Iran Travel Warnings: What Americans and Canadians Need to Know

The sanctions on Iran are getting tighter, but this has one oft-dismissed dimension, in that Iranians who live abroad, especially in the United States and Canada, find it nearly impossible to travel to their homeland. This reality affects their family and friends still residing in Iran, and makes it even harder for foreigners to visit the country. In this piece, I am going to outline what Canada and the United States have recommended when it comes to traveling to Iran.

The Canadian government’s travel website provides updates on all countries for anyone looking to go abroad, and in respect to Iran, the heightened political tensions were recently stretched further when Ottawa unexpectedly announced the severing of diplomatic relations with Tehran. A primary problem here then becomes that any Canadians of Iranian descent or otherwise, will find it very hard to locate support in Iran, should they find themselves in difficulty. Particularly notable is that anyone with dual citizenship, one being Iranian, would be under intense scrutiny over the time they stay in the country. Canada continues to advise would-be travelers of the conservative society and culture of conduct in Iran, alongside the harsh penalties violating the established rules might carry. Should travel be unavoidable, or desirable in light of the realities in place, there are visa requirements one must meet, depending on the nature of the trip — tourism, business, school, pilgrimage, press, or transit. Passports are naturally required to enter the country. Women are particularly vulnerable, because dual citizenships may be confiscated, and they are subject to sensitive restrictions and corresponding punishments for them, in line with the Islamic character of Iran’s legal system.

The state department also maintains a comprehensive page on Iran with information on current conditions, requirements, and travel advisories. As Washington does not maintain embassy or consular services in Iran, the Swiss embassy is charged with the communication of U.S. correspondence with the country. In Washington, the embassy of Pakistan can handle entry inquiries for Iran, and like Canada, any would-be American travelers are subjected to visa requirements. A seven-day tourist visa may be issued, but it requires a passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry. However, Iranian authorities are known to deny entry to Americans, even if they hold a valid visa. Again, Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and will treat Iranians with dual passports as Iranian citizens only. Another problem arises with the intentional and unreasonable detainment of American nationals in Iran, preventing their exit on grounds of alleged espionage or criminal charges.

The same aforementioned provisions for women visiting Iran would apply, but the recommendations go further in avoiding border areas with Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Iraq. Avoiding public gatherings is also important, as is venturing in areas known to host criminal gangs, engaged in weapons, drug or human trafficking. A provision all travelers should take is to issue a visa for a third country, possibly in the Schengen area, to provide an exit option if all other alternatives are exhausted.

Males of at least 17 years of age would be required to complete compulsory military service in Iran, if they have not done so already.

Medical insurance is important to have for all parties considering travel to Iran.

As mentioned prior, American nationals can expect close surveillance of their movements and communications, and the American state is not well-positioned to render assistance because of the lack of diplomatic relations.

Overall, the picture that emerges is that Iran is a difficult and dangerous destination for the average North American. The visa process still works, but it can be slow and arduous, and the best possible intent to go is to apply for a tourist visa. Any other reasons for travel are simply too high-risk.