Iran has all the usual visa types – business, student, journalist, etc – but for travellers there are three:
- Tourist visa: issued for up to 30 days and extendable. Must be obtained before coming to Iran and valid to enter for 90 days from the issue date. This is the safest option.
- Tourist visa on arrival (VOA): issued for 15 days on arrival at any international airport. Convenient but relatively risky as you might be denied entry.
- Transit visa: issued for five to seven days. You must enter and exit via different countries, and have a visa or a ticket to an onward country. Can be obtained in one or two days and, critically, no authorization number is required. Not available to US passport holders.
Other than transit visas, all visa applicants must be 'approved' by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran. This includes those seeking a visa on arrival, who can be approved either in advance or, with a longer wait, on arrival.
If you're approved, the MFA sends an authorization number to the consulate or airport, which takes your application form, passport photos and fee and issues the visa. Fees vary depending on your country of origin.
Basically, you need to decide which visa type you want and whether you’ll try to get the visa yourself, or going directly through a consulate saves an agency fee but often takes longer and has a much greater chance of rejection (many consulates won’t even accept an application without an authorization number). In theory, you download the application from the consulate in your home country; take or send it with your passport, photos, money and proof of your travel insurance to the embassy, which then sends your details to Tehran for approval. If you’re lucky, several weeks later your passport (hopefully with a visa) will come back. Otherwise you’ll need to contact them, which can be hard given Iranian embassies have for years been like black holes to email and telephone calls.
Exceptions abound. In rare cases this method can take just a few days. However there have been many cases where weeks after submission the consul has directed applicants to a visa agency to get the authorization number; start again. Given the pay an agency to smooth the process.
Applying online for your authorization number
In order to apply and get a visa you must submit your passport details to an authorized Iranian travel or tour company. After receiving your information we apply online to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to get your visa approval number. Your visa will then be processed and if approved an authorization number will be faxed to the Iranian embassy you nominated to have it picked up at. Our office will then email you the authorization number so you can then pick up your visa. The authorization number means that your visa has been approved by the MFA but it is not the visa itself. Normal processing time by the MFA is 10-14 working days and longer for passports from USA and UK.
If you need to change the embassy location after the approval is issued then advise us and we can get it reissued a the new location usually within a few days.
Picking up your visa at an Iranian embassy
After you receive your authorization number you can apply in person or by mail at the nominated embassy or consulate. The actual processing time depends on the embassy and can be from 1-5 days. The visa is valid for 3 months from the date it is processed into your passport so don’t pick it up too early before you plan to travel to Iran.
- 1 Passport (must have more than 7 months of validity left)
- 1 Application form (It is available online)
- 2-4 visa/passport size photos (not smaller than 1”x1.5” or 2.5cm x 3.8cm)
- Proof of medical travel insurance (including evacuation and repatriation coverage)
- MFA authorization number
- Visa fee
- Some embassies ask for 1 or 2 photocopies of your passport photo page
Picking up your visa on arrival at an Iranian Airport
Visas are available for pick up at Tehran International Airport on arrival for about 70 nationalities if this method is more convenient. We will prepare an authorization letter for you to give to the airline counter at check in. Once you arrive at the airport in Iran proceed to the Visa Office to have your visa issued. Note that these airport offices sometimes take 20-45 minutes to process your visa and if there is a large group waiting then sometimes longer. Proof of medical travel insurance is now compulsory and is available for sale from the immigration office at the airport.
SGP(Sarv Gasht Pars ) tour company can arrange this for you whether you plan to take a tour with us or you are planning to make your own arrangements.
(Note: All American passport holders must travel on a group or private tour with a registered guide to be allowed a visa to Iran.)
Download IRAN Tourist Visa Authorization Form