Who needs an Iranian visa?
US, UK and Canadian citizens are welcome, but they need to pre-arrange a tour or private guide, or be sponsored by a friend or relative in Iran who will take legal responsibility for them. Israeli passport holders, and anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport, will not get Iran visa.
Which countries don’t need an Iran visa?
Passport-holders from Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Armenia, and Egypt can visit Iran without a visa. People from Syria can stay in Iran for 90 days, Georgia 45 days, Bolivia 30 days, Egypt 20 days and Azerbaijan & Lebanon for 15 days. Also to extend Iran visa, they can go to Police Office of Foreign Aliens in Tehran, Mashhad or Isfahan.
Which countries cannot get Iran visa on arrival?
Passport-holders from USA, Britain, Canada, Iraq, Colombia, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh can’t get an Iran visa on arrival. They have to apply from Iran consulates or Iran embassies to get an Iran visa.
Agencies cannot get an Iran visa for these countries
Agencies cannot get an authorization number for Passport-holders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Passport-holders from these countries have to apply from Iran consulates or embassies to get an Iran visa.
Except the countries mentioned above, all the countries can get an Iran visa on arrival. Everyone else needs to arrange a visa in advance or take a risk on getting a 15-day visa on arrival at an airport. By getting the authorization number before arriving to Iran, the visa process will be faster and more convenient.
Which Iranian visa type do I need?
Iran has all the usual visa types – business, student, journalist, etc – but for travellers there are three:
Tourist visa: Issued for up to 30 days and extendable. Must be obtained before coming to Iran and valid to enter for 90 days from the issue date. This is the safest option.
Tourist visa on arrival (VOA): Issued for 15 days on arrival at any international airport. Convenient but relatively risky as you might be denied entry.
Transit visa: Issued for five to seven days. You must enter and exit via different countries, and have a visa or a ticket to an onward country. Can be obtained in one or two days and, critically, no authorisation number is required. Not available to US passport holders.
There are two ways to get a tourist visa.
Do it yourself: going directly through a consulate saves an agency fee but often takes longer and has a much greater chance of rejection (many consulates won’t even accept an application without an authorisation number). In theory, you download the application form from the consulate in your home country; take or send it with your passport, photos, money and proof of your travel insurance to the embassy, which then sends your details to Tehran for approval. If you’re lucky, several weeks later your passport (hopefully with a visa) will come back. Otherwise you’ll need to contact them, which can be hard given Iranian embassies have for years been like black holes to email and telephone calls.
Exceptions abound. In rare cases this method can take just a few days. However there have been many cases where weeks after submission the consul has directed applicants to a visa agency to get the authorisation number; ie start again. Given the uncertainty, if you DIY give yourself at least six weeks.
Agency: visa agencies charge between EUR30 and GBP120 to get you an authorisation number. In most cases you fill out an electronic form with details of your itinerary and where you’d like to collect your visa, attach digital copies of photo and passport, and the agency submits it to the MFA in Tehran. The MFA claims it takes between five and 10 working days to assess the application (unless you’re British or American, when its slower, more costly and more arduous). But plenty of applications take longer or require some clarification. Some agencies are slow to respond to follow-up emails, though in fairness the agency usually does not know what is slowing the process. There is no refund if your application fails, but take comfort that only about 2% are rejected.
Once the authorisation number is received, the agency will forward it to you and your nominated Iranian embassy/consulate. You then need to go through the DIY process described above as a formality, and in most consulates the visa is issued on the spot – in Canberra it took us 25 minutes.
If you’re organising your trip through an Iran-based travel agency you’ll find the agency will probably organise the authorisation number as part of their service. In theory, any Iranian individual can do this.
Visa agencies and private sponsors
Any Iranian can sponsor your application, so if you know an Iranian in Iran and they are prepared to go through the bureaucratic process for you, you can save yourself a few euros. Most travellers use the travel agency that is arranging their trip or a specialist visa agency that has a working relationship with the MFA.
Remember that using, and paying, an agency is not a guarantee of getting a visa, and you won't get your money back if your visa is not issued for any reason. To avoid most problems, start the process early. We recommend that you seek up-to-date advice from other travellers about which agency to use, as quality of service varies enormously.
Iranian tourist visa on arrival (airport visa)
Iran issues 15-day tourist visas on arrival to people from about 65 countries, including most European, ASEAN, and Central Asian countries, several South American countries, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Notable absentees are Britain and the US.
Applicants must have an onward air ticket.
In theory VOAs are available at all international airports to visitors with an Iranian sponsor, such as a travel agency, visa agency or hotel manager (budget hotels don’t seem to count). And some people report getting one with only the name of a hotel in Tehran.
In practice, however, this service is risky. We’ve heard from numerous people who have been sent back when their expected visa did not materialise, even though they seemed to meet all the requirements. Extensions to these visas are also harder, with another 15 days usually the maximum if any is given.
Iran visa Extension
The good news is that Iran tourist visa is usually extendable up to 60 days, 2 months. If you have a 30-day tourist visa, by going to Police Office of Foreign Aliens in Tehran, Mashhad or Isfahan you can usually extend it for another 30 days, , but harder, to extend again, up to a maximum of 90 days. If you have Iran visa on arrival, the extension of it depends on the discretion of Police Aliens Affairs Dept.