I speak on a daily basis to Americans who are interested to travel to Iran but are surprised to learn that they are allowed to! Some think obtaining an Iran visa is impossibly hard for American travelers. Many others are surprised to learn that Iran is a completely safe country and a booming travel destination. They are not to blame. The governments of Iran and United States have been involved in a quarrel for almost the past 40 years, and there is a well-publicized embargo against Iran. It doesn’t help that the image most associated with Iran and Iranians in the collective American consciousness is the revolutionary state of the late 1970s.
More and more tourists are going to Iran and returning happily home to share stories from their wonderful travel experiences. Their stories represent the best first-hand accounts of the reality of Iran. This includes an increasing number of American travelers.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information relating to the travel of Americans to Iran. The rules and regulations concerning the travel of Americans to Iran do change on the Iranian side as well (often without an advanced warning). That is why we have prepared this guide to address questions that might come up for Americans that want to travel to Iran.
In short, Americans are welcome to travel to Iran, but there are some restrictions enforced by Iran on their visit. American tourists and tour groups need to have their Iran visa sponsored by a government licensed agency in Iran. While in Iran, they need to be accompanied by a guide who is licensed and approved to work with American travelers. While this might be seen as intrusive by some travelers, others find having a great travel resource by them at all times helpful. Don’t get us wrong, your guide will not follow you step by step and be your chaperone. He/she just needs to be informed as to where you are and accompany you in the general area you are visiting. You are still free to roam around, interact with people and explore. But your guide will be close enough to help you as soon as you need a translator, or as soon as you need help bargaining in the bazaar. Our guides are also excellent at granting special requests. Even if you travel on a small group tour, we welcome special requests and will do our best to make them happen.
Iran Visa for Americans Traveling to Iran:
For many American Travelers obtaining their Iran visa is a daunting task that takes an unpredictable amount of time. That is because to an outsider the process is very confusing, and there is no way to see the progress of the application. But with the right support, the process is as easy as filling an application and at a later stage sending your passport to be stamped. We have worked hard on creating an efficient visa application process that has given us a 100% visa acquisition rate at half the time it takes other providers to acquire their visas. On the United States side of the process, we provide you with support in getting your passport stamped as well.
Iran Visa Requirements for Americans Applying for a Tourist Visa to Iran
- Filled, printed application form. We provide an online application form to enhance the process, but you will still need to fill in and send the hard copy of your application along with your passport and other documents to get your visa.
- Passport with at least 6 months of validity after your expected arrival date in Iran.
- Travel itinerary and flight arrangements. You do not need to book your flight. Flight itinerary or reservation is enough for this step.
- Scanned copy of your passport
- Digital copy of a passport photo
- Resume: A little odd, but they want to make sure that you aren’t a former spy.
- Social media handles: This one is brand new.
After you provide us with these documents, we can start the visa application process from inside Iran. This step takes 2-4 weeks depending on the number of official holidays that are on the Iranian calendar during that particular period (Believe me there are a lot of them). When this process is completed, you will be granted a visa authorization number.
We will send you this authorization number and you will send it along with your passport and hard copies of all the other documents listed above and the visa fee in the form of a cashier’s check or money order to the Interest Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Some people are confused by the address for the Interest Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since there isn’t an Iranian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Iranian Interest Section is responsible for issuing visas to Iran. This interest section operates under the Pakistan Embassy, and that is why Pakistan Embassy is mentioned in the address.
The latest Iran visa application form can be downloaded from the website of the Interest Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Documents to Send to the Iranian Interest Section After Obtaining Iran Visa Authorization Number
- Original Passport with at least 6 months of validity after your expected arrival date in Iran.
- One 2×2 recent passport photo
- Signed visa application form.
- A money order or cashier’s check made out to the Embassy of Pakistan. The fee is currently $90. For shipping inside the United States add $30. For expedited processing add an additional $58. For regular processing, the total is $120 and for expedited processing, the total is $178.
Please note that if you want expedited processing on your application, in addition to paying the additional fee, you need to clearly write “Please Expedite” in red on the outside of your envelope.
The interest section stamps your passport and sends it back and you have your Iran visa. The interest section is relatively fast, and in most cases, you will have your passport with your Iran visa stamped on it around 10-14 days after your documents arrive at the Iranian Interest Section.
It is essential to have the right team working on your Iran visa. American travelers are generally reviewed with more scrutiny. Not having the right team obtaining your visa could lead to very long delays in the process, and nightmare scenarios of having to cancel your travel.
Traveling with an Approved Guide
While in Iran, Americans on tourist visas must travel with an approved guide. This makes group tours the most economic option for American travelers. One of Iran’s attributes that make it such an attractive destination is how easy it is for travelers to connect with Iranians. Traveling in a group can sometimes hinder these interactions.
Traveling to Iran in a small group ensures that your trip is affordable while it is still intimate. We understand that the best memories from trips are often made by unplanned adventures and we train our guides to be flexible and accommodating to the spontaneous nature of travelers. We encourage our travelers to maximize their interactions with the local population, and our small group tours allow us to be flexible enough to accommodate individual requests.
Our guides are not there to intrude on your experience of Iran, they are there to enhance it. If you prefer to go explore instead of staying with the group and listening to a guide describe a historic event that you don’t have a lot of interest in, go right ahead. Just be back at the meetup point on time. Your guide can be a great resource in helping you communicate with the local population too. While a large percentage of younger Iranians can have conversations in English, your guide can step in and help when the conversations get a little more complicated. Our guides are also expert bargainers. Ask them to get you the best deal on that rug you always wanted.
Safety and Security
Iran is completely safe for American travelers. I understand your skepticism, I really do. But the facts are facts. Iran is a completely safe country. There are no wars happening, and the biggest danger you will likely face is people’s driving (Don’t worry, early on in your trip we will teach you how to deal with it) or a man with a big mustache greeting you with the customary kisses on the cheeks.
All the steps we took above, the scrutiny your visa application faced, along with having a guide and an established itinerary ensure that there is an added layer of security for American travelers.
I have helped travelers convince their parents that it is safe to go to Iran, and I will help you do it as well.
At the same time, we understand the peace of mind that preparedness brings, so in case anything does go wrong, as an American citizen you can get assistance from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The numbers for the US Interest Section at the Switzerland Embassy are (+98)(21)2279-3912, (+98)(21)2279-3697,(+98)(21) 2254-2178, and (+98)(21) 2256-5273.