At least 10 people asked me this when I said we were off to Iran… “Of course!!” I confidently replied. I nervously thought of my military service and imminent trip to the USA…. But it turned out to be unexpectedly easy in the end, if a little nerve-wracking….
A long time had passed since I first rather fancied visiting Iran but, as a Brit in 2019 (or an American or Canadian for that matter), it’s unfortunately not the sort of place that you can just pop and visit whenever, just because you rather fancy it; it’s not a spur of the moment trip… But doesn’t the anticipation make it all the more exciting? Well, for us it did – although having 10 years of service in the British military on my CV was a bit of a nail-biter. Added to this, the fact that we only had a week’s turnaround between returning from a trip to the USA and getting the visas stamped in our passports meant that there was some nervous waiting into the bargain too…
If you’re thinking of visiting Iran, it’s important to know that, while entry to Iran with USA stamps in your passport is fine, entering the USA with an Iranian visa in your passport is potentially a bit more complex. It also renders you ineligible for the USA’s ESTA visa waiver program. So once you have your Iranian visa, you will need to get a full visa if you want to visit the USA. We haven’t visited the USA since Iran, so I’m not sure as to how easy this process is, but it’s something to be aware of if you fancy visiting Iran. To get a full visa for the USA, you need to attend an interview where they will most certainly enquire about your travels in Iran…
The Iranian visa process itself is actually really simple as, for citizens of the UK, Canada and USA, most of it is done by the agency you book your tour with. It’s even easier if you’re not from the any of these countries, as most other passport holders are eligible for a visa on arrival. All you need to do is turn up!
The process for us was in two parts. First, you submit your documents to your tour agency. They need: a copy of your passport, application form [including confirmation of where you want to collect your visa], passport photos, and your full CV), and this all gets sent off to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran. They then say yay or nay to your application and, if accepted, you receive a visa code. You take this visa code (it’s actually a document), along with your passports and some more passport photos along to the embassy in your chosen location, and they issue you your visa. NB: We collected our visas in Madrid and did not need to complete any additional documentation, but I have noticed that on the website for the Iranian Embassy in London (UK) there is a different application form they say you need to complete.
We had the option of an instant or a 3 working day service. The instant service carried an extra fee, but we opted for this for peace of mind as our timing was a bit tight. It’s not cheap: we paid EUR270 each (I’m not sure how much the supplement was for the instant service), but the service was extremely quick and efficient and we were out within an hour, visas stamped in our passports and ready to go!
From then on it was a breeze – with a pre-issued visa, we sailed through Iranian immigration in about 5 minutes flat, having been welcomed by a smiling and friendly Immigration Officer and it was off to collect our luggage and start our Iranian experience!