IRAN - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
On September 7, 2012, Canada closed its embassy in Iran.
Because of heightened regional tensions, Canadian travellers in Iran will be closely watched by Iranian authorities. Iranian irritation at the Embassy closure may heighten this scrutiny of Canadians. Seemingly innocuous behaviours, such as the use of cameras in public places, travel beyond well-established tourist attractions, or casual interactions with Iranian friends, may be misinterpreted and may lead to investigation and harassment. Canadian travellers may be arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained for a long period.
Canadians who choose to travel to Iran despite this warning should know that the Government of Canada’s ability to offer consular services in Iran is very limited and should expect delays if they request travel documents or a replacement for a lost or stolen passport. Ensure that your travel documents are up to date. Canadians in Iran seeking routine consular and passport services should contact the Embassy of Canada in Ankara, Turkey or any other Canadian mission. Canadians in Iran who require urgent assistance may contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 (collect calls accepted), by email email@example.com or by submitting an on-line form.
In the context of heightened regional tensions, Iranian-Canadian dual citizens may be particularly vulnerable to investigation and harassment by Iranian authorities. Canadians who have Iranian nationality are warned in particular that the Iranian regime does not recognize the principle of dual citizenship. By doing so, the Iranian regime makes it virtually impossible for Government of Canada officials to provide consular assistance to Iranian-Canadians in difficulty.
Consult the Laws and Culture tab for more information.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Heightened tensions throughout the region, together with increased threats globally from terrorism, may put you at greater risk. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly and without notice.
Violent crime affecting both Iranians and foreigners has increased. Petty theft occurs. Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure, and carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times.
Watch for fraudulent plainclothes police officers who may ask to see foreign currency and passports. If you are approached, politely decline to cooperate but offer to go to the nearest police station.
Political demonstrations and gatherings occur. On several occasions, demonstrations resulted in violent clashes. People near demonstrations have been assaulted and deaths have been reported. Further incidents of political unrest may occur with little warning. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities, and monitor local media.
Numerous cases have been reported of a Canadian or dual-citizen woman being stranded in Iran or mistreated by her Iranian husband or a male member of her family. Women in difficulty should know that the Government of Canada cannot intervene in family matters.
There have been reports of physical and verbal harassment of women. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
The regions of Sistan and Baluchestan (bordering Pakistan) are regularly affected by ethnic conflicts and there have been a number of kidnappings involving foreign tourists. Terrorist attacks may also occur in these regions.
Bandits in border areas with Afghanistan and Pakistan are usually involved in drug trafficking and use kidnapping operations to secure the release of group members from prison.
The region of Khuzestan (bordering Iraq) is regularly affected by ethnic conflicts and there have been a number of kidnappings involving foreign tourists.
The borders with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are open only to citizens of those countries. Foreigners travelling in sensitive border areas (Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, Kurdistan, and Baluchistan) often attract the attention of local security forces, which can result in short periods of detention.
If you decide to travel overland to Pakistan and Afghanistan despite this warning, travel only on main roads and in official parties, and avoid travelling after dark.
Travel to Iraq
The border with Iraq is usually closed. It can be opened on a case-by-case basis to allow the passage of certain foreigners or to allow refugees access to containment camps located on the Iranian side of the border.
Before undertaking any trip to Iraq, read our Travel advisory for Iraq.
Road conditions are good in cities, and the highway system is relatively well developed. Hire cars with a driver familiar with local conditions as driving standards are poor. Driving at night can be dangerous as streets are poorly lit and some motorists drive without headlights. Motorists routinely ignore traffic lights, traffic signs and lane markers, and almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
In the event of a car accident, remain at the scene until authorities have made an official report.
The use of four-wheel-drive vehicles is not recommended due to the high risk of theft.
Hire only official taxis from agencies or hotel-based companies, and always pre-negotiate the fare. Most taxis do not have meters, and foreigners are often overcharged.
