Iraq - Consular Information Sheet
September 14, 1999
Warning: In light of Iraq's continuing challenges to
the U.S./Coalition enforcement of the no-fly zones, and the potential
for retaliatory action by the Government of Iraq against U.S.
citizens, the U.S. government urges all U.S. citizens to avoid
all travel to Iraq, and those already in Iraq are advised to depart
as soon as possible. Iraq is engaged in a persistent pattern of
challenges to the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.
These challenges include firing on the aircraft enforcing the
no-fly zones, illuminating them with surface-to-air missile radar,
and placing bounties on coalition aircrews. Coalition aircraft
respond in self-defense to Iraqi threats by striking Iraq's air-defense
system. Coalition aircraft respond in self-defense to Iraqi threats
by striking Iraq's air-defense system. Conditions throughout the
country remain unsettled and dangerous. Foreigners present in
Iraq have in the past been used as "human shields" by the regime
during periods of confrontation with the international community.
With the exception of the passports of American professional
reporters or journalists on assignment in Iraq, and Americans
residing in Iraq as of February 8, 1991, U.S. passports are not
valid for travel to, in or through Iraq, unless they are validated
by the Department of State.
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iraq,
and there is no U.S. Embassy in Iraq. While our interests in Iraq
are represented by the Embassy of Poland in Baghdad, that embassy's
ability to obtain consular access to detained U.S. citizens and
to perform other emergency services is severely constrained by
Iraq's unwillingness to cooperate. In addition, the United States
as well as the United Nations imposed sanctions which severely
restrict financial and economic activities with Iraq, including
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Iraq is governed
by the repressive regime under Saddam Hussein. Iraqs economy
was seriously damaged in the 1991 Gulf War. U.N sanctions have
also affected the economy, including increased crime and decreased
availability of medical services. Tourist facilities are not widely
available. The workweek in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Should you travel to Iraq, despite
the Travel Warning, passports and visas are required. On February
8, 1991, U.S. passports ceased to be valid for travel to, in or
through Iraq and may not be used for that purpose unless a special
validation has been obtained. See paragraphs on Passport Validation
and U.S. Government Economic Sanctions. For visa information,
contact the Iraqi Interests Section of the Algerian Embassy, 1801
P Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone 202-483-7500.
DUAL NATIONALITY: Dual nationals may be subject to Iraqi
laws, which impose special obligations. For additional information,
see the Dual
TERRORISM: The risk of terrorism directed against U.S.
citizens in Iraq remains a continuing concern.
AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Since Desert Fox, Iraq has actively
targeted U.S./coalition flights within the no-fly zone and greatly
increased the security concerns. U.S. citizens and other foreigners
working near or traveling to the Kuwait-Iraq border have been
detained by Iraqi authorities for lengthy periods under harsh
conditions. In response to the Iraqi government's stated inability
to protect American and British personnel, the United Nations
has withdrawn all American and British UN humanitarian workers
from Iraq. Parts of northern Iraq are currently outside the central
government's control. These areas are administered by local Kurdish
authorities. In southern Iraq, governmental repression of the
Shia communities is severe. Government authorities may not have
full control of all areas of the South. Travel in the South, particularly
at night may be hazardous.
All foreigners using some mode of transportation must obtain
a special permit from the Iraqi authorities to travel within Iraq.
All cars are inspected at checkpoints located at the city limits.
Security personnel, regular police officers, sometimes officers
or non-commissioned officers of the Republican Guard units and
the military police staff these checkpoints. Guides or chauffeurs
of rented cars carrying groups of visitors are expected to cooperate
with security authorities.
SECURITY: Iraqi security personnel may 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 or, at least, in the confiscation
of film and camera. Carrying maps and making some annotations
on them while sightseeing may lead to very serious charges.
