Iran - Consular Information Sheet
September 14, 1999
WARNING: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens
to defer travel to Iran. Iranian President Khatami has called
for a "dialogue of civilizations" and an increase of private exchanges
between Iranians and Americans; some limited exchanges have taken
place. There is, however, evidence that hostility to the United
States remains in some segments of the Iranian population and
some elements of the Iranian government. In July 1999, violent
anti-government demonstrations took place in Tehran and other
cities around the country. There were accusations that the U.S.
was behind these demonstrations. Prior to and since that time,
some groups of American travelers have encountered harassment
by vigilante groups.
The U.S. government does not currently have diplomatic or consular
relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot
provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens
in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its embassy in Tehran,
serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. The Iranian
government does not recognize dual citizenship and generally does
not permit the Swiss to provide protective services for American
citizens who are also Iranian nationals. In addition, U.S. citizens
of Iranian origin who are considered by Iran to be Iranian citizens
have been detained and harassed by Iranian authorities. Former
Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons
who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible
execution. The Iranian government reportedly has the names of
all individuals who filed claims against Iran, and who received
awards, at the Iran-U.S. claims tribunal at The Hague pursuant
to the 1981 Algerian Accords. There are restrictions on both the
import and the export of goods between Iran and the United States.
Neither U.S. passports nor visas to the United States are issued
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Iran is a constitutional Islamic
republic, governed by executive and legislative branches that
derive national leadership primarily through the Muslim clergy.
Shia Islam is the official religion of Iran, and Islamic law is
the basis of the authority by the state. Shia Islamic ideals and
beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs,
laws and practices. Iran is a developing country. The workweek
in Iran is Sunday through Thursday; however, many government offices
and private companies are closed on Thursdays. Friday is a public
holiday for all establishments. Offices in Iran are generally
open to the public during the morning hours only.
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Should you decide to travel
to Iran despite the Travel Warning, a passport and visa are required.
The Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan is located
at 2209 Wisconsin Ave. N.W, Washington, DC. 20007; tel 202-965-4990.
U.S. passports are valid for travel to Iran. However, the authorities
have often confiscated the U.S. passports of U.S.-Iranian dual
nationals upon arrival. U.S.-Iranian dual nationals have been
denied permission to depart Iran documented as U.S. citizens.
To prevent the confiscation of U.S. passports, the Department
of State suggests that dual nationals leave their U.S. passports
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate overseas for safekeeping
before entering Iran, and to use their Iranian passports to enter
the country. To facilitate their travel if their U.S. passports
are confiscated, dual nationals may, prior to entering Iran, obtain
in their Iranian passports the necessary visas for the country
which they will transit on their return to the U.S., and where
they may apply for a new U.S. passport.
If dual nationals fail to obtain in advance the necessary transit
visas for their return trip to the U.S., the travelers can obtain
a "Confirmation of Nationality" from the U.S. Interests Section
of the Embassy of Switzerland, which is the U.S. protecting power.
This statement, addressed to the relevant foreign embassies in
Tehran, enables the travelers to apply for third-country visas
in Tehran. Dual nationals finding themselves in this situation
should note in advance that the Swiss Embassy will issue this
statement only after the traveler's U.S. nationality is confirmed
and after some processing delay. Dual nationals must enter and
leave the United States on U.S. passports.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens who were born in Iran,
who have become naturalized citizens of Iran, or who were at one
time citizens of Iran, and the children of such persons, are considered
Iranian nationals by Iranian authorities. Therefore, despite the
fact that these individuals possess U.S. citizenship, they must
enter and exit Iran bearing an Iranian passport. Yet some former
Iranian nationals have been issued visas in their U.S. passports.
Exit visas are required for dual nationals to depart Iran.
In addition, U.S.-Iranian dual nationals are subject to Iranian
laws which impose special obligations upon Iranian nationals,
such as military service or taxes. Exit permits for departure
from Iran may be denied until such obligations are met. More specific
information on Iranian passport and exit visa requirements may
be obtained from the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy
Dual nationals often have their U.S. passports confiscated and
may be denied permission to leave Iran, or encounter other problems
with Iranian authorities. Refer also to the above section titled
"Entry and Exit Requirements" of this Consular Information Sheet.
For additional information on dual nationality, see the Consular
Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov
for our Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY/SECURITY: U.S. citizens should exercise caution
throughout the country. In July 1999, foreigners were taken hostage
in Kerman and Bam. Travelers should avoid travel to areas bordering
Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iranian security personnel may at times place foreign visitors
under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may
be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being
of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
CRIME INFORMATION: Major crime is not a problem for travelers
in Iran, although foreigners occasionally have been victims of
petty street crime. In view of possible thefts, passports and
other important valuables should be kept in hotel safes or other
secure locations. The loss or theft in Iran of a U.S. passport
should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S.
Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy. U.S. citizens can refer
to the Department of State's pamphlets A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travel to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to
promote a more trouble-free journey. These pamphlets are available
by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Basic medical care and medicines
are available in the principal cities of Iran, but may not be
available in outlying areas. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost thousands of dollars or more. Medical facilities do not
meet U.S. standards and frequently lack medicines and supplies.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for
health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside
the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not
provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: Uninsured travelers who require medical
care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own
insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas,
including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain if payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information
on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs,
is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs
brochure, Medical Information for
Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular
Affairs home page or autofax: 202-647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Preventions hotline for international
travelers from the United States at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747),
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Iran is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Drivers all over Iran tend to ignore traffic lights, traffic
signs and lane markers. Urban streets are not well lit. Therefore,
it is very dangerous to drive around, especially at night. Sidewalks
in urban areas only exist on main roads and are usually obstructed
by parked cars. In the residential areas, hardly any sidewalks
exist. Drivers almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority
to operate such service, between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Irans Civil Aviation
Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards
for oversight of Irans air carrier operations. For further information,
travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation within
the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page
PASSPORT SEIZURES/EXIT BANS: The Iranian government has
seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners involved
in commercial disputes.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Iranian authorities may permit travelers
to bring in or to take certain goods out of Iran. However, U.S.
travelers should refer to the section of this Consular Information
Sheet regarding U.S. Government economic sanctions and the importation
and exportation of restricted items in order to avoid any violation
of the Iranian transactions regulations.
All luggage is searched upon traveling into and departing from
Iran. Tourists can bring in and take out the following non-commercial
goods, if they are recorded on the tourist's goods slip upon arrival
at customs: personal jewelry, one camera, an amateur video camera,
one pair of binoculars, a portable tape recorder, a personal portable
computer, first aid box, and a camping tent with its equipment.
Iranian authorities allow the departing passenger to take an unlimited
amount of Iranian goods and foreign goods up to $160 (US), and
their personal non-commercial equipment. Air passengers may also
take one carpet up to 6 square meters. However, the U.S. government
only allows the importation of up to $100 worth of Iranian-origin
goods. Iranian authorities prohibit the export of antique carpets
and carpets portraying women not wearing the proper Islamic covering,
antiques, original works of art, calligraphic pieces, miniature
paintings, different kinds of coins, and precious stones. They
likewise prohibit the export and import of alcoholic beverages,
weapons, ammunitions, swords and sheaths, military devices, drugs
and illegal goods.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and do not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Iranian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Fines, public floggings, and long prison terms are common. Former
Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons
who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible
execution. Drinking, possession of alcoholic beverages and drugs,
as well as flirting or having sexual contact as an unmarried couple
is considered to be crimes. Penalties for possession, use, or
trafficking in illegal drugs in Iran are strict. Iran executes
scores of persons each year on drug-related charges.
U.S. citizens in Iran who violate Iranian laws, including laws
which are unfamiliar to Westerners (such as laws regarding the
proper wearing of apparel), may face severe penalties. The Iranian
government reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed
claims against Iran at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague
pursuant to the 1981 Algerian Accords. In addition, the Iranian
government reportedly has compiled a list of the claimants who
were awarded compensation in the Iran Claims Program administered
by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Iranian government
is allegedly targeting award-holders who travel to Iran. It is
reported that upon some claimants' entry into Iran, Iranian authorities
question them as to the status of payment of their respective
awards with a view to recouping the award money. It is also reported
that the Iranian government has threatened to prevent U.S. claimants
visiting Iran from departing the country until they make arrangements
to pay part or all of their award money to that government.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to the U.S. government
economic sanctions on trade and investment restrictions, travelers
should be aware that most hotels and restaurants do not accept
credit cards. Cash-dollars (not traveler checks) are accepted
as payment. In general, hotel rooms have to be paid with cash-dollars.
ATM machines are not available. Foreign currency has to be declared
at Customs upon entry into the country, and the amount is entered
in the passport. This amount can then be changed at the bank.
U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS: On May 6, 1995, President
Clinton signed Executive Order 12959, 60 Federal Register 24757
(May 9, 1995), which prohibits exporting goods or services to
Iran, re-exporting certain goods to Iran, making new investments
in Iran and dealing in property owned or controlled by the government
of Iran. The importation of Iranian-origin goods or services into
the United States has been prohibited since October 19, 1987.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury,
provides guidance to the public on the interpretation of the order.
For additional information, consult the Licensing Division, Office
of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. Department of Treasury
at the OFAC home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac/
or via OFAC's info-by fax at 202-622-0077 or 202-622-2500. For
information regarding banking and compliance, contact OFAC's Compliance
Programs Division at 202-622-2490.
FAMILY ISSUES: Children of Iranian citizens, under the
age of 18, must have the father's permission to depart Iran, even
if the mother has been granted full custody by an Iranian court.
Even the non-Iranian wife of an Iranian citizen (who obtains Iranian
nationality through marriage and must convert to Islam) requires
the consent of her husband to leave Iran. In case of marital problems,
women in Iran are often subject to strict family controls. Because
of Islamic law, compounded by the lack of diplomatic relationships
between the United States and Iran, the U.S. Interests Section
in Tehran can provide very limited assistance if an American woman
encounters difficulty in leaving Iran.
For information on international adoption of children, international
parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement
issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone 202-736-7000.
REGISTRATION/U.S. INTERESTS SECTION LOCATION: There is
no U.S. embassy or consulate in Iran. The Embassy of Switzerland
serves as the protecting power of U.S. interests in Iran. The
U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy is located at Africa
Avenue, West Farzan Street, No. 59, Tehran. The local telephone
numbers are 878-2964 and 879-2364, fax 877-3265. The workweek
is Sunday through Thursday. The Interests Section does not issue
U.S. visas nor accept visa applications. The limited consular
services provided to U.S. citizens in Tehran, Iran include:
(a) registering U.S. citizens;
(b) answering inquiries concerning the welfare and whereabouts
of U.S. citizens in Iran:
(c) rendering assistance in times of distress or physical danger;
(d) providing U.S. citizens with passport applications and other
citizenship forms for approval at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland;
(e) performing notarial services on the basis of accommodation;
(f) taking provisional custody of the personal effects of deceased