We hope this guide can help you to navigate the process of obtaining an Iranian visa while you are on the road. We applied for a 30 day tourist visa using our Australian passports in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), and were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was!
Getting Started: Key Dates
The first step is to decide your travel dates as it will determine when you need to start the application process. We recommend starting the process of your applying for your Iranian visa around 40 to 60 days before your trip. Technically the process can be completed faster but this way you won’t have to stress if there are delays or problems.
When filling out the application form for your authorisation number you will be asked to designate the city in which you will collect the actual visa. The authorisation number takes approximately 10 working days to arrive at the embassy, and is valid for one month from the date it arrives at the embassy (i.e. you have one month to get to the embassy to apply for the actual visa). So it is important that you know what date you need to be in your designated city of collection. Once you have made your application and indicated which embassy you wish to collect your Iranian visa from it is an absolute nightmare to change it.
The visa application itself in Bishkek took 3 working days, but in other embassies it can take up to 10 working days. Once the visa is issued, you will have 90 days from the date of issue to enter Iran.
Applying For An Iranian Visa
Getting your visa is a 2-step process:
- Obtaining your authorisation number, and
- Collecting your visa from an Iranian embassy (this step also includes an application at the embassy).
1. Obtaining your authorisation number
The first official step is to apply for an authorisation number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). It is possible to do this yourself with a visit to an Iranian embassy but we highly recommend paying a small fee to have a travel agent do it for you. These travel agents do dozens of them a day and are there to help you with anything you need! We used Key2Persia, and they were amazing to deal with. They had outstanding communication throughout the whole process. After a lot of research we found that their price of 30 Euro was very competitive and worth every cent.
To apply for your authorisation number, the travel agency will send you an application form. Key2Persia make this step incredibly easy – you simply fill out the form on their website and pay online. Someone from Key2Persia will contact you within 48 hours to confirm that everything was filled out correctly and the application has been submitted.
A few tips:
- Your itinerary on the application does not have to be exact, just as long as your stay is less than 30 days.
- You can change your itinerary as much as you like, including your entry and exit date. The visa will be valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
- You do not need to have accommodation or transportation booked before you apply.
If all goes according to plan, Key2Persia will contact you after around 10 business days to confirm that you have obtained your authorisation number. The authorisation number will be forwarded to the embassy you nominated in your application to pick up your visa.
Once you have received these emails, contact the embassy a couple of days before you plan to apply for your visa to confirm receipt of the authorisation number. If they haven’t received it, shoot Key2Persia an email and they will follow it up. Your authorisation number is valid at your designated embassy for 30 days from the date it is issued. If you let this lapse you will have to start the process all over again.
2. Collecting your visa from the Iranian embassy
Within the 30 days of receiving your authorisation number, go to the embassy you nominated in your application. The Iranian embassy in Bishkek had quite strange opening hours so it pays to call to confirm opening hours before you plan to apply.
At the embassy you will need to provide:
- your passport
- 1 passport sized photo (women need to be wearing a head scarf)
- photocopy of the passport photo page; and
- a copy of our travel insurance certificate.
You will also need to complete another application form. Take the address and phone number of a hotel as they will ask. Don’t worry – you don’t actually need to stay there. You will also need to nominate your point of entry (e.g. Tehran airport, or particular land border crossing).
The embassy staff will provide you with a payment invoice and send you to a nearby bank to pay for the visa. The embassy staff will advise you of the account details and location of the bank. As Australians, we paid 60 Euro but this amount changes depending on the country you are from. We were able to pay cash in either local currency, US Dollars or Euros but this may change from bank to bank so check with embassy staff before you leave. The bank will issue you with a receipt, which you will need to take back to the embassy to complete the application.
The staff at the embassy will make sure that they have everything they need. The Bishkek staff at least were quite forgiving! Processing times vary from embassy to embassy. It can be as quick as 2 business days or as long as 10 business days. If you are short on time, call the embassy to confirm processing times.
Once you have completed this process and receive your visa you are all set. Going through immigration in Iran is straightforward. Now you can get on with enjoying the incredible country that is Iran – enjoy!
Visas On Arrival
It is possible from some nationalities to apply for a visa on arrival (VOA). Nationalities that cannot apply for a VOA include UK, American and Canadian citizens. You can apply for a VOA at six international airports across Iran: Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Mehrabad, Tabriz, and Isfahan. VOAs are usually valid for 30 days. We met people who waited in the Tehran airport for up to 6 hours to have their VOA processed. We think that it’s worth saving yourself the hassle and getting a visa before you arrive.
DISCLAIMER – Key2Persia didn’t pay us for this post, we were just really happy with their service. Also, the process of applying for a visa can vary a lot depending on your nationality, the type of visa and the particular embassy where you apply. If you have concerns, we recommend calling the Iranian embassy where you plan to apply for your visa, or contacting an Iranian travel agent who specialises in tourist visas. The brilliant website Caravanistan also has up-to-date embassy reports. This was our experience with Australian passports applying for a 30 day tourist visa in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). We applied in August 2016. Good luck!