CRIME INFORMATION: Reports of crime in Iraq are increasing,
especially in the larger cities. Thefts of money, jewelry, or
valuable items left in hotel rooms are common. There are cases
of pickpocketing in busy places like bazaars. It is not advisable
to visit suburbs of big cities after dark or alone. Although traveling
by private car to Iraq is unlikely, any involvement in a traffic
accident could be very dangerous and costly (so-called blood money
could be promptly requested.) There are reports of some unscrupulous
taxi drivers. Avoid traveling alone by taxi with a large sum of
Iraqi authorities may not be in full control of the security
situation in some areas in the south. Some cars and buses have
been stopped on highways particularly at night. Passengers have
been robbed at gun point. In some cases, the cars are also stolen.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests Section
at the Polish Embassy. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department
of State's pamphlet A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa for
ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available
by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
printing office, Washington, DC 20402, or via the Internet at
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Basic modern medical care and medicines
may not be available. 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
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 Iraq 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: fair
Rural road conditions/maintenance: narrow
Availability of roadside assistance: available in the cities,
occasionally on large highways and at main exits.
Buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Poorly-maintained
city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. Long distance
buses are very slow but in good condition. Jaywalking is common.
Drivers usually do not yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, and
ignore traffic lights, traffic rules and regulations. Some motorists
drive at excessive speeds, tailgate and force other drivers to
yield the right of way.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: UN sanctions prohibit all
air traffic in and out of Iraq. As there is no direct service,
or economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Iraqs civil aviation
authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards
for oversight of Iraqs 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
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Iraq has strict customs regulations.
Upon arrival, a traveler must declare any foreign currency, audio-visual
equipment, satellite telephones, personal computers and especially
modems. There may be difficulty in obtaining a permit to take
these items out when leaving Iraq. The Iraqi authorities may request
the surrender of such equipment for depositing at the border (there
might be then difficulties in reclaiming it when leaving Iraq).
Videotapes may be confiscated. Carrying firearms and pornography
are forbidden. Any news publications may be regarded as hostile
propaganda and confiscated. Usually cars are very thoroughly checked.
Offering gifts to inspectors may result in charges of bribery
which could lead to serious consequences. Generally, export of
gold, foreign currency, any more valuable equipment, antiquities
and expensive carpets is forbidden.
All foreigners (except diplomats) are requested to take an AIDs
or HIV test at the border. Sanitary conditions at the Ministry
of Health border stations are questionable.
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 may 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
Iraqi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Iraq are severe, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The U.S. does not have diplomatic
relations with Iraq, and there is no U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The
Embassy of Poland represents U.S. interests in Iraq; however,
its ability to assist American citizens is limited. Comprehensive
UN sanctions on Iraq imposed following Iraq's 1990 invasion of
Kuwait prohibit all economic and financial transactions with the
Government of Iraq, persons or entities in Iraq unless specifically
authorized by the UN. Since 1998, foreigners traveling in Iraq
may legally exchange foreign currency in money exchange kiosks
or bureaus (run privately or state banks). Payments for hotel,
renting a taxi, etc. must be paid in foreign currency. No ATM
Telecommunications are very poor. There are no public telephones
in the cities; however, calls may be made from hotels, restaurants
or shops. Calls may be monitored.
PASSPORT VALIDATION: Without the requisite validation,
use of a U.S. passport for travel to, in or through Iraq may constitute
a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1544, and may be punishable by a fine
and/or imprisonment. An exemption to the above restriction is
granted to Americans residing in Iraq as of February 8, 1991 who
continue to reside there and to American professional reporters
or journalists on assignment there.
The categories of individuals eligible for consideration for
a special passport validation are set forth in 22 C.F.R. 51.74.
Passport validation requests for Iraq should be forwarded in writing
to the following address:
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services
Office of Passport Policy and Advisory Services
U.S. Department of State
2401 E Street, N.W., 9th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20522
Telephone 202-663-2662, Fax 202-663-2654.
