Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa
Travel to the Middle East and North Africa can be a rich and rewarding
adventure. Whether you are a novice or an experienced world traveler, we think
that this guide will be of assistance to you as you plan a safe and enjoyable
Remember: If you encounter serious difficulties in your travels, American
consuls at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad are there to help you. If you
are planning to stay for a long period of time, or are visiting an area that is
experiencing political unrest or other problems, please register at the Consular
Section of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Department of State Publication 10850
The information in this publication is in the public domain and
may be reproduced without permission. When this material is reproduced, the
Department of State would appreciate receiving a copy at:
CA/P, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC
How to Prepare for a Safe Trip
The policies of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa toward
foreign visitors vary greatly from country to country. Some countries encourage
tourism and put very few restrictions on visitors.
Other countries do not allow tourism and carefully regulate business travel.
Some areas in the region have experienced military conflict over an extended
A little planning and knowledge will go a long way toward making your trip to
the Middle East and North Africa go smoothly. If you learn about the countries
you will visit and obey the laws and respect the customs of those places, you
can make your stay as pleasant and incident-free as possible.
Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements & Travel Warnings
The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for
providing assistance and information to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Consular
Affairs issues Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and
Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets are issued
for every country in the world. They include such information as the
location of the U.S. embassy or consulate in the subject country, health
conditions, political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations,
crime and security information, and drug penalties.
The State Department also issues Travel Warnings and Public
Announcements. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department
decides to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Countries
where avoidance of travel is recommended will have Travel Warnings as
well as Consular Information Sheets. Public Announcements are
issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and
other conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of
How to Access Consular Information Sheets, Public Announcements &
By Internet: The most convenient source of information about travel
and consular services is the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet’s World
Wide Web. The web site address is http://travel.state.gov. If you do not
have access to the Internet at home, work or school, your local library may
provide access to the Internet.
By Telephone: Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings may be
heard any time by dialing the office of American Citizens Services at (202)
647-5225 from a touch-tone phone.
By Fax: From your fax machine, dial (202) 647-3000, using the
handset as you would a regular telephone. The system will instruct you on how to
By Mail: Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public
Announcements can be obtained by sending a self-addressed, stamped business-size
envelope to: Office of American Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of
State, Washington, DC 20520-4818. On the outside envelope, write the name of
the country or countries needed in the lower left corner.
As you travel, keep abreast of local news coverage. If you are in an area
experiencing civil unrest or natural disaster, or if you are going to a place
where communications are poor, you are encouraged to register with the nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration
website. Registration takes only a few moments, and it may be invaluable in
case of an emergency. In accordance with the Privacy Act,
information on your welfare or whereabouts may not be released without your
expressed authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers
or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or
relative in the United States.
U.S. Passport Information
Make a record or photocopy of the data from your passport’s identification
page and from your visas. Also, make a copy of the addresses and telephone
numbers of the U.S. embassy and consulates in the countries you will visit. Put
this information along with two passport photos in a place separate from your
passport to be available in case of loss or theft of your passport.
To obtain a U.S. passport for a minor under age 14, both parents’ signatures
are now required on the passport application form, or, if only one parent is
applying, a signed statement from the non-applying parent, or evidence proving
sole custody of the minor. For more information, please refer to the Bureau of
Consular Affairs’ Internet site at ../passport/index.html or contact the
Passport Information Center; telephone 1-900-225-5674 (there is a fee of $0.35
per minute for this service) or 1-888-362-8668 (credit card users can pay a flat
fee of $4.95).
Visa and Other Entry
A U.S. passport is required for travel to all countries in the region. U.S.
citizens are not required to have visas for short-term tourist or business
travel to Israel, Morocco, or Tunisia, but may need to supply proof of
sufficient funds for the trip and proof of onward or round trip travel
arrangements. All other countries in the Middle East and North Africa require
U.S. citizens to have visas.
If you plan to travel extensively in the region, entry and exit stamps could
quickly fill the pages of your passport. Before you go, you may wish to ask the
nearest passport agency to add extra pages to your passport, or, if applying for
a new passport, you can request one with 48 pages instead of the usual 24.
Each country has its own set of entry requirements. For authoritative visa
information, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit.
(See address and telephone list under Foreign Embassies in the United
States at the end of this publication.)
When you make inquiries, ask about the following:
- Visa price, length of validity, number of entries allowed.
- Financial requirements - proof of sufficient funds and proof of
- Immunization requirements - yellow fever immunization is often required if
arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area.
- Import and export restrictions and limitations. (Several countries prohibit
the import and consumption of alcoholic beverages and pork products. Some
countries prohibit the import of non-Islamic religious materials and items
- Departure tax. (Be sure to keep enough local currency to be able to depart
Some Arab countries will not allow travelers to enter if their passports show
any evidence of previous or expected travel to Israel. Other Arab countries
apply the ban inconsistently, sometimes refusing and at other times allowing
entry when a passport shows evidence of travel to Israel. If passport
restrictions imposed by other countries may be a problem for you, contact the
nearest U.S. passport agency, embassy, or consulate for guidance.
Several Arab countries ask visa applicants to state their religious
affiliation. The U.S. government is opposed to the use of this information to
discriminate against visa applicants, and has made its views known to the
governments concerned. In turn, the United States has received assurances that
visa applications are not denied based on religious affiliation.
Countries that require visitors to be sponsored usually also require them to
obtain exit permits from their sponsors. U.S. citizens can have difficulty
obtaining exit permits if they are involved in business disputes. A U.S. citizen
who is the wife or child of the local sponsor needs the sponsor’s permission to
leave the country. Do not accept sponsorship to visit a country unless you are
certain you will also be able to obtain an exit permit.
In many Islamic countries, even those that give tourist visas and do not
require sponsorship, a woman needs the permission of her husband, and children
need the permission of their father, to leave the country. If you travel or
allow your children to travel, be aware of the laws of the country you plan to
visit. Once overseas, you are subject to the laws of the country where you are;
U.S. law cannot protect you.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have
initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring
documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from
the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand,
even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
For information on international adoption of
children and international parental child abduction, please refer to the
Consular Affairs Internet site at children's_issues.html or telephone (202)
Some countries in the Middle East and North Africa do not recognize
acquisition of U.S. citizenship by their nationals. Unless the naturalized U.S.
citizen renounces his or her original nationality at an embassy or consulate of
the country of origin, he or she may still be considered a citizen of that
country. A person born in the United States with a parent who was a citizen of
another country may also be considered a citizen of that country. The laws of
some countries provide for automatic acquisition of citizenship when a person
marries a national of that country.
If arrested, a dual national may be denied the right to communicate with the
U.S. embassy or consulate. Another consequence could be having to serve in the
military of one’s former country. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, a dual
national, or have any reason to believe another country may claim you as their
national, check with the embassy of that country as to your citizenship status
and any obligations you may have while visiting. Dual nationals who have not
researched their citizenship status before traveling have sometimes, to their
surprise, encountered difficulties, such as not being allowed to depart.
Even countries that recognize acquired U.S. citizenship may consider their
former citizens as having resumed original citizenship if they take up residence
in their country of origin. This can happen even if the embassy of the country
of origin stamps a visa in the U.S. passport of its former citizen.
Currency and Customs Regulations
Some countries in the region have no restrictions on currency imports or
exports. Some prohibit Israeli currency. Most countries in the Middle East and
North Africa, however, have detailed currency regulations, including a
requirement to declare all currency, including travelers’ checks, upon entry. In
those countries, the export of foreign currency is limited to the amount that
was imported and declared. Be sure to make the required currency declaration,
have it validated, and retain it for use at departure. Buy local currency only
at banks or other authorized exchange places and retain your receipts for use at
departure. Currency not accounted for may be confiscated.
Several countries prohibit the import and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Most countries restrict the entry of products containing pork, as well as any
literature, videotapes, and cassette tapes deemed pornographic. Also, some
countries will not permit the import of books or other goods from Israel.