Sidewalks on main roads in urban areas may be obstructed by cars. Sidewalks are rare in residential areas.
Trains are comfortable and punctual, but service is limited and slow.
The waters around the islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs in the southern Persian Gulf are politically sensitive and patrolled by the military. Foreigners navigating Iranian waters have been arrested and detained in the past.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
General safety information
Carry identification with you at all times. Leave a photocopy of your travel documents with a relative or a friend at home.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Iranian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran for up-to-date information.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Iran, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country.
Canadians must be in possession of a visa to visit Iran.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Pilgrimage visa: Required
Press visa: Required
Transit visa: Required
Submit your visa application to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa well in advance of departure. Do not overstay your visa as you may be required to remain in Iran until the situation has been resolved.
You can obtain a business visa at any point of entry. This visa is valid for 72 hours. However, the host company must contact the Passport and Visa Department of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to your arrival to complete the necessary paperwork.
Be aware that your passport may be confiscated in business disputes.
All luggage is subject to search upon arrival and departure from Iran.
It is prohibited to import alcohol or pork products.
Declare all foreign currency upon arrival to avoid difficulties.
Dual citizenship is not recognized in Iran. Canadian-Iranian nationals have to enter and exit Iran using their Iranian passport. When returning to Canada from Iran, they must carry their Canadian passport.
If you enter Iran with a transit pass issued by an embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran abroad, it may take anywhere from one to 12 months to obtain an Iranian passport to exit Iran or return to Canada.
Iranian immigration authorities have been known to confiscate the foreign passports (including Canadian) of Iranian dual citizens.
Iranian authorities sometimes insert an observation in Iranian passports limiting the bearer to one trip to Iran per year. Dual citizens using an Iranian passport to enter Iran should take note of this limitation as it is strictly enforced. Those who have exceeded this limitation have been prohibited from leaving Iran. This situation seems to occur more frequently in case where dual citizens have not completed their military service in Iran.
Dual citizens who have obtained their Canadian citizenship after being accepted as refugees in Canada may have their Iranian passport seized at a port of entry and be prohibited from leaving the country for a year.
Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Canadians have been denied entry into Iran because their passports bore: (a) an Israeli visa; (b) an Israeli border stamp; or (c) an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel (such a stamp would indicate the traveller entered from Israel).
If you are travelling in the Middle East, your passport could come under increased scrutiny by immigration authorities, and the authenticity of your passports could be questioned due to incidents of possible misuse. Contact the nearest Canadian government office or Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa for advice and assistance.
Violations of entry and exit requirements may result in serious penalties.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Iran.
The quality of medical care varies and is generally not up to Canadians standards. Major hotels frequented by foreigners have access to English-speaking doctors.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
Iran is under strict international and Canadian sanctions. While these sanctions do not prohibit travel to Iran, they could be relevant to your travel.
Residents must possess an Iranian driver's licence in order to drive. Non-residents require an International Driving Permit.
The work week is from Saturday to Thursday. However, many private companies and government offices are closed on Thursday.
Illegal or restricted activities
Possession, use or trafficking of drugs and alcohol is forbidden. Convicted offenders can expect very severe penalties, including capital punishment.
People who challenge the Islamic faith or attempt to convert Muslims to another religion may be condemned to death.
Avoid public displays of affection between two people of the opposite sex, especially between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman.
Those who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage are subject to severe penalties, including death.
Homosexual activity is a criminal offence. Those convicted may be sentenced to lashing, a prison sentence, and/or death.
Magazines and DVDs with sexual or explicit content are forbidden.
Photography of government and military installations—such as ports and airports and their surroundings—is strictly prohibited. Such sites are not always identifiable. Refrain from taking pictures whenever you are not at a recognized tourist site. When in doubt, ask for permission.
Playing music loudly in public, including in cars, is prohibited by law.
Iran is an Islamic theocratic republic. A conservative interpretation of Islamic practices and beliefs is closely adhered to in the country's customs, laws, and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. Men should not wear shorts, and women should cover their head with a scarf and cover their arms and legs.