The request must be accompanied by supporting documentation
according to the category under which validation is sought. Currently,
the four categories of persons specified in 22 C.F.R. 51.74 as
being eligible for consideration for passport validation are as
[a] Professional Reporters: Includes full-time members of the
reporting or writing staff of a newspaper, magazine or broadcasting
network whose purpose for travel is to gather information about
Iraq for dissemination to the general public. Professional reporters
or journalists on assignment are specifically exempted from the
passport restriction for Iraq and need not apply for a passport
[b] American Red Cross: Applicant establishes that he or she
is a representative of the American Red Cross or International
Red Cross traveling pursuant to an officially-sponsored Red Cross
[c] Humanitarian Considerations: Applicant must establish that
his or her trip is justified by compelling humanitarian considerations
or for family unification. At this time, "compelling humanitarian
considerations" include situations where the applicant can document
that an immediate family member is critically ill in Iraq. Documentation
concerning family illness must include the name and address of
the relative, and be from that relative's physician attesting
to the nature and gravity of the illness. "Family unification"
situations may include cases in which spouses or minor children
are residing in Iraq, and dependent on, an Iraqi national spouse
or parent for their support.
[d] National Interest: The applicant's request is otherwise
found to be in the national interest.
In all requests for passport validation for travel to Iraq,
the name, date and place of birth for all concerned persons must
be given, as well as the U.S. passport numbers. Documentation
as outlined above should accompany all requests. Additional information
may be obtained by writing to the above address or by calling
the Office of Passport Policy and Advisory Services at 202-955-0231
U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS: In addition to the
restrictions on the use of a U.S. passport discussed above, all
U.S. persons (defined as "U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens
of the United States, anyone physically located in the United
States, and any entity organized under the laws of the United
States") are subject to the Iraq Sanctions Regulations administered
by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets
Control (OFAC). For up to date information about the embargo on
Iraq, consult OFAC's home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/ofac/
or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077.
In August 1990 former President Bush issued Executive Orders
12722 and 12724, imposing economic sanctions against Iraq including
a complete trade embargo. OFAC administers the regulations related
to these sanctions, which include restrictions on all financial
transactions related to travel to Iraq. These regulations prohibit
all travel-related transactions, except as specifically licensed.
The only exceptions to this licensing requirement are for persons
engaged in journalism or in official U.S. government or U.N. business.
Sanctions regulations prohibit all U.S. persons from engaging
in unauthorized travel-related transactions to or within Iraq.
Please note, however, that transactions relating to travel for
journalistic activity by persons regularly employed in such capacity
by a newsgathering organization are exempt from the prohibition.
Please note as well that U.S. persons may engage in travel-related
transactions for the sole purpose of visiting immediate family
members in Iraq, provided that the U.S. persons seeking travel
obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The
only exceptions to this licensing requirement are for journalistic
activity or for U.S. government or United Nations business.
Questions concerning these restrictions should be addressed
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Washington, D.C. 20220
Telephone: 202-622-2480; Fax: 202-622-1657
FAMILY ISSUES: In accordance with the Iraqi law, any
child whose father is an Iraqi citizen is also considered an Iraqi
citizen. Even if the names of children are written in their mother's
foreign passport, Iraqi authorities may consider the children
Iraqi citizens if the father is Iraqi. Children require their
father's permission to travel.
Women under the age of 45 must travel with an escort, such as
her husband, father, or a close male member of the family who
has the permission of the husband or father to be an escort for
his wife or daughter. The authorities may apply this law to women
traveling on foreign passports. Otherwise, when in Iraq, a woman
married to an Iraqi and traveling on her foreign passport may
be required to produce evidence of her husband's permission to
leave the country.
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/EMBASSY LOCATION: There is no U.S. Embassy
in Iraq. The U.S. Government is not in a position to accord normal
consular protective services to U.S. citizens who, despite the
travel warning, are in Iraq. U.S. Government interests are represented
by the Government of Poland, which, as the protecting power, is
able to provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.
The U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Poland is located
opposite the Foreign Ministry Club (Masbah Quarter); P.O. Box
2447 Alwiyah, Baghdad, Iraq. The telephone numbers are (964)(1)
718-9267 and 885-2286. The fax number is (964)(1) 718-9297.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 25,
1997, to update the Travel Warning, entry requirements, medical
facilities, crime information, criminal penalties, passport validation
(on professional reporters) and U.S. government economic sanctions.
It adds new sections on dual nationality, safety/security issues,
medical insurance, other health information, traffic safety and
road conditions, aviation safety oversight, customs regulations,
special circumstances, and family issues.