Shopping - Be Wary of Antiques
Americans have been arrested in some countries in the region for the
unauthorized purchase of antiques or other important cultural artifacts. If you
purchase such items, always insist that the seller provide a receipt and the
official museum export certificate required by law. Travelers have also been
detained at customs for possessing reproductions of antiques. The safest policy
is to purchase copies of antiques from reputable stores and have them documented
as such. Obtain receipts for all such purchases.
Under the International Health Regulations adopted by the World
Health Organization, a country may require International Certificates of
Vaccination against yellow fever. A cholera immunization may be required if you
are traveling from an infected area. Check with health care providers or your
records to ensure other immunizations (e.g. tetanus and polio) are up-to-date.
Prophylactic medication for malaria and certain other preventive measures are
advisable for travel to some countries. No immunizations are required to return
to the United States. Detailed health information may be obtained from your
local health department or physician or by contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), toll-free autofax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or Internet: www.cdc.gov.
An increasing number of countries have established regulations
regarding AIDS testing, particularly for long-term residents and students. Check
with the embassy or consulate of the country that you plan to visit for the
latest information. (See address and telephone list under Foreign Embassies
in the United States at the end of this publication.)
Health Insurance Policy
If your health insurance does not provide coverage overseas, you should buy
temporary insurance that does. In addition, obtain insurance to cover the
exorbitant cost of medical evacuation in the event of an illness or for the
return of remains in case of death. Insurance companies and some credit card and
travelers check companies offer short-term health and emergency assistance
policies designed for travelers. The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular
Affairs provides information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs in its brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling
Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page
http://travel.state.gov or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
Medical facilities vary in the region; in some countries they are similar to
U.S. standards. U.S. embassies or consulates can furnish you with a list of
local hospitals and English-speaking physicians. (See address list under U.S.
Embassies and Consulates Abroad at the end of this publication.)
In the hot and dry climates that prevail in the Middle East and North Africa,
it is important to avoid water depletion and heat stroke. Safe tap water is
available in many areas. In some places, however, it is highly saline and should
be avoided by persons on sodium-restricted diets. In many rural and some urban
areas, tap water is not potable, and travelers should drink only boiled or
chemically treated water or bottled carbonated drinks. In these areas, avoid
fresh vegetables and fruits unless they are washed in a purifying solution and
peeled. Diarrhea is potentially serious. If it persists, seek medical
Schistosomiasis (or bilharzia) is present in the area of the Nile and in
several other areas in North Africa and the Middle East. These parasites are
best avoided by not swimming or wading in fresh water in endemic areas. For more
information, contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, telephone
1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), toll-free autofax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or Internet: www.cdc.gov.
Drug enforcement policies in the region are strict. Possession of even small
amounts of narcotics, including substances such as heroin, LSD, marijuana,
ecstasy or amphetamines, can lead to arrest. If found guilty, drug offenders are
subject to lengthy prison sentences. Because what is considered "narcotics"
varies from country to country, learn and obey the laws in the places that you
will visit. Keep all prescription drugs in their original containers clearly
labeled with the doctor’s name, pharmacy and contents. In addition, if you take
an unusual prescription drug, carry a letter from your doctor explaining your
need for the drug and a copy of the prescription.
Dress and Local Customs
Conservative Western street clothing (except for shorts) is appropriate in
most areas. In more traditional societies, however, attire for women should be
more conservative, garments should have sleeves, and dress length should be
below the knee. On the other hand, in some areas of the region visited by many
tourists - for example, the beaches of Israel and Morocco - attire similar to
that worn in the United States is acceptable.
Islam is the preeminent influence on local laws and customs in much of the
Middle East and North Africa. The extent of this influence varies. Some Arab
countries have secular governments, but in certain other countries, particularly
those in the Arabian Peninsula, Islam dictates a total way of life. It
prescribes the behavior for individuals and society, codifying law, family
relations, business etiquette, dress, food, personal hygiene, and much more.
Among the important values is a family-centered way of life, including a
protected role for women and clear limits on their participation in public life.
In traditional societies, Muslims believe open social relations between the
sexes result in the breakdown of family life. Contact between men and women,
therefore, is rigidly controlled in traditional societies.
Travel during Ramadan, the holiest time in the Islamic year, can prove to be
very difficult. Business is rarely conducted during this time and not observing
the Ramadan tradition of fasting during daylight hours can carry penalties in
In the traditional societies of the region, it is considered rude to face the
soles of one’s feet toward other people. At traditional meals, the left hand is
not used for eating.
In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the weekend is either
Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday. Workweek information is included in the list
of U.S. embassies at the end of this document.
(Note: Before you travel, please check the Consular Affairs
Internet site at http://travel.state.gov to see if any Travel Warnings or Public
Announcements have been issued for the country(ies) you plan to visit.)
Algeria is a republic with a developing economy. Facilities for travelers are
widely available, but sometimes limited in quality. English is not widely spoken
A valid passport and visa are required. Obtain visa before arrival. For
tourist visas, an itinerary from an airline and a hotel reservation are also
needed. A letter from your company is quired for a business visa. Applicants
must enter Algeria within 45 days of issuance.
Travelers to Algeria should evaluate carefully the implications for their
security and safety before deciding to travel to Algeria. Although terrorist
attacks have fallen considerably recently, unpredictable attacks still occur in
rural villages, on roadsides and public transport, and at night. Most recent
terrorist activity has occurred in rural areas in northern Algeria.
The crime rate in Algeria is moderately high, and is increasing. Serious
crimes have been reported in which armed men posing as police officers have
entered homes of occupants, held them at gun point, and robbed them. Armed
carjacking is also a serious problem.
Algerian currency and customs regulations are strictly enforced. All currency
must be declared upon entering the country, and completely accounted for when
departing. Nonresidents are required to change the equivalent of approximately
$200 into Algerian dinars at the official exchange rate while in Algeria. You
will need to present evidence of this currency exchange before you are allowed
to depart the country. All hotel bills must be paid in hard currency such as
U.S. dollars. Paid hotel receipts may be used as evidence of currency
Algerian fathers of minor children (under 18 years of age for boys, 19 years
for girls) may legally prevent their children from leaving Algeria.
A valid passport and visa are required. Two-week visas may be obtained for a
fee upon arrival at the airport. Prior to travel, visitors may obtain from
Bahraini embassies overseas five-year multiple entry visas valid for stays as
long as one month. Visitors who fail to depart the country at the end of their
authorized stay are fined. An AIDS test is required for individuals employed in
jobs involving food handling, and patient or child care. U.S. test results are
An exit tax is charged all travelers upon departure. Residents of Bahrain who
intend to return must obtain a re-entry permit before departing.
The Bahrain government does not recognize dual nationality. Bahrain
authorities have confiscated the U.S. passports of dual Bahrain/U.S. nationals
when they applied for a Bahrain passport. This does not constitute loss of U.S.
citizenship, but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Manama.
Water is drinkable though often highly saline. Conservative dress is
recommended. Bahrain prohibits the import of pornography, firearms, ammunition,
or of items such as knives, swords, or daggers that are capable of being used as
weapons. Videotapes may be screened by customs in Bahrain and either confiscated
or held until the traveler departs the country.
Consumption of alcohol is allowed in most bars and restaurants, except during
the month of Ramadan. If there is any indication that a driver has consumed
alcohol, authorities will regard that as evidence of driving under the influence
of alcohol. The penalty for drunken driving may be incarceration or a fine of
500 Bahraini dinars, the equivalent of $1,300. This fine can be increased to up
to double that amount, depending on the circumstances of the case and the
judge’s decision. Under Bahraini law, convicted drug traffickers may receive the
A valid passport and visa are required. Travelers can obtain a renewable
30-day tourist visa at any port of entry, except at Taba and Rafah, for a $15
fee, payable in U.S. dollars. Visitors arriving overland from Israel and/or
those previously experiencing difficulty with their visa status in Egypt, must
obtain a visa prior to arrival. Military personnel arriving on commercial
flights are not exempt from passport and visa requirements. Proof of cholera,
yellow fever and meningitis immunization is required if arriving from an
infected area. Proof of an AIDS test is required for anyone planning to apply
for a study or work permit.
