evidence of already having one (per person 18$ / 14 Euro) at one counter and then on the second counter, the Iranian visa will be issued as soon as the fee is paid. The fee is the same as you would pay in your embassy (see price list above). You can pay in Euro or dollar. The process will take 30-90 minutes.
Your insurance paper needs to explicitly state the word Iran on it, not just worldwide.
Applicants must no longer have an onward air ticket. However, the airline you’re flying with can still require it! Air Asia has a different policy from everyone else: onward flight ticket required, visa only valid for 28 days (no flights currently, though).
You also don’t need a ID picture anymore, but take one just in case. Before, visa on arrival seemed like tricky business, with some people reporting being sent back, but having followed up on this closely since 2014, we haven’t noticed such a thing. You should be fine.
You need 2 free pages in your passport for your Iran visa, but these do not need to be consecutive for a visa on arrival.
Also at land borders?
Visa on arrival is officially only for airports, not for land borders. In the past, at the Armenian border, a number of Western Europeans got a visa on arrival for 50$. However, this loophole has now closed.
In case you still want to try: the number of the consul who works at the border is 00989102004795 – Office number: 00984142086225. His name is Mr Amiri, he also works at the Tabriz airport. Reports are collected here.
PS: If your nationality is visa-free at the airport but not at a land border, Mr Amiri can still help you.
Tourist visa via embassy
If you are not eligible for the visa-free regime or the visa on arrival scheme, you will need to go the old-fashioned route: applying for a tourist visa at an Iranian embassy.
3 months from the day you receive it. This means you have to enter the country within 3 months from receiving it. So, you can enter the day before the visa expires, and then still enjoy Iran for as long as your visa duration states (10 days, 30 days, …).
30, 60 or 90 days (but you can extend easily). 30 days is the standard, but some embassies are willing to give more. You can ask.
Authorisation code/LOI (letter of invitation)
To apply for an Iranian visa at the embassy, you first need a visa authorisation code from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can contact a reliable Iranian travel agency through our contact form to get an Iran LOI with visa authorisation code (with discount!).
If you choose to get it through another travel agent, make sure it is not iranianvisa(dot)com! You will get nothing. Just google iranianvisa(dot)com scam for proof.
An “e-visa” system has been put in place since January 2017, that allows travelers to get their authorisation code without going through a tour operator. You still need to visit the embassy to apply and to pick up your visa though.
In short, it is not a real e-visa. Instead, it is a way to get the authorisation code needed to apply for your Iran visa without the help of a tour operator.
There have been a lot of issues with the e-visa. We recommend still using a tour operator if you want to be sure you will get your visa in time. It’s more expensive, but your application will not get stuck and has a very slight chance of rejection.
Issue 1: Application gets stuck
5 to 10 days after your application, it should be approved and you should be able go to the embassy with your reference number. However, a lot of people don’t get a reply within this term. Nothing is happening, your application is stuck.
The problem here is that, once you have applied through the e-visa system, it is difficult to cancel your application and try again through a tour operator. In short, you are stuck, with no way of getting a visa except taking a flight and getting a visa on arrival.
- Go to an embassy and ask them to cancel your application, so you can apply again through a tour operator. This has worked for some.
- Ask embassy staff to inquire about your application in Tehran and move it along quicker. This has also worked for some.
- Others have reported being able to get the visa at the embassy without getting a notification e-mail. Even after one day the embassy should be able to process your request, according to the Viennese embassy.
Issue 2: Rejections
Since late 2018, a lot of people have been getting rejected through the e-visa system. Does it have to do with the new US sanctions? In any case, if you get rejected, you can still apply again with an LOI of a tour operator or get a visa on arrival by flying in.
Visa application procedure
1. Contact an Iranian tour operator or try the e-visa system. Send them your paperwork and some money, and they will give you a visa authorisation number from the MFA. 1-3 days is average with the tour operator, with the e-visa system reports are all over the place: from 3 days to 3 weeks to never. The number is only valid for the embassy you specify in the application.
2. Go to the embassy (perhaps call in advance to make sure they got the number from the MFA as well, delays do happen), fill in the application form with 1-4 passport-sized pictures (women sometimes need to wear a headscarf on the picture!) and get the visa, usually same day or next day. On the application form, you need to fill in an address in Iran: any hotel will do, no need to book it in advance (unless otherwise specified in the embassy reports). Some embassies ask for an itinerary as well, so make sure you have a basic map of Iran in your head.
Some helpful tips:
Get the paperwork right
While we don’t advocate lying on your application form, try to avoid unnecessary complications.
- Self-driving or cycling is no longer allowed by the agencies, but you will have no problems getting in at the border with your car, motorbike or bicycle. So when applying for the authorization code, if you mention you are self-driving or cycling, you will be asked to get a tour. If you do not mention it, you will get the authorization code and visa without problems and will be able to enter Iran easily on your bike, car or motorbike. Same goes for hitchhikers to a lesser degree.
- Purpose of your visit: tourism.
- Photographs: women often need to cover their hair (any scarf will do) in the application photo. But nowadays many embassies are lenient – see embassy reports for details.
- Not all times are auspicious for traveling to Iran. In the past, it has been difficult to get a visa during election times.
