Can Americans Legally Travel to Iran?
Can Americans Legally Travel to Iran?

Packed with over 5,000 years of history, Iran is a destination everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime. From the ancient Persian Empire to the Zoroastrian temples, the countless mosques, and even the modern cities like Tehran, there is so much to see that one visit will not be enough.

In November 2021 Iran resumed issuing visas to American citizens. Normally, it takes about three months to obtain a visa.

Regulations for American travelers also remain intact: Americans must travel on a confirmed tour with a qualified guide at all times and must respect Iran’s laws, such as observing the hijab and abstaining from alcohol. If you have any questions about what’s permitted, please ask!

Check our Iran requirements for Americans to plan your trip every day in Iran.

U.S. Relations With Iran

As a result of the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy on November 4, 1979, the United States and Iran severed diplomatic relations in April 1980. The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since that date. Switzerland is the U.S. protecting power and provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran.

Iran has no embassy in Washington, D.C.

Can Americans legally travel to Iran?

Many people believe traveling to Iran is similar to traveling to Cuba as an American but that is not the case. Americans can travel to Iran freely but they do need to know a few things about tours and visas before planning their trip. The relationship with Iran is strained due to many political and economic reasons but it is perfectly legal to travel to Iran as an American citizen. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Iran but it is legal. Here is how to travel to Iran as an American.

Can you do independent solo travel in Iran?

Yes, but it depends on your nationality. Unfortunately, Americans, British, and Canadian citizens (ABC) cannot do solo travel at the moment. Instead, they can travel the country with an authorized tour operator – either on a group or private tour.

In theory, the ABCs need to be accompanied by a tour guide at all times, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be on top of you all the time.

You have free time to do whatever you want to and walk around the city on your own in your leisure time.

They just need to travel with you in between cities and main sights. Apparently, to avoid any (additional) political situations with ABC nations, the Iranian government wants to make sure they are all fine, at all times while in their country.

ABCs are restricted on the amount of time they are allowed to stay in the country to roughly 15 days. This can be extended, though, if there’s a reason for the extension (like extending the tour).

How to Apply for an Iranian Visa as an American

Photo: s-travels
Photo: s-travels

Americans will need to apply for a travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) before they can apply for a visa. The MFA must approve your itinerary and your tour operator should be able to help you with the process.

When you are ready to submit your visa information send it to the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. This information is provided by Travisa. The total turnaround time was around 10 days for the visa. The invitation letter took closer to 30 days so starting this process 2-3 months before your trip is a smart idea.

Step 1: Get your travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affair (handled by your tour company)

Step 2: Apply for your visa to Iran

How to Travel to Iran Without a Visa

Kish Island is often called the Pearl of the Persian Gulf. It is a small 36 sq. mile resort island in the Persian Gulf and you do not need a visa to travel there.

At Kish International Airport no entry visa is required. This means if you would like to travel to Iran without a visa Kish Island is your only option. While the people there are just as friendly as on the mainland you will not get a true taste of Iran’s culture. Kish Island is tailored towards international tourists and is a resort island.

Westerners will be asked to show proof of hotel reservations and contact information for their visit to the island. Women will also be asked to wear on a headscarf on arrival. If you do not have one they will provide one immediately on arrival at the airport when passing through customs and immigration. Visitors are permitted to stay up to 14 days on Kish Island with no visa.

Public transportation in Iran

Taxis

Most taxis don’t have meters. Drivers often overcharge foreigners.

  • Only hire official taxis from agencies or hotel-based companies
  • Take pre-booked official taxis, which are safer than those hailed from the street
  • Negotiate fares in advance, or insist that the driver use the meter
  • Never enter a cab if it already has one or more passengers
  • Note the licence plate number and name of the driver when you travel
  • Immediately communicate this information to family or friends

Railway transport

Trains are comfortable and punctual, but service is limited and slow.