Foreigners are required to register with the police within 7 days of arrival.
Hotels usually take care of this.
All travelers to Egypt should be aware that Egyptian authorities strictly
enforce drug laws. The death penalty may be imposed on anyone convicted of
smuggling or selling marijuana, hashish, opium, or other narcotics.
The maximum amount of Egyptian currency that can be brought in or taken out
of Egypt is 1,000 Egyptian pounds. Personal use items such as jewelry, laptop
computers and electronic equipment are exempt from customs fees. However,
Egyptian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary
importation into or export from Egypt of items such as computer peripherals,
including printers and modems, which are subject to customs fees. For tourists,
electronic equipment is annotated in their passport, and the person is required
to show the same items upon exiting Egypt. For residents, a deposit, refunded
upon departure, may be made in lieu of customs fees. Commercial merchandise and
samples require an import/export license issued by the Egyptian Ministry of
Trade and Supply in Egypt prior to travel and should be declared upon arrival.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Egypt in Washington or one of Egypt’s
consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs
If a dual national resides in Egypt for extended periods, proof of Egyptian
citizenship, such as a family ID. card, is required. Male dual nationals of
military age, who have not completed military service, are not generally
required to enlist in the armed forces. However, before they can leave Egypt,
they must obtain an exemption certificate through the Ministry of Defense Draft
Office. Individuals who may be affected can inquire at an Egyptian consular
office in the U.S. (see address and telephone list under Foreign Embassies in
the United States at the end of this publication) before traveling to Egypt.
Dual Egyptian-American nationals may enter and leave Egypt on their U.S.
passports. Persons with dual nationality who travel to Egypt on their Egyptian
passports are normally treated as Egyptian citizens by the local government. The
ability to provide U.S. consular assistance to such persons, therefore, is
The Government of Egypt considers all children born to Egyptian fathers to be
Egyptian citizens. Even if the children bear American passports, immigration
officials may require proof that the father approves their departure before the
children will be allowed to leave Egypt. Americans married to Egyptians do not
need their spouse’s permission to depart Egypt as long as they have a valid
Egyptian visa. To renew a visa, or to leave the country after a visa has
expired, an American woman married to an Egyptian must present proof of the
In 1999, President Khatami called for a "dialogue of civilizations" and an
increase of private exchanges between Iranians and Americans; some limited
exchanges have taken place. There is, however, evidence that hostility to the
United States remains in some segments of the Iranian population and some
elements of the Iranian government. In July 1999, violent anti-government
demonstrations took place in Tehran and other cities around the country. There
were accusations that the U.S. was behind these demonstrations. Prior to and
since that time, some groups of American travelers have encountered harassment
by vigilante groups.
The U.S. government does not currently have diplomatic or consular relations
with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or
routine consular services to American citizens in Iran. The Swiss government,
acting through its embassy in Tehran, serves as protecting power for U.S.
interests in Iran.
A valid passport and visa are required. U.S. passports are valid for travel
to Iran. However, the authorities have often confiscated the U.S. passports of
U.S.-Iranian dual nationals upon arrival. U.S.-Iranian dual nationals have been
denied permission to depart Iran documented as U.S. citizens. Despite the fact
that these individuals possess U.S. citizenship, they must enter and exit Iran
bearing an Iranian passport. To prevent the confiscation of U.S. passports, the
Department of State suggests that dual nationals leave their U.S. passports at
the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate overseas for safekeeping before entering
Iran, and to use their Iranian passports to enter the country. To facilitate
their travel if their U.S. passports are confiscated, dual nationals may, prior
to entering Iran, obtain in their Iranian passports the necessary visas for the
country which they will transit on their return to the U.S., and where they may
apply for a new U.S. passport. Exit visas are required for dual nationals to
U.S. citizens who were born in Iran, who have become naturalized citizens of
Iran, or who were at one time citizens of Iran, and the children of such
persons, are considered Iranian nationals by Iranian authorities. U.S.-Iranian
dual nationals are subject to Iranian laws that impose special obligations upon
Iranian nationals, such as military service or taxes. Exit permits for departure
from Iran may be denied until such obligations are met.
U.S. citizens of Iranian origin who are considered by Iran to be Iranian
citizens have been detained and harassed by Iranian authorities. Former Muslims
who have converted to other religions, as well as persons who encourage Muslims
to convert, are subject to arrest and possible execution. The Iranian government
reportedly has the names of all individuals who filed claims against Iran, and
who received awards, at the Iran-U.S. claims tribunal at The Hague pursuant to
the 1981 Algerian Accords. There are restrictions on both the import and the
export of goods between Iran and the United States. Neither U.S. passports nor
visas to the United States are issued in Tehran.
On May 6, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12959, 60 Federal
Register 24757 (May 9, 1995), which prohibits exporting goods or services to
Iran, re-exporting certain goods to Iran, making new investments in Iran and
dealing in property owned or controlled by the government of Iran. The
importation of Iranian-origin goods or services into the United States has been
prohibited since October 19, 1987. The Office of Foreign Assets Control,
Department of Treasury, provides guidance to the public on the interpretation of
the order. For additional information,
consult the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S.
Department of Treasury at the OFAC home page on the Internet at
All luggage is searched upon traveling into and departing from Iran. Tourists
can bring in and take out the following non-commercial goods, if they are
recorded on the tourist’s goods slip upon arrival at customs: personal jewelry,
one camera, an amateur video camera, one pair of binoculars, a portable tape
recorder, a personal portable computer, first aid box, and a camping tent with
its equipment. Iranian authorities allow the departing passenger to take an
unlimited amount of Iranian goods and foreign goods up to $160 (US), and their
personal non-commercial equipment. Air passengers may also take one carpet up to
six square meters. However, the U.S. government only allows the importation of
up to $100 worth of Iranian-origin goods. Iranian authorities prohibit the
export of antique carpets and carpets portraying women not wearing the proper
Islamic covering, antiques, original works of art, calligraphic pieces,
miniature paintings, different kinds of coins, and precious stones. They
likewise prohibit the export and import of alcoholic beverages, weapons,
ammunitions, swords and sheaths, military devices, drugs and illegal goods.
In addition to the U.S. government economic sanctions on trade and investment
restrictions, travelers should be aware that most hotels and restaurants do not
accept credit cards. Cash-dollars (not traveler checks) are accepted as payment.
In general, hotel rooms have to be paid with cash-dollars. ATM machines are not
available. Foreign currency has to be declared at Customs upon entry into the
country, and the amount is entered in the passport. This amount can then be
changed at the bank.
Children of Iranian citizens, under the age of 18, must have the father’s
permission to depart Iran, even if the mother has been granted full custody by
an Iranian court. Even the non-Iranian wife of an Iranian citizen (who obtains
Iranian nationality through marriage and must convert to Islam) requires the
consent of her husband to leave Iran. In case of marital problems, women in Iran
are often subject to strict family controls. Because of Islamic law, compounded
by the lack of diplomatic relationships between the United States and Iran, the
U.S. Interests Section in Tehran can provide very limited assistance if an
American woman encounters difficulty in leaving Iran.
The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iraq, and there is
no U.S. Embassy in Iraq. While our interests in Iraq are represented by the
Embassy of Poland in Baghdad, that embassy’s ability to obtain consular access
to detained U.S. citizens and to perform other emergency services is severely
constrained by Iraq’s unwillingness to cooperate. In addition, the United States
as well as the United Nations imposed sanctions which severely restrict
financial and economic activities with Iraq, including travel-related
A valid passport and visa are required. On February 8, 1991, U.S. passports
ceased to be valid for travel to, in, or through Iraq unless a special
validation has been obtained. An automatic exemption to the restriction is
granted to Americans residing in Iraq as of February 8, 1991, and to
professional journalists on assignment. The categories of individuals eligible
for consideration for special passport validation are representatives of the
American or International Red Cross, persons with compelling humanitarian
considerations, or applicants whose travel is determined to be in the national
interest. Exceptions will be scrutinized carefully on a case-by-case basis.