Former Muslims who have converted to other religions have been subject to arrest and prosecution.
Dual citizenship - Military service
Male Iranian citizens aged 18-34 are required to perform military service, unless exempt. This requirement also applies to Iranian-Canadians, even those born in Canada. Iranian-Canadians who have turned 17 years of age will not be allowed to leave Iran without first having completed their military service.
Marriage and divorce
The Government of Canada can provide only very limited assistance if a Canadian woman married to an Iranian man has marital difficulties and/or encounters difficulties leaving Iran.
Canadian women married to Iranian nationals who register their marriage with the Iranian authorities automatically become Iranian citizens and are deemed to be Iranian citizens according to Iranian law, even if they travel to Iran on a Canadian passport with an Iranian visa. Iranian immigration authorities often impound Canadian passports, particularly those of women who intend to reside in Iran. Women who are considered to be Iranian by marriage must have their husband's permission to travel and to leave Iran, even if they intend to use their Canadian passport.
Iranian women married to Iranian nationals and divorced in Canada need to have their divorce certificate issued in Canada authenticated by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa. The divorce certificate must then be sanctioned by a court of justice in Iran in order to be valid under Iranian law.
Iranian women married to Iranian nationals in Iran and divorced in Canada cannot use their Canadian divorce certificate for official purposes in Iran unless it is first authenticated by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa and properly sanctioned in Iran by a court of justice. A Canadian divorce certificate that is not sanctioned by an Iranian court would automatically be void in Iran, meaning that the divorce would not be recognized under Iranian law. Therefore, in Iran, an Iranian woman would still be considered to be married to her husband.
In order to avoid any difficulties in Iran related to a Canadian divorce, women should consult both a Canadian and an Iranian lawyer before travelling to Iran.
Custody of children
Under Iranian law, children of divorced parents—even if they were born in Canada—are under the sole custody of their father, regardless of what a Canadian court may decide. Therefore, if such children are travelling with their mother in Iran, they may encounter great difficulty in returning to Canada. Women in such situations should consult both a Canadian and an Iranian lawyer before travelling to Iran.
In the case of divorce or of the husband’s death, an Iranian man’s foreign-born wife may renounce her Iranian citizenship. However, the couple’s children will irrevocably be Iranian citizens, and will have to enter and leave Iran with an Iranian passport.
Guardianship of children under the age of seven usually goes to the mother and is automatically transferred to the father when the child turns seven. In rare cases, Iranian courts may grant legal custody to the paternal grandfather or to the mother if a court determines that the father is unsuitable to raise his children. Women can only gain custody under these circumstances if they hold Iranian citizenship and are residents of Iran.
Even if a woman is granted custody of her children, children under the age of 18 still need permission from their paternal grandfather or the court to leave the country. Such permission is also required for other activities involving legal decisions, such as applying for a passport.
Canadian children of Iranian fathers
Canadian children whose father is an Iranian national face difficulties while in Iran. Under Iranian law, children of a male Iranian national, including Canadian-Iranian nationals, are in the sole custody of their father. Children require their father's permission to leave Iran.
Iran is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The currency is the Iranian rial (IRR). The economy is exclusively cash-based. Credit cards and traveller's cheques are not accepted in Iran. Automated banking machines exist only for local banking by Iranians. Bring sufficient cash, preferably in U.S. dollars, to cover all expenses. Only crisp U.S. banknotes are accepted.
Disasters & Climate
Iran is located in an active seismic area. Be aware of appropriate steps to take in case of an earthquake.
An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit western Iran near the city of Bushehr on April 9, 2013, causing fatalities. Another earthquake, this one measuring 7.8, struck a sparsely populated area near Khash, close to the Pakistani border on April 16, 2013. Transportation, health and telecommunications services may be affected, and land travel could be disrupted. Monitor local news reports, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
Dust storms and sand storms may occur in some areas.
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