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What does it take to get into Iran as an United States national? Apparently a bit more effort than what it took to get into North Korea.

Unlike North Korea for which visas must be applied way ahead of time, tourism in Iran has been going on for awhile; visas-on-arrival are available to pretty much everybody in the world except U.S. citizens, British, Canadian, and Israeli nationals. So if you’re anyone else, you might as well be heading to Iran tomorrow and nobody would notice. (At the time of posting, only Israeli nationals have zero legal chance of getting into Iran)

But for citizens of the USA, take note. This is how you do it:

1) Give yourself a window of at least 3-4 months to prepare. This will be a relatively long and overly complicated process.


2) Find an official MFA-approved sponsoring tour agency operating within Iran. In this case we worked with our North Korean pals, Young Pioneer Tours, to find us a trusted one in Iran.

3) Fill out a pre-visa application form and send it over to the sponsoring tour agency, along with a copy of your passport’s front page and a 2×2 passport sized photo of yourself. If you’re female, it is recommended that you wear a hijab in the 2×2 passport photo.

4) Wait.

5) Wait a bit more.

6) Wait until you think you’re about to give up. Eventually, something will happen.

7) You’ll get a notice if you’ve been approved. A rejection is always likely, and if that happens that probably means you’ll never be able to get into Iran.

8) But if you are approved, the agency will assign you an authorization code for visa approval.

9) Brag to your friends that you’ve been pre-approved for entry into Iran.

10) Call your local Iranian consulate (in an American’s case, it would be the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistan embassy in Washington D.C.) to confirm whether they have received the authorization number from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran.

11) . . . most likely they will say no.

12) If that happens, contact your sponsoring agency in Iran and ask them to forward the authorization number again to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

13) In the meantime, fill out the official Visa Application form (Form 101), which is downloadable from the Iranian Interest Section website.

14) Send Form 101, your passport, one 2×2 passport photo, and a check for $132 ($112 visa processing + $20 return postage fee) to the Iranian Interests Section in Washington D.C. 
. . . OR do it in person for a faster 2-day turnaround (fee must be paid in cash if you do it in person).

15) Wait some more.

16) You might as well buy your roundtrip flight tickets now since you have nothing better to do.

17) Wait. Realize you’re probably getting into Iran. Feel terrified/giddy.

18) Receive your passport in the mail, along with your shiny new visa.


22) Now imagine doing all of the above, and coordinating that with 10 other U.S. passport holders. That’s what I’ve been working on the last 2 months. And now it’s all coming together (hopefully).

We leave in 16 days.

– At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was 50 °F
Humidity: 86% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: broken clouds