Getting an Iran tourist visa might sound a bit complicated and overwhelming to some travelers, as there are many variables and a couple of exceptions to take into account. However, the Government is also trying to make the Iran visa policy easier and facilitate the process for many nationalities. This is the ultimate guide to getting a visa for Iran, where you will find all the latest updated information.
This post was last updated in April 2018.
How to get a visa for Iran – The ultimate guide 2018
Here you will find:
Who is eligible for a free visa for Iran
Iran visa on arrival (VOA)
When you should apply for an Iran visa in advance
How to apply for an Iran travel visa in advance
Visa for Iran duration
Iran visa extension
Visa for American, UK and Canadian citizens
Who can apply for a free Iran tourist visa?
Most likely, you can’t enter Iran on a free visa because only 8 countries are eligible for that. These lucky countries are:
If you don’t hold a passport from any of the above countries, you must pay for your visa.
Exception! If you enter via Kish Island, all nationalities who are eligible for a VOA, can get a 14-day free Iran tourist visa if they remain in Kish. You may think: who the hell wants to travel to Iran to just remain in Kish? Well, the truth is that many European expats living in Dubai or Doha fly out to Kish to spend the weekend there.
Iran visa on arrival (VOA)
Except for citizens of:
Everybody can get an Iran visa on arrival at several international airports in Iran.
Important! Of course, citizens of Israel can’t enter Iran.
According to MFA, if there is any evidence on your passport, your visa will be granted as long your last visit to Israel was more than six months ago. However, I would not rely 100% on it so, if you have any evidence, I would recommend renewing your passport. For more information, read: Avoid Israeli passport stamps – FAQ
NEW UPDATE Summer 2018! – If entering Iran via any of the international airports, you can now ask the authorities to stamp your visa on a separate piece of paper. This is particularly useful for people traveling to the USA!
Which airports are eligible for an Iran tourist visa on arrival?
Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Qeshm & Kish Island, Mashhad, and Tabriz
Iran travel visa requirements – VOA
e-visa Application form – This is a new rule which not many travelers are aware of. If you want to get a VOA, you must fill out an application at least 2 days before your arrival and present the printed out form at the airport. However, this is a little bit confusing as I met a traveler who didn’t apply for it and still, he got his VOA. Just bear in mind that this is the Middle East, so many rules are not written accurately. Apply for it here.
Sponsored Host – If you have a hotel reservation for the first few days, print out your hotel booking confirmation and have in hand your hotel contact details, because they will surely call them. If you are staying with a friend, you will also have to present their contact details.
Travel Insurance – All travelers must have valid travel insurance for Iran. If you do have it, you should bring any documents which prove it. If you don’t, they will make you buy it at the airport and these were the prices in March 2018:
1 to 31 days: 14€
32 to 45 days: 23€
46 to 62 days: 28€
63 to 92 days: 34€
However, the insurance you buy at the airport has very limited coverage, so coming with a proper insurance is a must. Unfortunately, most popular travel insurance companies, such as World Nomads, will not cover you for Iran. Therefore, I strongly recommend IATI Insurance, a very professional company which fully covers you for Iran and offers many plans for any kind of traveler and budget.
Moreover, the readers of Against the Compass will get a 5% discount. (you will see the discount after calculating the quote)
Iranian visa fee
It really depends on your nationality but, typically, prices would range from 40 to 150€. I have a Spanish passport and paid 75€.
When you need to apply for an Iran tourist visa in advance
If you can get a visa on arrival, why should you get it in advance?
There are some exceptions:
You enter Iran overland
If are coming from Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan or Turkey, you must apply for your visa in advance. Apparently, a VOA is available at the Armenian border but there are some reports of people who tried to cross there recently, who failed to get a visa, so don’t rely 100% on it.
You don’t want to wait at the airport for several hours
If you already have your visa, you can enter the country immediately. However, the VOA process takes around 2 or 3 hours and, in some cases, me for example, it may take up to 6 hours. Reasons for waiting hours vary but, in my case, it was because I didn’t have a return flight ticket, said that I planned to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan afterward and had a brand-new passport. They found me a bit suspicious.