Requests for exceptions should be forwarded in writing to: Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Passport Services, Office of Passport Policy and Advisory
Services, U.S. Department of State, 2401 E Street, N.W., 9th Floor, Washington,
DC 20522, telephone 202-663-2662, Fax 202-663-2654.
The request must be accompanied by substantiating documentation according to
the category under which an exception is sought. It must also include the
prospective traveler’s name, date and place of birth, and passport number.
In addition, the Department of the Treasury prohibits all travel-related
transactions by U.S. persons intending to visit Iraq, unless specifically
licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The only exceptions are for
persons engaged in journalism or in official U.S. government or UN business. The
Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury, provides guidance to
the public on the interpretation of the order. For additional information,
consult the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S.
Department of Treasury at the OFAC home page on the Internet at
Travelers granted exceptions to travel to Iraq should be aware that normal
protection by U.S. diplomatic and consular representatives cannot be provided.
The government of Poland represents U.S. interests in Iraq and can provide only
limited emergency services to U.S. citizens.
All travelers to Iraq will have to submit to an AIDS test upon arrival.
ISRAEL, THE WEST BANK AND GAZA
The State of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a modern economy.
Tourist facilities are widely available. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza
Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 War. Pursuant
to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, an elected Palestinian
Authority now exercises jurisdiction in parts of Gaza and the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority police are responsible for keeping order in those areas
and the Palestinian Authority exercises a range of civil functions. The division
of responsibilities and jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority is complex. Definitive information on entry,
customs requirements, arrests, and other matters in the West Bank and Gaza is
subject to change without prior notice or may not be available.
Western dress is appropriate in Israel. At religious sites and in certain
religious neighborhoods, attire should be modest. Religious holidays in Israel
and Jerusalem are determined according to the Hebrew calendar and fall on
different dates each year. It is likely that religious holidays in the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank will be determined by the Moslem calendar, and also will
fall on different dates each year. Because hotels are usually heavily booked
before and during religious holidays, tourists should check holiday schedules
with their travel agent or with the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC. (See
address and telephone list under "U.S. Embassies and Consulates" at the end of
this publication.) Travelers should make reservations for holiday periods well
A valid passport is required. U.S. visitors to Israel, the West Bank, the
Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip can obtain a tourist visa that is renewable
and valid for 3 months at no cost upon arrival in Israel. However, anyone who
has been refused entry to Israel or experienced difficulties with their visa
status during a previous visit, or who has overstayed a visa, should contact the
nearest Israeli embassy or consulate before attempting to return to Israel.
Permission must be obtained from Israel for anyone attempting to claim the
status of a returning resident. At ports of entry, Israeli officials determine a
U.S. citizen’s eligibility to enter Israel. Applicants may be questioned in
detail and/or required to post a departure bond. American citizens have, on
occasion, had their U.S. passports taken as a guarantee of their departure. If
this should happen to you, contact a U.S. consular officer and report the
seizure of your passport.
The Allenby Bridge crossing from the West Bank into Jordan, and the Rafah
crossing from Gaza into Egypt are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli
Government, which also controls entry and exit via the Gaza International
Airport. This may have special ramifications for Palestinian Americans and other
Palestinian Americans: American citizens of Palestinian origin who
were born on the West Bank or Gaza or resided there for more than three months,
may be considered by Israeli authorities to be residents, especially if they or
their parents were issued a Palestinian ID number. Any American citizen whom
Israel considers to be a resident is required by Israel to hold a valid
Palestinian passport to enter or leave the West Bank or Gaza via Israel, the
Gaza International Airport, or the Rafah or Allenby Bridge border crossing.
American citizens in this category who arrive without a Palestinian passport
will generally be granted permission to travel to the West Bank or Gaza to
obtain one, but may only be allowed to depart via Israel on a Palestinian
passport rather than on their U.S. passport. The Government of Israel does not
require travel on a Palestinian passport for visits of less than 90 days, but
may instead require a transit permit for travel to the West Bank or Gaza.
During periods of heightened security restrictions, Palestinian Americans
with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza may not be allowed to enter or
exit Gaza or the West Bank, even if using their American passports. Specific
questions may be addressed to the nearest Israeli Embassy or Consulate.
Israel-Jordan Crossings: International crossing points between Israel
and Jordan are the Arava crossing (Wadi al-’Arabah) in the south, near Eilat,
and the Jordan River crossing (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) in the north, near Beit
Shean. American citizens using these two crossing points to enter either Israel
or Jordan need not obtain prior visas, but will have to pay a fee at the bridge.
Visas should be obtained in advance for those wanting to cross the Allenby
Bridge between Jordan and the occupied West Bank. (Note: The Government of
Israel requires that Palestinian Americans with residency status in the West
Bank or Gaza only enter Jordan by land by means of the Allenby Bridge.)
Procedures for all crossings into Jordan are subject to frequent changes.
Persons leaving Israel by air are subjected to lengthy and detailed security
questioning. Travelers should arrive at the airport several hours before flight
time. There is no departure tax when leaving Israel.
Video cameras, among other items, must be declared upon entry to Israel and
travelers carrying these items must go through the red zone at customs.
Definitive information on customs requirements for the Palestinian Authority is
Israel has strict security measures that may affect visitors. Prolonged
questioning and detailed searches may take place at the time of entry and/or
departure at all points of entry to Israel, including entry from any of the
areas under Palestinian jurisdiction. During searches and questioning, American
citizens may be denied access to U.S. consular officers, lawyers, or family
In light of several terrorist bombings in Israel and continuing violence in
Gaza and the West Bank, American citizens should exercise extreme caution and
avoid shopping areas, malls, public buses and bus stops as well as crowded areas
and demonstrations. U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees and their families have
been prohibited from using public buses. American citizens should maintain a low
profile and take appropriate steps to reduce their vulnerability.
Because of violent clashes and confrontations that have taken place
throughout the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees have
been prohibited from traveling to the West Bank, Gaza, commercial districts of
East Jerusalem, and the Old City of Jerusalem, except for mission essential
business. Private American citizens should avoid travel to these areas.
From time to time, the Embassy or Consulate General will temporarily suspend
public services as necessary to review its security posture.
Areas of Instability
Jerusalem: In Jerusalem, travelers should exercise caution at
religious sites on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Dress
appropriately when visiting the Old City and ultra-orthodox Jewish
neighborhoods. Most roads into ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods are blocked
off on Friday nights and Saturdays. Assaults on secular visitors, either for
being in cars or for being "immodestly dressed," have occurred in these
neighborhoods. Isolated street protests and demonstrations can occur in the
commercial districts of East Jerusalem (Salah Eddin Street and Damascus Gate
areas) during periods of unrest. U.S. Government employees have been prohibited
from traveling to the commercial areas of East Jerusalem, including the Old
City, except for mission essential business. Private American citizens should
avoid travel to these areas at this time.
West Bank and Gaza: The
U.S. Government currently prohibits U.S. Government employees, officials, and
dependents from traveling to the West Bank and Gaza, except for mission
essential business. Private American citizens should avoid travel to these areas
at this time. Embassy staff have also been prohibited from using Rt. 443 (the
Modi’in Road) in Israel to travel to Jerusalem.
During periods of unrest, access to the West Bank and Gaza are sometimes
closed off by the Israeli government. Travel restrictions may be imposed with
little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently been imposed following
terrorist actions and the movement of Palestinian Americans with residency
status in the West Bank or Gaza and foreign passport holders have been severely
Golan Heights: In the Golan Heights, there are live land mines in many
areas and visitors should walk only on established roads or trails. Near the
northern border of Israel, rocket attacks from Lebanese territory can occur
Israeli citizens naturalized in the United States retain their Israeli
citizenship, and their children usually become Israeli citizens. In addition,
children born in the United States to Israeli parents usually acquire both U.S.
and Israeli nationality at birth. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals,
are subject to Israeli laws requiring service in Israel’s armed forces.
