Iraq is understandably not in most people’s list of travel destinations. This once-great country has been in near-constant conflict for the past decades, and although the war is technically over, the situation is still too volatile to make casual travel a safe possibility.
However, if for whatever reason, you need to travel to Iraq, then you will have to apply for an Iraq visa.
Iraq tourism is predominantly religious in nature and concentrated mostly on Iraqi Kurdistan, which is the autonomous region of Iraq mostly unaffected by terrorist activity. These two regions have differing visa policies.
This article will detail the Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan visa policy.
Do You Need a Visa for Iraq?
Yes, everyone who travels to Iraq needs to apply for a visa at an Iraqi Embassy/Consulate. Only citizens of the following countries can get a visa on arrival at Al Najaf International Airport and Basra International Airport:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Additionally, holders of diplomatic or service passport of the following counties are exempt from visa requirements:
Note: Citizens of Israel and Bangladesh are banned from entering Iraq, even if they have a visa.
Iraq Visa Requirements
To apply for an Iraq visa, you have to fulfil the following requirements:
- You need a passport valid for at least another six months.
- You must complete a visa application form. You can find this at the Embassy.
- You must submit two passport-sized photographs.
- You must be able to prove you can cover the cost of staying in Iraq.
- You must not be a threat to Iraq’s “public health, security, morals, or the national economy”. You may have to submit criminal records.
- You must be able to prove the reason for your visit. For example, submit a letter of invitation from an Iraq company or individual.
- You must provide an address of where you will be staying in Iraq.
- You must pay the relevant visa fee.
How to Apply for an Iraq Visa?
You have to apply for an Iraq Visa at one of its Embassies or Consulates. You have to contact the nearest office to inquire about the application process since it can change depending on the country.
Find the list of Iraq’s diplomatic mission offices here.
According to Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you can apply for one of the following Iraqi visas:
- Iraq Tourist Visa. This visa will the holder to stay in Iraq for up to 30 days. It can be used within three months after it is issued.
- Iraq Visit Visa. This visa is issued to those who want to travel for religious events or to visit the holy sites. It allows a 30-day stay.
- Iraq Visa for businessmen, investors, public figures or political figures. Valid for a 30-day visit.
- Iraq Normal Visa. Allows the holder to remain in Iraq for three months. After entering the country, the holder must register at the Iraqi Directorate of Residence within 10 days.
- Iraq Transit Visa. Allows the holder to transit through Iran for a period of 7 days.
Iraq visas are not extendable.
Cost of Iraq Visa
The consular prices for Iraq visas are:
- USD 30 – USD 40 for tourist, religious, or regular visas (single-entry)
- USD 100 for multiple-entry visas
Is It Safe to Travel to Iraq?
No, unfortunately, visiting Iraq is not safe. Most major Western countries have issued warnings against travelling to Iraq due to the threat of terrorism, armed conflict, detention, and kidnapping which can result in serious injury or death.
The US Department of State especially discourages American citizens from travelling to Iraq due to “anti-U.S. sectarian militias” which “threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq.”
Even though the Iraq war is over and the ISIS presence in Iraq has technically been defeated as of December 2017, there are still frequent reports of attacks against Iraqi security forces as well as civilians and foreigners. The attacks are usually carried by organized or suicide bombing, shootings, airstrikes, or mortars.
The majority of Iraq is highly dangerous and unstable to visit, but you should be especially careful if you are travelling to central Iraq or any major cities, such as Baghdad (the capital). Highly-populated areas are usually the main targets of terrorist attacks, especially government buildings, schools, mosques and other places of worship, airports, military establishments and other large public areas and gatherings, as the attackers seek to maximize casualties.
Border areas are also targets of airstrikes or violent clashes. If it is suspected you have crossed the Syria-Iraq border illegally, you will be detained and may face charges of terrorism.
Is It Safe to Travel to Iraqi Kurdistan?
Iraqi Kurdistan is the Kurdish-populated autonomous region within Northern Iraq. It is relatively safe to visit, unlike the rest of Iraq, because even though they are – technically – the same country, Iraqi Kurdistan is largely independent, with its own parliament, borders, airport, and military.
Iraqi Kurdistan has a developing economy and a diverse cultural and religious background. It is known as the gateway to Iraq by many because its stability in comparison to other regions has made it a popular destination, and the only option for many who want to visit Iraq.
However, even though terrorist attacks are much less common, they are not totally unheard of. So if you decide to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan, you should stay alert and not wander to areas outside its control.
Remember: The visa policy for Iraqi Kurdistan is more lenient. Citizens from a large number of Western countries are allowed visa-free entry, but that does not mean they are allowed to cross into Iraq.
Visa Policy of Iraqi Kurdistan
Citizens from the following countries can get an Iraqi Kurdistan Visa on Arrival for a period of up to 30 days:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
This visa can be extended for up to 90 days, and even turned into a work visa after you enter the country.
Anyone who is not eligible for a visa on arrival, can apply for a visa at the representative offices of Iraqi Kurdistan abroad. You can find the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) offices abroad listed here.