Sea travel

Iran and the United Arab Emirates both claim sovereignty over the islands in the Persian Gulf and the military patrols the waters. Foreigners navigating Iranian waters have been arrested and detained. In September 2019, Iranian authorities specifically called for the seizure of Canadian assets and vessels.

Exercise caution if travelling by sea, including for recreational purposes, particularly around the disputed islands of Abu Musa and Tunb.

Air travel

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Dress Code When Travel in Iran

Photo: gomediran
Photo: gomediran

It is important to respect the dress code when visiting Iran (or any country). Luckily, Iran does not have a strict dress code (when compared to many other countries in the Middle East) but there are still some important rules to follow.

Women’s Dress Code in Iran

Bring a headscarf and wear this the moment you step foot in Iran. When you are in public you need to have your head covered. Women should also stick to loose-fitting clothing. Fashion is very important in Iran and contrary to what many believe, women are not wearing burkas but instead following fashion trends. Three-quarter length shirts are ok for women as well.

Men’s Dress Code in Iran

Men have it a lot easier in Iran. Stick to pants and don’t wear shorts. Long sleeves might be most appropriate in certain places but when it is hot a t-shirt is just fine.

Is it safe for Americans to travel to Iran: Travel advice and advisories

Women's safety

Women may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Gender-based violence is common in Iran.

Some Canadian and Canadian-Iranian women have been stranded in Iran or mistreated by an Iranian husband or a male relative. Local authorities consider domestic violence to be a private matter and rarely discuss it in public.

Women and children require the permission of the husband, or an Iranian male head of household, to obtain a passport or travel document. They also require permission to leave the country.

The dress code is strictly enforced in Iran. Women must wear a headscarf and a long jacket that covers the arms and upper legs while in public.

Road safety

Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country, and city streets are poorly lit. The highway system is relatively well developed.

Trucks run mostly at night, often without headlights. Motorists are reckless and don’t respect traffic laws. They almost never give way to pedestrians at designated crossing points. Parked cars may obstruct sidewalks on main roads in urban areas. Sidewalks are rare in residential areas.

Expect roadblocks and checkpoints.

  • Avoid traveling at night
  • Consider hiring a personal driver who’s familiar with local conditions
  • If you are involved in an accident, remain at the scene until authorities arrive

Can Iranian citizens travel to the United States

It was easier to travel to the United States from Iran and vice versa in the past but today it is done with more difficulty and through a longer process regarding political tensions. This matter has even become more difficult and complicated for Iranian citizens.

Generally, entering the United States requires a visa, which may be of different types, business visa, tourism visa, student visa, etc. Using a business visa in the US, you can attend scientific, educational, professional or business conferences. Using a tourist visa in the US, you can visit your relatives and friends, have fun or spend a holiday in this country.

There are strict rules established by US embassy for the applicants of tourism visa, among which certificates of financial ability and bank turnover are highly valued. Financial ability must be between 100 to 150 million Tomans. In addition, bank account turnover must be for the last 3 to 6 months. Input and output amounts in bank account turnover is not very important and what is going to be considered is only the number of transactions.

It should be noted that due to lack of a diplomatic relation between the USA and Iran, you have to choose a third country in order to get the visa. The third country can be any of the countries which are closer to Iran and more affordable like Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia and Dubai. After going to US embassy in one of these countries and doing necessary interviews and getting the US embassy's confirmation, you will be given the travel permission.

Required documents for getting the US visa for people of Iran and other countries would be as following:

  1. Confirm sheet at the time of interview along with a receipt of payment
  2. Front–side personal photo with a white background and without retouching
  3. Original birth certificate and ID card and their copies
  4. Original Military Service Completion Card and its copy for men
  5. Your bank account print-out which must be in English
  6. Marriage certificate, in case of being married
  7. Divorce certificate, in case of being divorced
  8. A certified copy of court records and detention or imprisonment and anything related to criminal records, in case of having criminal and legal history
  9. All medical records and tests which have been done based on the embassy's request
  10. Certificates of financial ability that shows you will be back to your country after the visa expiration date
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