Visiting Iran: US Visa Complications

Iran is a fascinating and increasingly popular tourist destination. Located in the Persian Gulf, Iran is home to spectacular scenery, impressive architecture, warm hospitality and thousands of years of history.

If you’ve been thinking about a holiday in Iran, you’re not alone. The number of visitors to Iran has surged in recent years. But there is one distinct disadvantage to visiting. Travelling to Iran means that you’re unable to apply for a US Visa Waiver. This means that you would need to apply for a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate before travelling to the United States.

This is particularly problematic for frequent travellers. The United States is one of the most-visited countries by Australians. You would also need to apply for a visa just to transit the United States between international flights, for example, when travelling to Canada or Central America.

Anyone that has visited Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after 1 March, 2011 is also ineligible to participate in the United States Visa Waiver Program, unless they were visiting as part of official military or government business.

If you have an Iranian stamp in your passport and you are using ESTA you run a very real risk of being sent straight back. This happened to a Board member of Tourism Victoria – who was attending the Gedday USA events. So it appears that it can happen across the board. This poor guy was marched unceremoniously down to the back of the plane for a return flight home. I suspect as well as the humiliation of being deported – the ultimate humiliation was he was sent back in economy!

One member is considering a visit to Iran and recently called upon our members’ experiences with travel to the United States.

I was wondering can anybody advise if they have visited the USA having visited Iran before? I understand that in this scenario I would no longer be eligible for an ESTA and will need to arrange a formal visa prior. I am most interested in discovering if anybody has any experiences in actually entering and leaving the country in this context that they could share?

At least one of our members has been successful in obtaining a ten-year visa for the United States after visiting Iran.

Applied (and was approved) for a 10 year US Visa via in this exact scenario

As long as you apply for a US visa well in advance of travel, you should not have problems. However, one member tells of a family member that was held for additional questioning upon arrival into the United States. They were ultimately free to enter the country, but it did cause them delays and inconvenience.

My cousin’s husband had been to Iran (apparently it’s a great ski location), then went to the US and was detained for hours. I *believe* he had a valid visa, not the ESTA. His case is a little more complicated though, because the lives in the UAE (pilot for Emirates). For work he has no issues still going to the US, but as soon as he used his Oz passport he was questioned. All was good in the end. His wife and kids, who had not been to Iran, walked through as usual.

Share your experience HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]