- If you are from a difficult country like for instance South Africa, you will need a host of papers: blood tests, employee letters, etc. If you apply on the road however, there’s a good chance that none of that is necessary.
- That if your application is rejected once, you will never be able to get a visa. Trying another embassy, going for the visa on arrival or using an agency can work.
- That visa agencies will always be able to get you an approval number in 7-10 days. Generally, yes, but sometimes, they are subject to the mysteries of the ministry too.
- Equally, don’t believe you’ve been conned if your visa doesn’t turn up in time or is rejected. There’s nothing to be gained for agencies by slowing the process or just taking your money without performing the service. If you have used iranianvisa.com however, you are likely to have been conned. They are notoriously bad.
Iran maintains different prices for different nations, depending on how much they like your government. Here is an incomplete overview to give you a direction.
Prices below are for the 30-day visa. Price for the new 60-day visa seem to be around 40% higher.
- UK: 200 euro
- Spanish: 75 euro
- Australian: 100 – 180 euro
- Japanese: 20-75 euro
- Korean: 40 euro
- Finnish: 40 euro
- French, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Irish, Czech, Slovak, German, Belgian, … : 50 euro
- Swiss: 75 euro
- Mexican: 45 euro
- Belarusian: 12 euro
- Ukraine: 55 euro
- Kazakh: 30 euro
- New Zealand: 100 euro
Visa for political foes + unwanted stamps
Americans, British & Canadians
In February 2017, Americans were banned from visiting Iran. The ban ended May 30, 2017.
Americans, Canadians and British passport holders need to be accompanied by an MFA-approved guide while they are in Iran and have an exact itinerary. Some embassies hassle travelers with extra requirements for these nationalities (eg. Bishkek) – try to find out in advance.
Is it possible to travel in Iran as a national of these countries without paying for a full tour of Iran? A hitchhikers website used to recommend an agency that issued invitations without the need for a full tour. This was obviously not legal and the agency has closed down since November 2016.
A third option would be to apply not for a tourist visa, but for a pilgrimage visa. At least one British passport holder (looking reasonably Muslim-y) has taken this route succesfully.
A fourth option would be to find an Iranian contact willing to spend a day waiting around the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran to fill out the paperwork to issue you an invitation. It is a big pain for them but Iranians love visitors so much that they are usually happy to do this (they are used to wasting a lot of time with bureaucracy anyway). Be prepared to do the same for them in your country, though!
US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Turnaround times can be as short as a week, but the interest section does not reliably answer emails or phone calls.
For a while, ABC-tourists were also not allowed to drive their own car in Iran, even when accompanied with a guide. This restriction has been lifted since 2019.
Israelis + Israeli passport stamps
Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel (without double nationality, see below).
For travelers with evidence of visiting Israel in their passport: it used to be a problem. Then, for a few years, people managed to travel hassle-free to Iran with Israel border stamps in their passport.
However, since November 2018, at least one traveler was refused a visa at the Tbilisi embassy because of an Israeli passport stamp. Updates regarding Israeli stamps for Iran are welcome.
Dual passport holders
If you have an unwanted passport (US, Israel, …) but also hold another passport, it is not a problem to enter Iran on your other passport. All questions and reports welcome in the dual passport to Iran forum Q&A.
It also does not matter if your passport says you were born in the US, Israel, …
Dual nationality for Iranians
If you are Iranian but have a dual nationality, make sure you have an Iranian passport valid for the duration of your visit, or the Iranian government will take your other passport until you have gotten a new Iranian passport.
If your dual nationality is British, Canadian or American, the chances are higher than usual that you will be arrested for espionage.
If you are a man who is of military service age, be aware of the current laws regarding military service in Iran for dual nationals.
Traveling to USA after visiting Iran
If your nationality grants you visa-free travel to the US, you will have to apply for a visa if you have visited Iran after 2011. All questions regarding this rule welcome in the US travel after Iran forum thread.
Visa extensions and visa runs
You can extend your Iranian visa by its original duration twice. This means a 30-day visa with 2 extensions gives you 90 days in Iran. For all further information, including summarized extension reports from different cities in Iran, see Iran visa extensions.
Once you finished your extensions, you need to do a visa run. As far as we know, there is no limit to the amount of times you can exit and re-enter Iran and there is no set amount o
May 2018: No need for photos, insurance, scans neither asking in advance for invitation letter. Just passport and bank paper.
September 2017: Multiple-entry visa not possible for tourists, 1 week turnaround. Express visa possible for 50$ extra.
May 2017: 1 week turnaround.
August 2016: 1 week turnaround, express service is next opening day. Require insurance policy, passport photo, passport photocopy & of course your reference number.
f time you need to be outside of the country before you can enter again. Reports and questions welcome in the visa runs forum thread.
Since late 2018, visa rejections have once again become a thing. Not only for the e-visa, but for the visa at the embassy as well. People have reported to get a visa on arrival after being rejected at the embassy, so the visa rejection seems to be completely embassy-specific and not coming from Tehran or recorded in some type of database.
If you have questions or reports surrounding your rejection, they are welcome in the Iran visa rejection forum thread,
Read and post reports about Iranian embassies in the following forum threads.
- Hong Kong
- The Hague