U.S.-Israeli dual nationals of military age who do not wish to serve in the
Israeli armed forces should contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to
learn more about an exemption or deferment from Israeli military service before
going to Israel. Without this document, they may not be able to leave Israel
without completing military service or may be subject to criminal penalties for
failure to serve. Israeli citizens, including dual nationals, must enter and
depart Israel on their Israeli passports.
Palestinian Americans whom the Government of Israel considers residents of
the West Bank or Gaza may face certain travel restrictions (see
Entering/Exiting Israel page 18). These individuals are subject to
restrictions on movement between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and within the
West Bank and Gaza imposed by the Israeli Government on all Palestinians for
security reasons. During periods of heightened security concerns these
restrictions can be burdensome. Palestinian-American residents of Jerusalem are
normally required to use laissez-passers (documents issued by the Israeli
Government) which contain re-entry permits approved by the Israeli Ministry of
All U.S. citizens with dual nationality must enter and depart the U.S. on
their U.S. passports
While Jordan is modern and Western-oriented, Islamic ideals and beliefs
provide the conservative foundation of the country’s customs, laws and
A passport and a visa are required. Visitors may obtain a visa for Jordan at
international ports of entry, not including the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge,
upon arrival, for a fee. Foreigners who wish to stay fourteen days or more in
Jordan must register at a Jordanian police station by their fourteenth day in
the country. Failure to do so subjects the traveler to a fine of one Jordanian
dinar per day overstay. This fine is usually assessed at departure. An AIDS test
is required for persons planning to stay longer than 3 months. U.S. test results
are not accepted.
Travel Between Jordan and Israel
International crossing points between Israel and Jordan are the Arava
crossing (Wadi al-’Arabah) in the south, near Eilat, and the Jordan River
crossing (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) in the north, near Beit Shean. American
citizens using these two crossing points to enter either Israel or Jordan need
not obtain prior visas, but will have to pay a fee at the bridge. Visas should
be obtained in advance for those wanting to cross the Allenby Bridge between
Jordan and the occupied West Bank. (Note: The Government of Israel requires that
Palestinian Americans with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza only enter
Jordan by land by means of the Allenby Bridge.) Procedures for all crossings
into Jordan are subject to frequent changes. Check Jordan’s web site for current
entry regulations. (See address and telephone list under "Foreign Embassies in
the United States" at the end of this publication)
Caution and sensitivity should be exercised at religious sites on holy days
and Friday Sabbath. Modest attire should be worn at all holy sites.
There have been isolated incidents of sexual harassment, assault and
unwelcome advances of a sexual nature against Western women, both visiting and
residing in Jordan. These incidents, while troubling, are not pervasive.
However, women are advised to use common sense and to take reasonable
precautions; they should dress conservatively and not travel alone.
Islam is the state religion of Jordan. The Jordanian Government does not
interfere with public worship by the country’s Christian minority. However,
while Christians are allowed to practice freely, some activities, such as
proselytizing or encouraging conversion to the Christian faith—both considered
legally incompatible with Islam—are prohibited. It is illegal for a Muslim to
convert to Christianity.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Jordan are urged to continue to review
their security practices, to remain alert to changing situations, and to
exercise prudence. U.S. citizens should generally avoid crowds and gatherings,
keep a low profile, and vary routes and times of travel.
Crime is generally not a serious problem for travelers in Jordan, but petty
crime is prevalent in the downtown Amman Hashimiyah Square area and near the
Roman Theater. In the narrow streets of the Old City, crowded conditions invite
pickpockets and other petty criminals. It is safer to travel in groups when
visiting the center of Amman.
Husbands/fathers may deny permission to travel to their wives and children,
regardless of the wives’ religion or nationality.
Day-to-day life has returned to normal after the 1991 Gulf War, and
facilities for travelers are widely available. However, travel to and near the
Iraq-Kuwait border is very hazardous and unexploded bombs, mines, booby traps,
and other items remain in open areas and beaches throughout Kuwait.
A valid passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait.
An AIDS test is required for anyone seeking a residency permit. U.S. test
results are not accepted.
Visitors to Kuwait should be aware of the danger of unexploded land mines,
bombs, and shells throughout the country. Stay on main roads, do not travel on
unpaved roads, and avoid open areas and beaches.
The crime rate in Kuwait has increased from prewar levels and women have been
objects of increased harassment. Women should take precautions as they would in
any large city, remaining alert to the possibility of being followed, whether
they are walking or driving. They should not respond to any approach from
strangers and should avoid travel alone in unfamiliar or isolated parts of the
city, especially at night. Conservative dress is recommended for both men and
women. Garments should fit loosely and cover elbows and knees.
No alcohol, pork products, or pornographic materials may be imported into or
used in Kuwait. If customs officials discover prohibited items in a traveler’s
effects, he or she may be arrested and prosecuted.
U.S. citizens should not go near the border with Iraq, and should be very
careful when traveling north or west of Kuwait City. In recent years, a number
of foreigners traveling near the border have been taken into custody by Iraqi
officials and some have received lengthy prison sentences. Anyone who must
travel or work near the demilitarized zone is strongly advised to contact the
U.S. Embassy for further advice before his or her travel begins.
The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. The country is emerging
from a long period of civil war, which has damaged the economy and the social
fabric. The population is composed of both Christians and Muslims from a variety
of sects. Although the government of Lebanon has made efforts to extend its
control, limited areas of the country remain outside of effective government
A valid passport and visa are required. Travelers holding passports which
contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel may be refused entry into Lebanon.
Travelers whose passports contain Israeli stamps or visas and who also hold an
"Arab Nationality" according to Lebanese law may be subject to arrest and
Travelers who enter Lebanon on work visas under the sponsorship of a Lebanese
company or individual may face problems and be unable to leave the country
before the completion of their contract without the agreement of their employer.
In cases of a business dispute, if jurisdiction falls under local law, the
Lebanese party to a contract may obtain an injunction to prevent the departure
of a foreign party from the country until the dispute is settled.
Lebanese males 18 to 30 years old are subject to mandatory military service
of one year. Dual nationals who visit Lebanon are not exempt, except as allowed
by Lebanese law. Even Americans who have never visited or resided in Lebanon may
be considered Lebanese and required to complete military service if their
fathers were Lebanese. Dual nationals should contact the Military Office of the
Embassy of Lebanon for details prior to traveling to Lebanon. Because of the
prevalence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, Syrian-American males of draft age who
are planning to visit Lebanon are strongly urged to check with the Syrian
Embassy prior to travel. Even Americans who have never visited or resided in
Syria may be considered Syrian and required to complete military service if
their fathers were Syrian. Possession of a U.S. passport does not absolve the
bearer of this obligation.
An AIDS test is required for anyone planning to obtain a work or residency
permit. U.S. test results are not accepted.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Lebanon
and recommends that Americans exercise caution while traveling there. During
Lebanon’s civil conflict from 1975 to 1990, Americans were the targets of
numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon. While there have been very few such
incidents in recent years, the perpetrators of these attacks are still present
in Lebanon and retain the ability to act.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. personnel
sufficiently serious to require that U.S. citizen employees of the American
Embassy live and work under a strict security regime. Hizballah, an anti-West
and anti-Israel terrorist organization that was formed in Lebanon, has not been
disarmed, and it maintains a presence in several areas of the country, including
training camps in the Biqaa’ Valley. There are thousands of Syrian troops in the
country. Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S.
operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the
Visitors should also be aware that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut operates under
tight security conditions, which limit the Embassy’s ability to assist
Lebanese customs authorities prohibit the import or export of firearms and
antiquities, except with special permission.
Local telephone service is unreliable, and it is extremely difficult to
contact the U.S. Embassy or place a local call from most of the country.
Lebanese fathers of minor children (under 18 years of age) may legally
prevent their children from leaving or being taken from Lebanon. Likewise, a
Lebanese husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the
country, regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place, the
U.S. Embassy cannot assist American citizens to leave Lebanon.