To secure your visa
There are some reports from travelers who claimed that their VOA was not granted because they didn’t have a return flight ticket or because the authorities could not contact their host or any other excuse. The percentage of people in this situation is very low but still, there might be some small risk. If you want to make sure, get your visa in advance.
You are an American, British or Canadian citizen
Like I said before, these three nationalities are not eligible for a VOA, so you will have to arrange your visa via a tour company.
How to apply for an Iran tourist visa in advance
In order to get your Iran visit visa in advance, you will have to first get a code which, basically, is a letter of invitation from a tour operator. Once you have this code, you will be able to collect your visa at any embassy.
How to get your Iran visa code?
As you may imagine, there are plenty of tourist agencies that can provide you with this code but, after doing some research, I found that Key2Persia offered the most competitive price.
A few things you should know regarding the Iran visa code:
The code is valid for one month – This means that you need to collect your visa within a month.
Iran visa code cost – It costs 35USD per person, a fee which needs to be deposited in the agency’s PayPal account.
Timing – Since very recently, it only takes 1 to 3 working days.
Embassy – You will have to tell them at which embassy would you like to pick up your visa.
Crossing with your own vehicle – Important! The agency will tell you that this code or invitation letter is NOT VALID if you are crossing in your own vehicle. They claim that, in that case, you need to be accompanied by a tour guide, during your entire trip. They are actually not lying to you but it is not entirely true either. This means that, officially, the MFA claims that foreigners traveling on their vehicle must be accompanied by a tour operator but, in practice, all travelers have entered overland on a normal tourist visa and traveled independently without any problem, which means that they are not very strict. If you don’t tell the agency that you are entering by car it’s your responsibility entirely!
Anyways, just email them at [email protected] and wait for their instructions. They are very kind and responsive.
More information! The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has launched a website where you can actually apply for this code, saving you from getting a letter of invitation. However, the website is not working properly and, apparently, very few people succeeded, including myself. You can try it here and, if it works, let me know!
Picking up your Iranian visa at the embassy
Once you get the code, you can pick up your visa.
However, regardless the embassy, your first step will be to verify that your code has arrived at the embassy. For this, the agency will give you a tracking number which you need to show at the embassy. However, you could actually call them and there’s no need to go to the embassy. I still went to the embassy but only because it was really close to my hostel. Either way, you will have to wait for one day until they check that the code has arrived.
Iran travel visa requirements – Needed documents to apply for your Iran visa at the embassy
- Passport with a minimum of 6-months’ validity
- Passport copy
- 2 passport photos
- Visa application form – To be collected and filled at the embassy
When you have all your documents, you can go to the embassy. For EU nationalities, the price is 75€. An Australian friend paid 150€. You will have to make the deposit at the Iranian bank and come back with your payslip. The bank is very close to the embassy and they guy will give you the address.
Once you show the payslip, you will have to leave your passport and come back on the next day (or the same afternoon) to collect your visa.
Visa for Iran – Duration
Normally, everybody traveling to Iran should be able to get a 30-day visa, regardless you enter via airport or overland.
Iran Visa Extensions
Extending your visa is very easy and feasible. Typically, if you get a 1-month visa, you can extend it twice for 30 days. This means that you can travel in Iran for up to 90 days.
You can extend your visa at any Immigration Visa Office in any provincial capital. Yadz or Esfahan are very popular places to extend your visa among travelers. I personally extended mine in Bandar Abbas, a southern city. Each office has its own rules but, in Bandar Abbas, they required a passport and visa copy and two passport photos. The one-month extension cost me 345,000IR and it took 24 hours to proceed.
Visa for Americans, UK and Canadian citizens
As you may know, the MFA requires Americans, British and Canadian nationals to make a tour from arrival to departure; essentially this means you need a guide at all times you on a daily basis.
Citizens of these countries need to have a confirmed itinerary, which should be requested from a valid tour company. For this, they should send a passport copy, as well as passport photos to the tour operator.
Typically, getting the invitation letter takes around 30 working days.
It is highly recommended that these nationalities book their international flight ticket after receiving the LOI, as there have been several refusals.
As per the tour operator, I strongly recommend Key 2 Persia, one of the tour operator in Iran, which is even recommended by the Lonely Planet. I know them personally, hired some of their services and even worked together on promoting pars Province, so they are 100% trustable. For further information, email them at [email protected].