Who needs a visa to enter Iran?
All foreign tourists, except for passport holders of a few countries, require a visa to travel to Iran. Citizens of these countries do not need a tourist visa to enter Iran: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Georgia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Iran e-visa vs. visa reference number
You might get confused with the different terms used to talk about Iranian visas - Iran eVisa or e Visa, electronic visa, authorization code, reference number, invitation letter and tourist visa all refer to the same type of visa required for a tourist to enter Iran. So, don’t worry about different names; they all refer to the one tourist visa.
How to get an Iranian visa in advance?
Getting a visa is very simple with 1stQuest.
Fill in an online application form, pay the service fee and we’ll do the paperwork for you. We’ll get you an authorization code from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and send it to you within 2 business days. When you receive the code, it means that your visa is ready. In fact, an authorization code (also called reference code) is the electronic receipt for your visa.
After you receive your authorization code, you can collect your visa either from an Iranian embassy/consulate or from an international airport in Iran. But, remember, you must specify where you want to collect your visa when filling in your application form.
Is there any other way to obtain the visa in advance?
To obtain a visa to travel to Iran, you can also go to an Iranian embassy in person or refer to the website of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). However, individuals applying directly through Iranian embassies or the MFA’s website have experienced long waiting times and high rejection rates (see here to read travellers’ experiences with this).
What are the Iranian visa requirements?
For an Iranian tourist visa, the following is required:
- A passport with at least 6 months validity and two blank pages
- A standard passport size photo
- Fee. Payable to the chosen Iranian consulate or the visa office at the airport. The visa fee depends on the applicant’s nationality (see the list of visa fees). The visa fee is payable in cash- Euro or US dollar only. Note: This is different from the service fee received by 1stQuest to process your visa application.
- Travel insurance. When collecting your visa at the embassy or airport, you are required to have a printout of your travel insurance valid for the duration of your stay in Iran. You can purchase insurance through 1stQuest for €15. Read more on how to get an Iran travel insurance and which travel insurances are acceptable in Iran.
For online visa application, you need to upload a digital copy (scanned files) of your passport and passport photo. For collecting your visa from the airport/embassy you need to present the original documents.
How to get an Iran visa on arrival (VOA)?
Visa on arrival (VOA- aka Iran airport visa) is a tourist visa granted to citizens of 180 countries upon their arrival to Iran. Since August 2017, you must apply through the Iranian government’s e-visa website at least 2 days in advance to get a VOA.
Then, upon your arrival, you will hand the submission receipt to the visa officer at the airport and receive your VOA.
While getting a VOA seems to be convenient, our recommendation is to apply for a visa before you get to Iran. Why?
- VOA costs more. VOA fee ranges between 10-150 euros, averaging 75 euros for most European countries. VOA fees are about 30% more than applying for a visa in advance, therefore, the VOA fee for Europeans is equal to and sometimes more expensive than getting a visa in advance through 1stQuest.
- With VOA, there is always a risk of rejection. If you are rejected, you have to buy a return flight and pay the extra costs. 1stQuest sees fewer rejections and you know your visa result in advance.
- Issuing the VOA can take hours at the airport.No one likes waiting in lines of visa and passport check after a long flight. Breeze on through the queues with your pre approved visa from 1stQuest.
- Some nationalities do not qualify for VOA.These countries include the US, UK, Canada, Colombia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What’s the best time to apply for an Iranian visa? How Early?
We recommend you start the process of visa application three to four weeks ahead of your scheduled travel. However, getting visa won’t take that long. You’ll receive your authorization code in 2 business days and then, if you choose to collect your visa from the airport, you’re almost done. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen to collect your visa from the embassy/consulate, you need to have enough time to go to the embassy and collect it.
Duration, extension, and validity of Iranian tourist visa
The Iranian tourist visa is a 30-day single entry visa. But, you can extend it in Iran for 30 days, and then a consecutive 30 days, if needed. The visa is valid up to 3 months after the issue date.
In order to extend your visa, head for the Police Department of Aliens Affairs. The offices are open from Saturday to Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The offices are invariably crowded and little work is done after midday; so, it’s better to go early. Check Iranian national holidays to avoid any delays. There, you’ll need the following:
- two photocopies of the picture page of your passport, your current visa, and any other extensions
- two passport photos
- Fee for the extension (about IR 500,000; check the current fee with the office). To pay the fee, you’ll be directed to a Bank Melli branch. After returning the bank receipt, the visa extension will be issued for up to 30 days.
Iran visa for American, Canadian, and British citizens
American, British, and Canadian passport holders can enter Iran only if they are accompanied by an authorized tour guide. But don’t worry, this doesn't mean that your tour guide will watchdog you during the trip. You’ll have your free time to find things on your own and negotiate every aspect of your travel to customize your visit.
Hiring an authorized tour guide is easy and cheap through 1stQuest. Our tour guide service fee starts from €45 per day. Read more on Traveling to Iran as an American, British, or Canadian in our blog.
Visa requirements for Pakistani citizens
Pakistani nationals are not eligible for VOA. In order to get visa, they are required to apply through an agency. The process and required documents for Pakistani citizens are exactly the same as other citizens.
How to enter Iran without a visa? Visa-free zones: Kish and Qeshm
There are some Iranian free trade zones where all nationals eligible for VOA can enter without a visa and stay up to 14 days. These areas include Kish Island, Qeshm Island, Chabahar, Aras, Anzali, Arvand, and Maku. There are international airports in Kish Island and Qeshm Island with frequent international flights. Other areas are best accessible by land. Keep in mind that for exiting the free zones and entering Iran, you will require a visa.
US visa waiver program and new Iran visa policy
Some travelers ask: Does a visit to Iran affect my future for visiting other countries? The answer is NO, but there is a story behind it. US Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries, including most European countries, to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. However, in 2015, a new limitation was imposed on citizens of these countries who have previously traveled to Iran and a few other countries.
In 2018, Iran updated its visa policy and started a new stamp-free policy to encourage more foreign visitors to enter Iran. In the new policy travelers to Iran will no longer have an Iranian visa attached to their passport or an enter/exit stamp on their passport. Therefore, visitors will be easily using the Visa Waiver Program to enter the US.
How much does it cost to get an iranian visa?
In order to obtain visa (whether it’s a On Arrival or in advance) you need to pay an embassy/stamp fee to Iran consulate/airport when collecting your visa. The fee depends on the applicant’s nationality. Following you can see the list of visa fees for different nationalities:
|Nationalities||Schengen Nationalities||Australian/New Zealand||British||American||Canadian||Pakistani||Indian||Chinese & Taiwanese||Brazilian|
|Visa on arrival fee||€75||€145-150||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable||Not applicable||€90||€100||€80|