Passports and visas are required. On December 11, 1981, U.S. passports ceased
to be valid for travel to, in, or through Libya and may not be used for that
purpose without a special validation. The request must be accompanied by
supporting documentation according to the category under which validation is
sought. (See information under "Entering Iraq" for details). Visa
application and inquiries must be made through a Libyan Embassy in a third
country. The land border with Egypt is subject to periodic closures even to
travelers having valid Libyan visas. Short-term closures of other land borders
occur with little notice.
All financial and commercial transactions with Libya are prohibited, unless
licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Treasury Department. For
the addresses to which applications can be made to overcome both the U.S.
passport and the U.S. Treasury restrictions, see the section on Iraq under
"Entering Iraq" for details.
Those persons granted exceptions to travel to Libya should be aware that
there is no U.S. mission in Libya and U.S. interests are represented by the
government of Belgium which can provide only limited protection for U.S.
An AIDS test is required for persons seeking residency permits. U.S. test
results are accepted.
Children under 18 whose fathers are Libyan must have the father’s permission
to depart Libya, even if the mother has been granted full custody by a Libyan
court. Women in Libya are often subjected to strict family controls; on occasion
families of Libyan-American women visiting Libya have attempted to prevent them
from leaving the country. Young single women are most likely to be vulnerable in
these circumstances. Finally, a Libyan husband is permitted to take legal action
to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality.
Morocco has a mixed economy based largely on agriculture, fishing, light
industry, phosphate mining, tourism, and remittances from citizens working
abroad. Modern tourist facilities and means of transportation are widely
available, but they may vary in quality depending on price and location. The
workweek in Morocco is Monday through Friday.
A valid passport is required. Visas are not required for American tourists
traveling in Morocco for less than 90 days. For visits of more than 90 days,
Americans are required to obtain a residence permit and return visa should they
wish to return to Morocco for extended periods. A residence permit and return
visa may be requested and obtained from immigration (Service d’Etranger)
at the central police station of the district of residence.
Morocco has a high crime rate in urban areas. Criminals have targeted
tourists for robberies, assaults, muggings, thefts, pickpocketing, and scams of
all types. Commonly reported crimes include falsifying credit-card vouchers, and
shipping inferior rugs as a substitute for the rugs purchased by the traveler,
and thefts occurring in the vicinity of ATM machines. Some travelers have been
befriended by persons of various nationalities who have offered them food,
drink, or cigarettes that are drugged. Harassment of tourists by unemployed
Moroccans posing as "guides" is a common problem. Travelers should hire only
official tour guides through hotels and travel agencies. Aggressive panhandling
is common. Traveling alone in the Rif Mountain area is risky, as tourists have
fallen victim to schemes involving the purchase and/or trafficking of hashish.
Unescorted women in any area of Morocco may experience verbal abuse.
The government of Morocco considers all children born to Moroccan fathers to
be Moroccan citizens. Even if the children bear American passports, immigration
officials may require proof that the father approves their departure before the
children will be allowed to leave Morocco. Although women are normally granted
custody of their children in divorces, regardless of nationality, the children’s
departure from Morocco must be approved by their father. Women must obtain
permission to move the children more than 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) from
their last residence before the divorce.
A valid passport and visa are required. Omani embassies and consulates issue
two-year, multiple-entry tourist and/or business visas to qualified American
citizens. "No-objection certificates" for entry into Oman may also be arranged
through an Omani sponsor. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required if
the traveler enters from an infected area. An AIDS test is required for persons
newly-employed by private sector companies and anyone applying for renewal of a
work permit. U.S. test results are not accepted.
Travelers entering Oman may not carry with them or in accompanied baggage any
firearms, ammunition, or pornography; all are subject to seizure if found. No
more than one bottle of liquor is permitted per non-Muslim adult. Books,
videotapes, and audiotapes may be reviewed prior to being released to the owner.
Omani employers often ask that expatriate employees deposit their passports
with the company as a condition of employment. Although customary, this practice
is not required by Omani law. The U.S. Embassy advises Americans to exercise
caution in agreeing to employer confiscation of passports, since this operates
as a restraint on travel and could give undue leverage to the employer in any
Children of Omani fathers automatically acquire Omani citizenship at birth
and must enter and leave the country on Omani passports, whether or not they are
dual nationals. Child custody decisions in Oman are based on Islamic law. It is
difficult for an American woman, even a Muslim, to obtain custody of her
children through the Omani courts. Minor children of Omani fathers must have
their father’s permission to depart the country, even if they are U.S. citizens.
Qatar is a traditional Muslim country. Conservative dress and behavior are
strongly recommended for all visitors. Travelers to Qatar may not bring in
narcotics, weapons, items deemed pornographic, or pork products. Luggage is
subject to careful inspection by customs officials.
Although Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken.
A valid passport and visa are required. To receive a visa, an applicant must
be sponsored by a resident of Qatar, a local business, or by the hotel at which
he or she will be staying. After obtaining a sponsor, travelers may apply for
visas at a Qatari embassy or consulate. An AIDS test is required for persons
seeking residency or work permits and anyone staying longer than one month. U.S.
test results are not accepted.
Qatari law does not recognize dual nationality. Persons who possess Qatari
citizenship in addition to U.S. citizenship are considered Qatari citizens by
the State of Qatar and are subject to Qatar’s laws.
Qatari citizenship imposes special obligations, particularly with regard to
child custody and exiting or entering the country. Qatar is not a party to any
international or bilateral treaty regarding international child abduction,
adoption or child support enforcement issues
Islam dominates all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia — government policy,
cultural norms, and social behavior. Islam is the only official religion of the
country, and public observance of any other religion is forbidden. The Saudi
government considers it a sacred duty to safeguard two of the greatest shrines
of Islam, the holy mosques located in the cities of Mecca and Medina. Travel to
Mecca and Medina is forbidden to non-Muslims. Muslims throughout the world turn
to Mecca five times a day for prayer. Restaurants, stores, and other public
places close for approximately a half-hour upon hearing the call to prayer, and
Muslims stop their activities to pray during that time. Government and business
activities are noticeably curtailed during the month of Ramadan, during the
celebrations at the end of Ramadan, and during the time of the annual pilgrimage
to Mecca, the Hajj. Travel facilities into, out of, and within Saudi Arabia are
crowded during these periods.
Although Westerners have some leeway in dress and social contacts within
company residential compounds, both men and women should dress conservatively in
public. Women’s clothing should be loose fitting and concealing, with high
necks, skirts worn well below the knee, and sleeves below the elbow. It is
recommended that women not wear pants.
Females are prohibited from driving vehicles or riding bicycles on public
roads, or in places where they might be observed. Males and females beyond
childhood are not free to congregate together in most public places, and a man
may be arrested for being seen with, walking with, traveling with, or driving a
woman other than his wife or immediate relative. In Saudi Arabia, playing of
music or dancing in public, mixed bathing, public showing of movies, and
consumption of alcoholic beverages are forbidden.
Saudi religious police, known as mutawwa , have been empowered to
enforce the conservative interpretation of Islamic codes of dress and behavior
for women, and may rebuke or harass women who do not cover their heads or whose
clothing is insufficiently concealing. In addition, in more conservative areas,
there have been incidents of private Saudi citizens stoning, accosting, or
pursuing foreigners, including U.S. citizens, for perceived dress code or other
infractions. While most such incidents have resulted in little more than
inconvenience or embarrassment for the individual targeted, there have been
incidents where Westerners were physically harmed.
U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia should be aware of Saudi social practices, and
that any infractions may be dealt with aggressively. If you are accosted by
Saudi authorities, cooperate fully in accordance with local customs and
regulations. U.S. citizens who are harassed by private Saudi citizens or Saudi
authorities should report the incidents immediately to the U.S. Embassy in
Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate General either in Dhahran or in Jeddah. (See
address and telephone list under Foreign Embassies in the United States
at the end of this publication.)
Entering/Exiting Saudi Arabia
A valid passport and visa are required. Visas are issued for business and
work, to visit close relatives, and for transit and religious visits. Visas for
tourism are issued only for approved tour groups following organized
itineraries. Airport and seaport visas are not available. All visas require a
sponsor, can take several months to process, and must be obtained prior to
arrival. Women visitors and residents are required to be met by their sponsor
upon arrival. Women traveling alone, who are not met by sponsors, have
experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on
to other flights.
