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One reason so few people visit Iran is that getting a visa can be difficult. The process is slow; somewhat unpredictable and rules seem to change without warning. But the vast majority of people do get a visa within two or three weeks and, once they have been to Iran, believe the hassle was worth it. But start the process early. Note that all applications stall over the Nowruz holiday period; submit before 8 March to be sure.

Who Needs a Visa?

Everyone needs Iranian visa except for nationals of Turkey, Malaysia, Syria, Georgia, Azerbaijan (15 days), Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador.

Tourist Visa on Arrival

Nationals of the following countries can apply for a 15-day tourist visa on arrival: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Phillippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak (Rep.), Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

In theory, tourist visas are available on arrival at all international airports and all you need is your passport and the name of an Iranian qualified to sponsor you - for example a hotel manager or travel agency principal. You supply the name and phone number and the immigration officer calls to confirm you are a tourist. The service is mostly working but there are a number of reported cases when tourists were turned down and refused entry. So to be on a safe side we would recommend to secure visa beforehand in one of the Iranian diplomatic missions abroad. All applicants have to have return/onward air ticket to be eligible. Extensions to these visas are also harder, with another 15 days usually the maximum.

Note!!!: Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel and travellers with any evidence of visiting Israel: not just Israeli entry stamps, but Egyptian/Jordanian neighbouring land borders with Israel. 

Validity and duration

Iranian visa is issued with indicated duration of stay in the country (maximum 30 days) and has a 3 months validity from the day you receive it. This means that you have to enter the country within 3 months from receiving the visa it. So, you can enter the day before the visa expires, and then stay in Iran for as long as your visa duration states (10 days, 30 days,…). Iraninan visa is easily extended (check appropriate section on the left).

Which Visa? Pros & Cons

First, it's important to understand the process. Except with transit visas, all visa applicants must be 'approved' by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Tehran. This inсludes those seeking a visa on arrival, who can be approved either in advance or, with a longer wait, on arrival.

If you are approved, the MFA sends an authorisation number to the consulate, which takes your application form, passport photos and fee and issues the visa. Fees vary depending on your country of origin.

Transit visas are only fractionally cheaper than tourist visas and, while they don't require authorisation from Tehran, only give you up to seven days. The choice, then, is whether to get a tourist visa in advance or on arrival.

Tourist Visa

There are two ways to get a tourist visa.

If you are British or American, expect both methods to be slower, more costly and more arduous. 

Business Visa

To get a 30-day (extendable) business visa you must obtain an invitation letter from the company or organisation you plan to visit. The process is otherwise the same as getting a tourist visa. People coming for a conference or to play in a spoiling event need an 'entry visa'.

Sponsors & Visa Agencies

Any Iranian can sponsor your application, which in effect means they submit the paperwork for an authorisation code. But in most cases it's easier to use a travel agency or one of the specialist visa agencies. Keep in mind, though, that even with an agency there are no guarantees.

Hints for visa applicants