Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Visas: Iran

As a British passport holder, this has to be one of the hardest/confusing visas to get. The Iranian Embassy in London has been closed since 2011. There was a glimmer of hope that diplomatic relations would improve significantly, however, this hasn't extended to the consular section of the embassy. That leaves us Brits with a quandary, how do we get a visa?

The general process for obtaining an Iranian visa goes as follows:
  1. Apply (and be approved) for a visa authorisation number using an agency who go through the MFA in Tehran.
  2. Go to the Iranian embassy with you authorisation number and all necessary paperwork.

Sounds simple, right?

Red Tape 1: Well unfortunately in order for a Brit to get an authorisation number they need to be part of a guided tour in Iran. This isn't necessarily a problem, more a financial burden. There are plenty of companies that can offer custom guide services, and if you have enough people in your group then the costs come down a lot per person. You will have to think up an itinerary so that does remove some of the sense of adventure, and you have to have accommodation booked for each night (usually through the guide).

Red Tape 2: Once you get your authorisation number you have 30 days to pick up your stamp. Once you have your stamp it is only valid for 90 days. So timings are important!!

Red Tape 3: The visa stamp needs to be collected in person. Now the definition of 'in person' seems to be quite loose. The Iranian Embassy in Frankfurt accepts the application from any person, just not through the post. This means if you have a friend who lives there, they can do it for you. If you're not lucky enough to know someone who lives in 'Mainhattan', then you can use a variety of courier services.

Where are we at? Well we've arranged a convoy, we're in contact with a tour guide, and we're just about to apply for the whole authorisation number malarky. As ever updates will come thick and fast!

Update: we arranged a convoy of 10 cars, all through the internet. Word of warning here, you will need to pay for the guide in cash at the border, make sure everybody in your convoy knows this so that you're not coming up short (even better get them to transfer you the money to avoid dropouts, it happens). Once you have your convoy organised you will need to send copies of passport identity pages and filled out visa forms to the tour guide company. They will arrange for the authorisation code to be generated (for British passport holders this takes a while, in our case two months). On receipt of the authorisation code you need to go to an Iranian embassy, we chose Frankfurt as we were not sure if the code would come in on time, and at least we were passing through Frankfurt. It will take the embassy a couple of days to process the visa, and you need to deliver and pick it up in person. If you are organised then get one person in your convoy to do a visa run (to cut down costs, assuming the person doing the visa run doesn't rack up a big bill, but that's another story).

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