The U.S. State Department Cares About Me

by | Apr 4, 2012 | Pre-travel Preparations, Travel Warnings | 1 comment


Thank you U.S. State Department for issuing this travel warning for me. Keeps everything into perspective, doesn’t it?


The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and carefully consider nonessential travel. The Travel Warning for Iran issued October 8, 2010 has been reviewed and reissued without change.

Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure, in some cases for several months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities deny the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran access to imprisoned dual national Iranian-American citizens because Iranian authorities consider them to be solely Iranian citizens; access to U.S. citizens is often denied as well.

The Iranian government continues to repress some minority religious and ethnic groups, including Baha’i, Arabs, Kurds, Azeris, and others. Consequently, some areas within the country where these minorities reside, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kurdish northwest of the country, and areas near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe. U.S. citizens who travel to Iran should exercise caution.

The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran. The Swiss government, acting through its Embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. Neither U.S. passports nor visas to the United States are issued in Tehran. The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship and will not allow the Swiss to provide protective services for U.S. citizens who are also Iranian nationals. Iranian authorities have detained and harassed U.S. citizens of Iranian origin. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and prosecution.

U.S. citizens who travel or reside in Iran are strongly encouraged to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollement Program. U.S. citizens may also enroll in person at the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy, located at No. 39, Shahid Mousavi (Golestan 5th), Pasdaran, Tehran. The telephone numbers for the U.S. Interests Section are ( 98)(21) 2254-2178 and (98)(21) 2256-5273, fax (98)(21) 2258-0432, email:, website:

U.S. citizens should also review the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Iran and stay up to date by bookmarking the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.If you don’t have internet access, current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States, or for callers from other countries, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens who travel to Iran despite the Travel Warning should exercise caution throughout the country, but especially in the southeastern region where Westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to areas within 100 kilometers of the border with Afghanistan, within 10 kilometers of the border with Iraq, and generally anywhere east of the line from Bam and Bandar Abbas toward the Pakistan border.

Terrorist explosions have killed a number of people since 2005. Be aware that the Iranian government has blamed the U.S. and/or UK governments for involvement in the February 2007 bombing that killed Iranian military forces in Zahedan in the southeast, the 2005/2006 bombings in Ahvaz/Khuzestan in the southwest, and the May 2009 bombing of a mosque in the south-east Iranian city of Zahedan.

U.S. citizens are advised to avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings. Increased tension between Iran and the West over the past several years is a cause of concern for U.S. citizen travelers. Large-scale demonstrations in response to politically motivated events such as the 2009 presidential election, take place sporadically throughout the country. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. U.S. passport holders who are arrested or detained by Iranian authorities should request assistance from the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

Iranian security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited and could result in serious criminal charges, including espionage, which carries the death penalty.

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CRIME: Major crime is generally not a problem for travelers in Iran, although foreigners occasionally become victims of petty street crime. Young men in unmarked cars have robbed foreigners and young men on motor bikes have snatched bags. There have been reports of robberies by police impersonators, usually in civilian clothing. Insist on seeing the officer’s identity card and request the presence of a uniformed officer/marked patrol car. Travelers should not surrender any documents or cash. You are advised to make a copy of your U.S. passport (biographical data page and the page with your Iranian visa) and to keep it separate from your original passport.

Travelers should not carry large amounts of hard currency while on the streets. In view of the possibility of theft, passports, disembarkation cards, other important documents and valuables should be kept in hotel safes or other secure locations. Pre-booked taxis are safer than those hailed from the street. U.S. citizens should check with their hotel or tour guide for information on local scams.


Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.


CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Iran, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Iran your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.


Persons violating Iranian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Fines, public floggings, and long prison terms are common. Former Muslims who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims to convert, are subject to arrest and possible execution. Drinking, possession of alcoholic beverages and drugs, un-Islamic dress, as well as public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex are considered to be crimes. Relations between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal. Adultery, sex outside marriage, and homosexual sex are all illegal under Iranian law and carry the death penalty. DVDs depicting sexual relations and magazines showing unveiled women are forbidden. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iran are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Iran executes many people each year on drug-related charges.


Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. U.S. citizens in Iran who violate Iranian laws, including laws unfamiliar to Westerners (such as those regarding the proper wearing of apparel), may face severe penalties.

The Iranian government reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed claims against Iran at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague pursuant to the 1981 Algerian Accords. In addition, the Iranian government reportedly has compiled a list of the claimants who were awarded compensation in the Iran Claims Program administered by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Iranian government has allegedly been targeting award-holders who travel to Iran. It has been reported that upon some claimants’ entry into Iran, Iranian authorities have questioned them as to the status of payment of their respective awards with a view to recouping the award money. The Iranian government has also reportedly threatened to prevent U.S. claimants who visit Iran from departing the country until they make arrangements to repay part of or their entire award.


Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Iran, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.


SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The Iranian government has seized the passports and blocked the departure of foreigners who work in Iran on tax/commercial disputes. In addition to being subject to all Iranian laws, U.S. citizens who also possess Iranian citizenship are also subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of Iran, such as military service or taxes. Iranian-citizen males aged 18-34 are required to perform military service, unless exempt. This requirement includes Iranian-Americans, even those born in the United States. Young men who have turned 17 years of age will no longer be allowed to leave Iran without first having completed their military service.

