Tourist visas to Iran are getting easier and Iran is making a lot of progress, hoping to host 20 million visitors in 2025 with easy visa procedures.
Visa on arrival at the airport is possible for many and now extended to 30 days, while more countries are getting the visa-free treatment.
- Visa-free travel
- Visa on arrival
- Tourist visa via embassy
- Authorisation code/LOI (letter of invitation)
- Visa application procedure
- Visa for Americans, British and Canadians
- Visa extension
- Embassy reports
Iran is opening up and pondering visa-free travel for 60 countries in the near future. Until that time, only a limited number of countries can come visa-free.
Citizens of the following 8 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.
According to some news reports, Iran lifted visa requirements for citizens of Egypt and Lebanon in July 2015. All tourists eligible for visa on arrival may stay on Kish Island for 14 days or less without obtaining any visa.
Diplomatic and official/service passports
Holders of passports issued by the following countries are allowed to enter Iran without a visa.
D — diplomatic passports
O — official passports
S — service passports
All tourists, except citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia , India , Iraq , Jordan, Pakistan, Somalia, the UK and the US, may stay in Kish Island and Qeshm Island for 14 days or less without obtaining any visa.
Visa on arrival
Visa on arrival is issued in: Imam Khomeini (Tehran), Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz, Qeshm island & Kish island. There is always a slight risk of being rejected, but it is a very slight risk nowadays.
But beware! Since August 2017, to get a VOA at Tehran Imam Khomeini (IKA), you must apply through the e-visa site at least 2 days in advance and present the Submission notice at the visa desk on Arrival. Since February 2018, this rule has expanded to all airports of Iran.
No need to wait for anything from the system, just print the confirmation and fly! We should expect this to expand to the other airports in the near future. Reports are welcome in our Iran VOA forum thread.
- You do not need the visa authorisation code from a tour company for a visa on arrival.
- Changed since 1st of August 2016, you can now get an easy visa on arrival for 30 days instead of the previous 14.
- Everyone can get an Iran visa on arrival except for nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, UK & US.
- The Iran 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.
At the moment, the 30 days visa on arrival is only given out in Tehran (IKA). In the other cities giving VOA, one is only getting 14 or 15 days. This may change. Getting 2 visa on arrivals on the same passport is possible if you return to Iran at a later date. What this means for extensions for VOA (extra 30 days or 14?) is not clear yet in practice. Reports welcome!
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.
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.
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. However, at the Armenian border, a number of Western Europeans have gotten a visa on arrival for 50$. But only at this particular border, not any other land border. However, it seems this loophole has now closed. One person did not get it after 5 days of waiting, while another has reported everyone is being sent back to Yerevan now.
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 since May 2016 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,…).
Maximum 30 days (but you can extend easily).
Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel.
For travelers with any evidence of visiting Israel: it used to be a problem. Anecdotal evidence of travelers seems to indicate it is no longer an issue since 2017. Updates regarding Israeli stamps for Iran are welcome.
New rule for people visiting the US visa-free: if you have visited Iran in the past 5 years you will now have to get a visa again (which you may not get?).
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.
There are some options to get the visa without LOI: at the moment, The Hague, Kiev, and Milan embassies definitely do it. Visa on arrival at the airport also works without LOI.
A new “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 (see below) without the help of a tour operator.
Since its launch in January, we have had some reports of successful applications. For many, it does not work yet, though. Issues include: site is down, site is in Persian, embassy does not allow the e-visa and still needs the authorisation code from a tour operator, only residents can apply, the specifications for digital photographs are absurd, it takes weeks for the application to come through.
You can apply here, but understand that it will take an effort. Please let us know what happened if you applied through the e-visa site. Also note: while your application is in process at the e-visa site, you cannot apply for a new one through a tour operator.
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. How long this takes is unpredictable. 7-10 days is average with the tour operator, with the e-visa system it seems to take minimum 3 weeks. 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 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.
- Itinerary: if you want a 30-day visa, write a 30-day itinerary. Don’t mention controversial places like Bushehr, Natanz and border regions. Once in Iran you can go almost anywhere.
- 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 you can get a visa directly through the Iranian Foreign Ministry website. You can’t. The relevant page on the ministry’s website has been ‘under construction’ for several years.
- That if your application is rejected once, you will never be able to get a visa. It probably will stop you getting a visa on arrival, but trying another embassy or using an agency can work.
- That visa agencies will always be able to get you an approval number in 7-10 days. 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. Please let us know on the forum what you paid!
- UK: 180 – 270 euro
- Spanish: 75 euro
- Australian: 100 – 180 euro
- Japanese: 40-75 euro
- Korean: 40 euro
- Finnish: 40 euro
- French, Dutch, Polish, Swiss, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, German, Belgian,…: 60-75 euro (went up in fall 2016)
- Irish: 75€
- Mexican: 45€
- Belarussian: 12 euro
- Kazakh: 30 euro
- Chinese: 150 euro (3 months)
- New Zealand: 100 euro
Visa for Americans, British and Canadians
In February 2017, Americans were banned from visiting Iran. The ban ended May 30, 2017. You can post your reports as an American here.
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.
Furthermore, it seems that at least for the embassy in Tblisi, Canadians do not need a guide anymore.
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.
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.
You can extend your Iranian visa by its original duration at least twice. This means a 30-day visa with 2 extensions gives you 90 days in Iran. If you got a visa on arrival, you can extend your original 14-day visa with another 14 days, but only once.
Extensions can be issued from the day you turn up at the visa renewal office, or after the end date of your visa, depending on the official. The extension is often issued in 1 day, but it can also take longer.
The cost of a visa renewal is 300,000 Rials (February 2015). You need your passport, 2 photocopies of the photo page, of the current Iran visa, and of the entry stamp.
Extension reports from different cities in Iran have now gotten their own page, see Iran visa extensions.
Click the tab below for all embassy reports.
Comments are closed. If you have questions or embassy reports, head over to our forum’s visa section.