Syria - Consular Information Sheet
January 24, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Syrian Arab Republic has a developing,
mixed-sector economy. The ruling Ba'th party espouses a largely
secular ideology, but Islamic traditions and beliefs provide a
conservative foundation for the country's customs and practices.
The constitution refers to Islamic jurisprudence as a principal
source of legislation, but the legal system remains influenced
by French practice. Tourist facilities are widely available, but
vary in quality depending on price and location. The workweek
in Syria is Saturday through Thursday. The U.S. Embassy is open
Sunday through Thursday.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required.
Visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Syria. The government
of Syria does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli
visa or entry/exit stamps to enter the country. Similar restrictions
apply to persons born in the Gaza region or of Gaza descent. Entry
into Syria via the land border with Israel is not possible. Foreigners
who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian
immigration authorities by their 15th day in Syria. American men
between the ages of 18 and 45 who are of Syrian birth or recent
descent are subject to the Syrian compulsory military service
requirement unless they receive a temporary or permanent exemption
from the Syrian Embassy in the United States prior to their entry
into Syria. (Please see the section on "Compulsory Military
Service" below.) An AIDS test is not required for foreigners
prior to arrival in Syria; however, tests are mandatory for foreigners
age 15 to 60 who wish to reside in Syria. The AIDS test must be
conducted in Syria at a facility approved by the Syrian Ministry
of Health. A residence permit will not be issued until the absence
of the HIV virus has been determined. Foreigners wishing to marry
Syrian nationals in Syria must also be tested for HIV. For further
entry information, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Syrian
Arab Republic,2215 Wyoming Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008,
telephone  232-6313 or check the
Syrian Embassy's home page on the Internet at http://www.syrianembassy.org.
American citizens are cautioned that the Syrian government rigidly
enforces restrictions on priortravel to Israel. Travelers with
Israeli stamps in their passports, Jordanian entry cachets, or
cachets from other countries that suggest prior travel to Israel
will cause Syrian immigration authorities to refuse the traveler
admission to Syria. Likewise, the absence of entry stamps from
a country adjacent to Israel which the traveler has just visited
will cause the Syrian immigration officials to refuse admittance.
In one case in 1998, a group of American citizen travelers suspected
of having traveled to Israel were detained overnight for questioning.
Syrian security officials are also sensitive about travel to
Iraq. There have been past instances in which Iraqi-Americans
or Americans believed to have traveled to Iraq were detained for
questioning at ports of entry/exit.
DUAL NATIONALITY: In addition to being subject to all
Syrian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be
subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Syrian
citizens. Under Syrian law, children of Syrian fathers, even those
who have never been to Syria and do not speak Arabic, are Syrian.
Please see below for information on compulsory military service.
For additional information, please see the
Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov
for our Dual Nationality flyer
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Syria is included on the Department
of State's list of state sponsors of terrorism. There is no record
of recent terrorist attacks against Americans in Syria, and Syrian
government officials have repeatedly stated their commitment to
protect Americans. However, a number of terrorist groups present
in Syria oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East. A 1997 bus bombing
in downtown Damascus, which killed 22 people, and the 1998 and
2000 attacks against the U.S. Embassy serve as reminders that
Syria is not immune from political violence and that Americans
traveling through the area should remain aware that U.S. interests
and citizens may be targeted.
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: Crime is generally not a serious problem
for travelers in Syria. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad
should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department
of State pamphlet, A Safe Trip
Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 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 Syria's principal cities,
but not necessarily in outlying areas.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: 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. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas
may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that 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 Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
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 Syria is provided for general reference only,
and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Driving in Syria can be hazardous and requires great caution.
Although drivers generally follow traffic signs and signals, they
often maneuver aggressively and show little regard for vehicles
traveling behind them. Lane markings are usually ignored. Vehicles
within Syrian traffic circles must give way to oncoming traffic,
unlike in the United States. Pedestrians must also exercise caution.
Parked cars, deteriorating pavement, and guard posts obstruct
sidewalks, often forcing pedestrians to walk in the street.
For additional general information
about road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific
information concerning Syrian driver's permits, vehicle inspection,
road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Syrian Embassy
in Washington, D.C.
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 Syria, the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Syria's Civil Aviation
Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Syrian customs authorities may enforce
strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export
from Syria of items such as weapons, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco,
cheese, fruits, pharmaceuticals, modems, cosmetics, and some electrical
appliances. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Syria in
Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.
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
Syrian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Syria are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences
and heavy fines. Penalties for possession of even small amounts
of illegal drugs for personal use are severe in Syria. Persons
convicted in Syria for growing, processing, or smuggling drugs
face the death penalty, which may be reduced to a minimum of 20
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry
a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that,
if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship
are readily available. Although Syria is a signatory to the Vienna
Convention, consular notification and access to arrested Americans
are problematic. Syrian officials generally do not notify the
American Embassy when American citizens are arrested. When the
American Embassy learns of arrests of Americans and requests consular
access, individual police officials have, on their own initiative,
responded promptly and allowed consular officers to visit the
prisoners. However, security officials have also in the past denied
Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of
CURRENCY INFORMATION: Syrian currency cannot be exchanged
for any other currency except at government-approved exchange
centers within Syria, and it cannot be exchanged back into foreign
currency. Travelers must declare all foreign currency when they
enter Syria. There are no foreign banks and no ATMs in Syria,
and it is impossible to wire or otherwise transfer money from
the United States to Syria.
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE: Syrian-American and Palestinian-American
men who have never served in the Syrian military and who are planning
to visit Syria are strongly urged to check with the Syrian Embassy
in Washington, D.C. prior to traveling, concerning their requirement
for compulsory military service.
American men over the age of 18 who have never resided in or
visited Syria, but whose fathers are/were Syrian, are required
to complete military service or pay to be exempted. Possession
of a U.S. passport does not absolve the bearer of this obligation.
A legislative decree issued by the Syrian president on July 30,
2000, allows Syrian and Palestinian male citizens who live abroad
to pay $5000 to be exempted from military service. Please contact
the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for more information.
U.S. GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST SYRIA: U.S.
exports to Syria are subject to a range of U.S. export controls,
a lack of guaranteed trade financing, and additional tax implications
that stem from Syria's presence on the U.S. list of state sponsors
of terrorism. For additional information, please consult the
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.ustreas.gov/ofac/
or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at telephone (202) 622-0077.
DEPARTURE PERMISSION: Children under the age of eighteen
whose fathers are Syrian must have the father's permission to
leave Syria, even if the parents are separated or divorced and
the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court. Women
in Syria are often subject to strict family controls. On occasion,
families of Syrian-American women visiting Syria have attempted
to prevent them from leaving the country. This can be a particular
problem for young single women of marriageable age. A Syrian husband
may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country,
regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place,
the U.S. Embassy cannot assist American citizens to leave Syria.
additional information on child custody issues, please refer to
our Internet site at: http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html,
or contact the Office of Children's Issues, telephone (202) 736-7000.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or contact the
Office of Children's Issues, telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or
visiting Syria are encouraged to register at the Consular Section
of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and obtain updated information
on travel and security within Syria. The U.S. Embassy is located
in Abu Roumaneh, al-Mansur Street No. 2, P.O. Box 29, Damascus.
The telephone numbers are  (11) 333-2814, 332-0783, 333-0788,
and 333-3232. The fax number is  (11) 331-9678. The Embassy
is open Sunday through Thursday.