Dual nationals sometimes have their U.S. passports confiscated and may be denied permission to leave Iran, or encounter other problems with Iranian authorities. Likewise, Iranian authorities may deny dual nationals’ access to the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran, because they are considered to be solely Iranian citizens. Refer to the above section entitled “Entry/Exit Requirements” for additional information concerning dual nationality. U.S. citizens who are not dual U.S.-Iranian nationals are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport (biodata page and page with Iranian visa) with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available. Carry some other form of identification with you at all times as well, such as a driver’s license or other photo identification.


Credit cards and bank cards cannot be used in Iran. It is easy to exchange U.S. dollars for rials, either at banks or with certified money changers; however, you will not be able to access U.S. bank accounts using ATMs in Iran. While in Iran, avoid accessing a U.S. bank account via Internet, since the account will immediately be frozen or blocked by the bank due to U.S. government economic sanctions. Traveler’s checks can be difficult to exchange. Bring enough hard currency to cover your stay, but make sure you declare this currency upon entry. There is no Western Union or similar institution and bank transfers may not be possible. Exchange money only at banks or an authorized currency exchange facility, not on the street, and keep your exchange receipts.


Pre-paid overseas calling cards are available at most newsagents. The Internet is widely used in Iran. There are Internet cafes in most hotels; usage may be monitored.


Do not work illegally. You will be deported, fined, and/or imprisoned. You may also be prevented from re-entering the country.


Islamic law is strictly enforced in Iran. Alcohol is forbidden. Importation of pork products is banned. Consult a guide book on Iran to determine how to dress and behave properly and respectfully. Women should expect to wear a headscarf and a long jacket that covers the arms and upper legs while in public. There may be additional dress requirements at certain religious sites; e.g., women might need to put on a chador (which covers the whole body except the face) at some shrines. During the holy month of Ramadan, you should generally observe the Muslim tradition of not eating, drinking, or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset each day, though there are exemptions for foreign travelers who eat in hotel restaurants.


In general, it is best to ask before taking photographs of people. Hobbies like photography and those involving the use of binoculars (e.g., bird-watching) can be misunderstood and get you in trouble with security officials. (See Threats to Safety and Security section above for warnings on photography.)


For specific information regarding Iranian customs regulations, contact the Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. Please see our Customs Information for U.S. regulations.


It is unlawful to bring controlled items, such as laptops and satellite cell phones, into Iran, even on a temporary basis, unless specifically authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in a manner consistent with the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of 1992 and other relevant law.


U.S. government economic sanctions prohibit most economic activity between U.S. persons and Iran. The importation of most Iranian-origin goods or services into the United States is prohibited without a license from OFAC except for gifts valued at $100 or less, information or informational materials, certain foodstuffs intended for human consumption, and certain carpets and textile floor coverings. The exportation or re-exportation of most goods, technology or services directly or indirectly from the United States or by a U.S. person to Iran also is prohibited without a license, except in the following cases: articles donated to relieve human suffering (such as food, clothing, and medicine), gifts valued at $100 or less, licensed exports of agricultural commodities, most medicine and medical devices, and information and informational materials. All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran, including baggage costs, living expenses, and the acquisition of goods or services for personal use, are permitted. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Department of Treasury, provides guidance to the public on the interpretation of the current economic sanctions. For further information, consult OFAC’s Compliance Programs Division, at 202-622-2490, visit OFAC’s web site, or obtain information via fax at 202-622-0077.


For information concerning licensing of imports or exports, contact OFAC’s Licensing Division at:


Licensing Division
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Treasury Annex
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480; Fax (202) 622-1657

Iran is prone to earthquakes, many of them severe. An earthquake in the city of Bam in 2003, for example, claimed 30,000 lives. To learn more about the seismic regions of Iran including the most recent earthquakes please visit the U.S. Geological Survey website.


MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Basic medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities, but may not be available in rural areas. Medical facilities do not meet U.S. standards and sometimes lack medicines and supplies. Iranian authorities confirmed outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) in January 2008 in northern Iran, as well as earlier reports of outbreaks among wild swans in the Anzali Wetlands and in domestic poultry in the northern provinces of Azerbaijan and Gilan. There were a number of confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in 2009.


You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.


TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Iran, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Travelers in possession of International Driver’s Permits may drive in Iran, though the U.S. Interests Section in Iran does not recommend that tourists drive in Iran. Iran has a very high rate of traffic accidents, the second highest cause of mortality in the country. Drivers throughout Iran tend to ignore traffic lights, traffic signs, and lane markers. Urban streets are not well lit. It is therefore particularly dangerous to drive at night. Sidewalks in urban areas only exist on main roads and are usually obstructed by parked cars. In the residential areas, few sidewalks exist. Drivers almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. If you are involved in an accident, no matter how minor, do not leave the scene: wait until the police arrive to file a report.

Iranian authorities sometimes set up informal roadblocks, both in cities and on highways, often manned by young, inexperienced officers who are often suspicious of foreigners. Ensure you carry a form of identification with you and avoid getting into disputes.


Very high pollution levels from cars, particularly in Tehran, can trigger respiratory problems.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.


AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Iran, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.



- At time of posting in New York City, Central Park, it was 13 °C - Humidity: 36% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a


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