Visitors to Saudi Arabia generally obtain a meningitis vaccination prior to
arrival. A medical report or physical examination is required to obtain work and
residence permits. An AIDS test is required for persons planning to seek a
residency or work permit. U.S. test results are sometimes accepted.
Malaria is endemic to the low-lying coastal plains of southwest Saudi Arabia,
primarily in the Jizan region extending up the coast to the rural area
surrounding Jeddah. Visitors to the region are advised to take precautions to
avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. As a further precaution, all persons intending
to travel to this region should seek medical advice regarding recommendations
for prophylactic anti-malarial medications. Cases of meningicoccal disease or
meningitis in Americans traveling to Saudi Arabia are rare. However, during the
Hajj season when there is an increased incidence of this disease among those
traveling in the vicinity of Mecca and Medina, the Saudi Ministry of Health may
require proof of immunization against meningitis. Visitors should check with the
Centers for Disease Control, their travel agent, and a Saudi consulate or
embassy regarding recommended or required shots.
Employment/Commercial and Business Disputes
Residents working in Saudi Arabia generally must surrender their passports
while in the Kingdom. The sponsor (normally the employer) obtains work and
residence permits for the employee and for any family members. Family members of
those working are not required by law to surrender their passports, though they
often do. Residents carry a Saudi residence permit (Iqama) for identification in
place of their passports.
The written, Arabic text of a contract governs employment and business
arrangements under Saudi law. Before signing a contract, American companies
should obtain an independent translation to ensure a full understanding of the
contract’s terms, limits, and agreements. Verbal assurances or side letters are
not binding under Saudi law. In the event of any contract dispute, the Saudi
authorities refer to the contract.
Since the Saudi sponsor holds the employee’s passport and controls the
issuance of exit permits, Americans cannot simply leave Saudi Arabia in the
event of a labor or business dispute. An American who wishes to break an
employment or business contract may have to pay substantial penalties before
being allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. To change employers in Saudi Arabia
requires the permission of the previous employer, which is discretionary. Saudi
courts take seriously their responsibility to adjudicate disputes. This process,
which is performed in accordance with Saudi law and customs, may require the
hiring of legal counsel, should not be entered into without an Arabic
translator, and can take several months. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates
General cannot adjudicate labor or business disputes.
All travel plans should be made through a travel agent in order to book
accommodations in advance. Hajj visas are required and are valid only for travel
to the two holy cities. Onward travel to Riyadh or other cities in Saudi Arabia
is not permitted.
Foreign Muslim residents of the Kingdom may perform the Hajj once every five
years. Advance approval must be obtained from an immigration office with the
approval of the Saudi sponsor.
During the Hajj, about two million pilgrims from all over the world are
concentrated in a relatively small space for a short period of time. The scale
of this event, and the very basic living conditions it entails may be
overwhelming to some. Housing, food, and sanitation are very basic.
A married woman residing with her Saudi husband should be aware that she must
have her husband’s permission to depart or have their children depart from Saudi
Arabia. This is true even if the woman or children are U.S. citizens. The
husband is the sponsor of his foreign wife and of his children, and is, as such,
the only individual who can request an exit visa for the wife or children.
In Saudi Arabia, child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. Saudi
Arabia is not party with the U.S. to any extradition, judicial assistance or
child abduction treaties. Saudi law does not recognize U.S. court orders,
including child custody and divorce decrees, which are consequently
unenforceable in Saudi Arabia. It is quite difficult for an American parent to
resolve to his/her satisfaction a child custody dispute involving Saudi-American
children. The role of U.S. officials in a child custody dispute is to determine
the welfare and whereabouts of the disputed child, try to open lines of
communication between the parties and assist the left-behind parent to find
local counsel. Even when visitation is granted by a Saudi court, American
mothers have, in some cases, experienced difficulties obtaining a Saudi
visitor’s visa enabling them to visit their Saudi-American children. Females and
children need the permission of the eldest/closest male relative in their family
to depart Saudi Arabia. A child born anywhere to a Saudi father is generally
held to be a Saudi citizen, Muslim, and eligible for a Saudi passport.
Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning importation
into Saudi Arabia of such banned items as alcohol products, weapons and any item
that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. This includes non-Islamic
religious materials, pork products, and pornography. Saudi customs and postal
officials broadly define what is contrary to Islam, and therefore prohibited.
Christmas decorations, fashion magazines, and "suggestive" videos may be
confiscated and the owner subjected to penalties and fines. It is advisable to
contact the Embassy of Saudi Arabia or one of Saudi Arabia’s consulates in the
United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
The private ownership of weapons is prohibited. Imported and domestic
audiovisual media and reading matter are censored.
Items considered pornographic by Saudi standards, including magazines and
videocassettes, are strictly forbidden. It is also illegal to import firearms of
any type, ammunition, related items such as gun sights and gun magazines, food
items, and banned books.
Personal religious items such as a Bible or a rosary are usually permitted,
but travelers should be aware that on occasion, these items have been seized at
entry and not returned to the traveler.
Special Circumstances and Criminal Penalties
Visitors should not photograph mosques, people who are praying, military or
government installations, and key industrial, communications, or transportation
facilities. If you have any doubts about what you may photograph, request
Homosexual activity is considered to be a criminal offense and those
convicted may be sentenced to lashing and/or a prison sentence, or death.
Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol
or illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences,
fines, public flogging, and/or deportation. The penalty for drug trafficking in
Saudi Arabia is death.
Conservative dress is recommended for Syria. Travelers should exercise
caution when photographing historic sites. Photographs may be taken of regular
tourist attractions, such as ancient ruins and temples, but warnings are issued
against photographing government buildings, government property, and anything
other than tourist sites.
A passport and a visa are required. Visas must be obtained prior to arrival
in Syria. Entry to Syria is not granted to persons with passports bearing an
Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps, or to persons born in the Gaza region or of
Gazan descent. Entry into Syria via the land border with Israel is not possible.
Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian
Immigration by their 15th day in Syria. Americans between the ages of 18 and 45
who are of Syrian birth or recent descent are subject to the Syrian compulsory
military service requirement, unless they receive an exemption from the Syrian
Embassy in the United States prior to their entry into Syria. An AIDS test is
required for persons between the ages of 15 and 60 years who are planning to
stay longer than 15 days. U.S. test results are sometimes accepted.
Syrian pounds cannot be taken out of Syria. Travelers cannot convert Syrian
pounds back into convertible currency, and should therefore not purchase more of
the currency than they expect to spend in Syria. There are no foreign banks and
no ATMs in Syria, and it is impossible to wire or otherwise transfer money from
the United States to Syria.
Syrian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning
temporary importation into or export from Syria of items such as weapons,
narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, cheese, fruits, pharmaceuticals, modems, cosmetics,
and some electrical appliances. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Syria
in Washington, DC. for specific information regarding customs requirements
Dual Nationality/ Family Issues
U.S.-Syrian dual nationals may be subject to laws that impose special
obligations on Syrian citizens. Under Syrian law, children of Syrian fathers,
even those who have never been to Syria and do not speak Arabic, are Syrian.
American men over the age of 18 who have never resided in or visited Syria, but
whose fathers are/were Syrian, are required to complete military service or pay
to be exempted. Possession of a U.S. passport does not absolve the bearer of
Syrian-American and Palestinian-American men who have never served in the
Syrian military and who are planning to visit Syria are strongly urged to check
with the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC prior to traveling, concerning their
requirement for compulsory military service.
A valid passport is required. A visa is not required for a stay of up to four
months. For longer visits, Americans are required to obtain a residence permit.
A residence permit may be requested and obtained from the central police station
of the district of residence. Americans born in the Middle East or with Arabic
names have experienced delays in clearing immigration at airports upon arrival.
American citizens of Tunisian origin are expected to enter Tunisia, on their
Tunisian passports. If a Tunisian-American succeeds in entering on an American
passport, there is a high probability that a Tunisian passport will be required
before exiting the country.
