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Visa to Iran: A quick way to sort it out before you travel

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Iran

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 25/07/2024, 09:00

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Visa to Iran is a common subject that reappears on Internet forums and Facebook groups. People are quite worried about it before they go. Until only recently the Iranian government led a very strict policy on visas. Not all tourists were able to get it. At the moment receiving a visa to Iran is very simple and doesn’t require that many formalities.

The first thing I did before buying a ticket to Iran was to check all policies and restrictions. I heard about problems the other people had when applying for it and I didn’t want to risk it. As it turned out, getting a visa took me a couple of days and the whole process was very straightforward.

Are you going to Iran? Are you worried about the visa? Here’s what you need to know!

Where to apply for a visa to Iran?

As a tourist you need a tourist visa to Iran. You can apply for it in three places:

  • In a consulate or an embassy in your chosen country (e-visa).
  • Online, through an agency.
  • At the airport in Iran (visa on arrival).

At the time of writing this post (August 2019) it’s impossible to apply for a visa at a land crossing. VOA is available only at the airports.

In an embassy, or a consulate

In January 2017 Iran introduced a new process of applying for a visa. The application can be completed online. It is not an e-visa per se, although this is what it is called, but it is a way to generate a code, which is then used in the application process.

I applied for it that way in Portugal. It was very safe and quick. But be careful! Not all diplomatic institutions offer this system! Check their websites in the country you want to apply in. If they don’t have the e-system, you need to use an agency (please have a look below).

The good news is that those who travel and want to apply outside their country of origin, can do so. You don’t need to be home to be able to get a visa to Iran.

The visa is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. That means that you need to cross the border within 3 months after getting the document. It is best to apply for it 2 months before your departure date. The visa is given with the exact dates of your stay. It is possible to receive one for 30, 60 and 90 days.

On some internet forums I had read that an application can be rejected without a valid reason or that a consulate might not receive your form. These things can happen. That’s why sometimes it’s better to go through an agency to avoid any problems.

Documents needed for an online application:

  • Valid passport (for at least next 6 months).
  • A photo of the photo page from your passport.
  • Insurance. You will find more information about insurance to Iran here.
  • A flight ticket.
  • Confirmation of your accommodation at least for the first night. Remember that Iran doesn’t have sites like Booking.com.
  • A passport photo. Size: less than 500 KB, but more than 10 KB. 400×600 pixels. I took it at home and then changed the size in Photoshop.

The application process

Filling out the form will take you a couple of minutes. After submitting it you will get a bar code with a number, which is good to save. Thanks to it you can track your application.

On the Lisbon consulate website (I applied in Lisbon) there is an information that the process should take around 10 working days. In my case it took 3. Everything depends on the consulate and how busy they are.

If your application was successful, you will get another email with an attachment. It will have your photo, your details and your serial number. You have to print it out and along with the other documents take it to the consulate. Remember to take the admin fee! At the moment it costs 50 Euros for European citizens, excluding the UK.

Generating your visa will take about 3 working days. The staff will inform you when to pick up your passport.

This form of the visa is not a stamp. The attachment that you got via email is the confirmation of receiving it and that’s the one that you have to print and take with you for the trip. You still have to go to the consulate tho.

Possible problems with the e-visa

The e-visa is a relatively new way of applying and you might encounter some problems. The two most common are:

  • A lack of reply: You should receive an email back from the consulate in 5-10 working days. However, sometimes you might not hear back at all. Your form might have got stuck in the system. What can you do? You can call the stuff in the consulate and ask about your visa, or you can apply again.
  • Rejecting your application: Sometimes you might get rejected. If that happens, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply again. Use an agency to help you out, or apply for a VOA at the airport.

A visa to Iran with a help of an agency

This is probably the safest route. The whole cost of applying through an agency is slightly higher than the one for a VOA. However, this is the least stressful way.

My first plan was to apply through an agency, but at the last moment the Iranian government decided to make some changes and the whole procedure was suspended. At last I decided to try with the e-visa described above.

Documents you will need:

As with the e-visa, this way will not get you the actual visa. The agency will help you to get the bar code, which is then taken to the consulate. You will need exactly the same papers:

  • Valid passport (for at least next 6 months).
  • A photo of the photo page from your passport.
  • Insurance. You will find more information about insurance to Iran here.
  • A flight ticket.
  • Confirmation of your accommodation at least for the first night. Remember that Iran doesn’t have sites like Booking.com.
  • A passport photo. Size: less than 500 KB, but more than 10 KB. 400×600 pixels. I took it at home and then changed the size in Photoshop.\

The process of applying with an agency

If you don’t want to worry if your visa will come on time, or if you will get it at all, then I recommend the services of 1st Quest, my trusted partner. During my trip around Iran they helped me to book hotels, flights and buses. I also used them to buy my insurance. You can apply for the visa here. If you use this link, you will not pay more and I will get a small provision, which will help me to write even more awesome and useful posts for you!

On the 1st Quest site you click on the online form. Then you can mark where you want to pick up your visa. It can be an airport, or one of the consulates.

After getting the approval, you will receive an email with your details. Just print it out and take it to your chosen consulate. It will take another couple of days to have everything sorted. The staff will inform you when to pick it up.

The whole cost of the visa is 19 Euro and 50 Euro administration cost that is paid at the embassy (this is a price for Polish and most European citizens. Check with the consulate the exact amount before going).

Visa On Arrival to Iran – Apply at the airport

A VOA is a visa which you can get at the airport, after leaving the plane. It is a good solution for those that don’t have too much time and don’t want to wait for the consulate approval.

VOA is valid for 30 days. Apparently there are travellers who managed to get one for 60 days, but that might be a gossip.

Before you go you can fill out the online form to generate a code (but this is not required). It might speed up the process at the airport. You don’t need to have a separate photo for the visa, but it’s best to have one, just in case.

Documents needed for a VOA :

  • A passport valid for at least 6 months with 2 free pages for a stamp.
  • Insurance. You can buy it online, or at the airport. It costs around 18 USD or 14 Euro.
  • A return flight ticket.
  • 75 Euro admin fee (cash only).

‘Difficult nationalities’

Iran has complicated relationships with other countries and this is very evident when applying for a visa. Canadians, Americans and Brits can visit Iran, but they need to be under a watchful eye of one of the special tour guides, who are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

If you have two citizenships, one of which is of a country mentioned perviously, it’s best not to admit it and apply using your other passport. No one asks any questions.

If you have a passport of one of those countries and nothing else, then you need to contact the nearest consulate and ask how you can organise your trip.

I hope this post helped you and made the whole process much clearer. Don’t forget to check out other articles about Iran. I have a lot of useful resources on the site!

Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your experiences or your point of view? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!