Traveling to Iran as an American citizen may sound complicated. But it’s not as confusing as you think. We’re here to scatter the myths and answer the questions about visas, safety, and other concerns based on our visit to Iran.


Traveling to Iran as an American citizen may sound complicated. But it’s not as confusing as you think. We’re here to scatter the myths and answer the questions about visas, safety, and other concerns based on our visit to Iran.
In the following Q&A, we would answer actual reader queries and to help to clarify the process of traveling to Iran, especially for Americans.


Is it legal for an American citizen to visit Iran?
It’s a common belief that Iran holds the same status as Cuba for American citizens (i.e., that it’s illegal to visit without special permission from the U.S. government). Although the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran, there are currently no restrictions on American citizens visiting Iran as tourists. Currently, about 1,000-1,500 Americans visit Iran each year.
According to Isna, the journey of US tourists to Iran has not stopped and the Iranian Foreign Ministry has not changed the visa process for US citizens.

The president of the Community of Iran's tourist guides announced that the number of tourists from the United States to Iran has not decreased compared to last year.


Can Americans travel independently in Iran?
The Iranian government requires that all American tourists travel with a private guide or a group tour. Your Iranian guide will be authorized to guide American citizens and should be aware of any related Iranian government regulations.
If you happen to be independent travelers, don’t be frightened by this requirement. We experienced both a group tour and a private guide in Iran. In both circumstances, we still had ample time to explore, walk the streets and browse the bazaars (markets) on our own. We made connections with ordinary people, we ate street food and we were even fortunate enough to accept a couple invitations to people’s homes.
It should be noted that since February 2014 it is also required for UK and Canadian citizens to either be part of a group tour or have a private guide to receive a visa to Iran.

How can an American citizen obtain an Iranian tourist visa?
Obtaining an Iranian visa has a two-step process:
1.    a travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs
2.    The actual tourist visa issued by an Iranian consulate.
Your tour company will help you with the paperwork you need for the visa.  You will need just to fill out an application form, inform them of the Iranian consulate where you’ll pick up the visa.
The difficult part of the process is the authorization number: it takes usually 30-40 business days for American citizens. When you have that number, getting your visa from the Iranian consulate is almost a sure thing (2-3 days).
Dan, content with his newly acquired Iranian tourist visa.
Our advice is to get the visa process started as early as you can so that you don’t have a heart attack waiting for your visa to arrive on the same morning as your flight.


How will I get my visa when there is no Iranian Embassy in the United States?
Although there is not an official Iranian embassy in Washington, DC, there is an Iranian “interest section” at the Pakistan Embassy that handles Iranian visa requests.
If you don’t live in Washington, DC, you can send your passport, application form and passport photos by mail with a prepaid return envelope.
Or, you can pick up your visa at an Iranian consulate abroad. You just need to specify the consulate location when you apply for the authorization number. We highly recommend it. For example, you can collect your Iranian tourist visa in Istanbul, Turkey. The process is relatively easy and painless. Just leave a few days cushion if you can and make sure you show up promptly at the time stamped on your visa application receipt.


How will Iranians treat me as an American citizen?
“Iranian people were often shocked to discover that we were American and that we were able to get a visa to their country. Once this fact set in, they often went over the top in welcoming us — everything from cordial greetings, to smiles, hugs, gifts and invitations to homes — especially when our guide was out of sight. We joke that it’s the closest we’ve felt to being rock stars”, says an American tourist who travelled to Iran last year.
Iranians like tourists and they enjoy to speak or guide them. They are very kind and hospitable.