Travelers’ checks and credit cards are accepted at some establishments in
Tunisia, mainly in urban or tourist areas. The Tunisian dinar is not yet a fully
convertible currency. Tunisian law prohibits the export or import of Tunisian
bank notes or coins. Tunisian law permits the export of foreign currency
declared when entering Tunisia. Tourists are expected to make foreign exchange
transactions at authorized banks or dealers and to retain receipts for dinars
obtained. Under foreign currency regulations, a tourist can reconvert to foreign
currency 30 percent of what has been exchanged into dinars, up to a maximum of
100 dollars. Declaring foreign currency on entering Tunisia and obtaining a
receipt for dinars purchased thereafter will facilitate reconverting dinars to
U.S. dollars. Keep all receipts of monetary transactions for presentation when
leaving the country.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven independent emirates,
each with its own ruler. The federal government exists as a constitutional
republic, headed by a president and council of ministers. Islamic ideals and
beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country’s customs, laws and
Entering the UAE
A valid passport and visa are required. In addition, an AIDS test is required
of persons seeking a residency or work permit; testing must be performed upon
arrival in the UAE. A U.S. AIDS test is not accepted.
The UAE government does not recognize dual nationality. Children of UAE
fathers automatically acquire UAE citizenship at birth and must enter the UAE on
UAE passports. UAE authorities have in the past confiscated U.S. passports of
dual (UAE/U.S.) nationals. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship,
but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate
General in Dubai. Dual nationals may be subject to UAE laws that impose special
UAE customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary
importation into or export from the UAE of items such as firearms (including
fireworks), pornographic materials, medications, religious materials and
communication equipment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the UAE in
Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.
UAE customs authorities also impose additional requirements for the
importation of pets into the country. Prior permission in the form of a permit
from the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must be secured before the
pet’s travel. To obtain the permit, please contact the UAE Ministry of
Agriculture and Fisheries at the following address: P.O. Box 213, Abu Dhabi,
UAE, telephone 971-2-662-781 or 971-2-485-438.
Visitors may apply for a temporary UAE driver’s license upon presentation of
a valid U.S. license. There are strict penalties for persons involved in traffic
accidents while under the influence of alcohol, including lashings for
Women residing in the UAE do not require their husband’s permission to travel
abroad, but a husband may block his wife’s departure by submitting her name to
immigration authorities. The UAE does not recognize dual nationality, and UAE
citizenship is transmitted through the father regardless of the child’s place of
birth. Dual national children generally must enter and depart the UAE using
their UAE passports.
Conditions in Yemen remain unsettled due to the recent end of Yemen’s civil
war. Ordnance such as mines, left over from the war, may pose a hazard to
travelers. U.S. citizens should exercise caution in Yemen and avoid travel in
remote areas. Local tribal disputes have occasionally led to violence.
Westerners, including U.S. citizens, have been kidnapped as a result of such
local disputes, and vehicles have been hijacked. Sixteen Western tourists,
including two Americans, were abducted in Southern Yemen on December 28, 1998,
by an anti-Western terrorist group. Four of the tourists died in a subsequent
clash between the terrorists and Yemeni government forces. Anti-Western
terrorists are still at large in Yemen. Urban violence and crime is a growing
problem in Yemen, including within the capital, Sanaa.
Photography of military installations, including airports, equipment, or
troops, is forbidden. In the past, such photography has led to the arrest of
U.S. citizens. Military sites are not always obvious. If in doubt, it is wise to
ask specific permission from Yemeni authorities.
A valid passport and visa are required. A yellow fever vaccination is
recommended. Americans who consider studying in Yemen should make this fact
clear to a Yemeni consular official in the U.S. and apply for the appropriate
visa. Some Americans studying in Yemen without official permission have been
deported. An AIDS test is required for persons seeking residency, study or work
permits and anyone staying longer than 1 month, and foreign spouses of Yemeni
nationals. U.S. test results are not accepted.
The Government of Yemen may not recognize the U.S. citizenship of persons who
are citizens of both Yemen and the United States. This may hinder the ability of
U.S. consular officials to assist persons who do not enter Yemen on a U.S.
passport. Dual nationals may also be subject to national obligations, such as
taxes or military service. Travelers can contact an embassy or consulate of
Yemen for further information on Yemeni policy.
Foreign Embassies in the United States
Embassy of ALGERIA
2137 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of BAHRAIN
International Dr., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of EGYPT
3521 International Court
Washington DC 20008
IRANIAN Interests Section
Embassy of PAKISTAN
2209 Wisconsin Ave.,NW
Washington, DC 20007
IRAQI Interests Section
Embassy of ALGERIA
1801 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Embassy of ISRAEL
International Dr., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of JORDAN
International Dr., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of KUWAIT
Tilden Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of LEBANON
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of MOROCCO
1601 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Embassy of OMAN
2535 Belmont Rd., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of QATAR
4200 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20016
Embassy of SAUDI ARABIA
New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20037
Embassy of SYRIA
Washington, DC 20008
Embassy of TUNISIA
Washington, DC 20005
Embassy of the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Washington, DC 20037
International Court, NW
Washington DC 20008
Embassy of YEMEN
U.S. Embassies and Consulates Abroad
is Monday-Friday except where noted.
Workweek: Sun.- Thurs.
4 Chemin Cheikh
16000 Algiers, ALGERIA
Tel. (213-21) 69-12-55
Bldg. 979, Road No.
Block 321; Zinj District
(Next to Al Ahli Sports Club)
Tel. (973) 273-300; after-hours
Kamal El-Din Salah St.
U.S. Interests Section
West Farzan St. No. 59
(98-21) 878-2964 and 879-2364
U.S. Interests Section
(located opposite the Foreign Ministry Club, Masbah Quarter)
Box 2447, Alwiyah
Tel. (964-1) 718-9267 and 885-2286
7l Hayarkon Street
Tel Aviv, ISRAEL
Tel. (972-3) 519-7575;
(limited services only)
12 Jerusalem Street
Tel. (972) (4)
27 Nablus Rd.
(972) (2) 622-7000; after-hours
Tel. (962-6) 592-0120
Al Masjeed Al Aqsa
Plot 14, Block 14
36302 Kuwait, KUWAIT
539-5307/8; after-hours 538-2097/8
Beirut Antelias, LEBANON
2 Avenue de Marrakech
8 Boulevard Moulay Youssef
Tel. (968) 698-989; afterhours
149 Ahmed Bin Ali
Farig Bin Omran, QATAR
Sheraton Hotel District
P.O. Box 22347
Tel. (967)(1) 238-844 thru
Planning Another Trip?
Consular Affairs also publishes the following pamphlets:
General travel information:
A Safe Trip Abroad —
contains helpful precautions one can take to minimize the chance of becoming a
victim of terrorism or crime.
Tips for Americans Residing
Abroad — offers information for U.S. citizens living abroad on dual
citizenship, tax regulations, voting, and other consular services.
Travel Tips for Older Americans —
contains special health, safety and travel information for older Americans.
Your Trip Abroad — offers tips on
obtaining a passport, considerations in preparing for your trip and traveling,
and other sources of information.
Country Specific Information:
The following travel tips brochures contain information on currency
regulations, customs, and dual nationality for specific areas of the world:
Tips for Travelers to
Tips for Travelers to the
Tips for Travelers to Central &
Tips for Travelers to
Tips for Travelers to
the Middle East and North Africa
Tips for Travelers to the People’s
Republic of China
Tips for Travelers to
Tips for Travelers to South
Tips for Travelers to
Consular Affairs’ publications can be obtained by accessing any of the
Internet. Consular Affairs’ Internet address is:
Automated Fax System. Consular Affairs’ automated fax system can be
accessed by dialing from your fax phone 202/647-3000.
Publications can be purchased
from the *U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Copies of Consular
Affairs’ publications are available for $1 - $2 from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, Tel: 202/512-1800, fax: 202/512-2250.
Internet: www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs. (Prices and availability
are subject to change without notice. Please check with the GPO for up-to-date
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