Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

14 Oct 2012

Iran visa secured!

Posted by Will

I can not contain my excitement: I have an Iranian visa! Some Farsi squiggles, a shiny new hologram and a squashed picture of my face now decorate a page of my travel-shabby passport. This is what I have to show for a lot of research, four weeks waiting, four weeks worrying and a large fee. Here’s how, as a British citizen, I managed to get an Iranian visa in Ankara.

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The process is fairly easy to understand. First, the applicant sends off a bunch of information (date of birth, occupation, purpose of travel, entry/exit points, consulate at which visa is to be collected) to the Iranian Foreign Ministry via email. The ministry reviews the application and when a decision is taken (7-14 working days) the applicant and relevant consulate are informed. If the decision is a positive one, the applicant then takes his/her passport, a passport photocopy, a completed visa form, two passport photos and the visa fee to the particular consulate. Between 1-5 working days later the applicant returns to the consulate to collect the Farsi squiggles.

Finding this out wasn’t easy in the jungle of erroneous and outdated information online, especially on a less-than-perfect internet connection. Even after this research I had good reason to believe the visa situation may have deteriorated because application wasn’t lodged at the best time. The uproar over the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film was at its peak. Over those weeks Israeli statesmen publicly aired proposals to attack Iran, economic sanctions relating to Iran’s nuclear programme were tightened, Iran’s support for the Syrian regime was further exposed and the Iranian government blamed the West for a dive in their currency. To add insult to injury the British Foreign Office changed their travel advice from ‘avoid travel to some areas’ to ‘avoid travel to the whole country’. I will now enter Iran against their advice and in-so-doing void my travel insurance.

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Once I realized that stuff was out of my control, I set about solving more practical problems. I had negleted to bring any passport-sized photos from home and so for several hours wandered aimlessly around the city trying to find a photo-booth machine. Of course, no one could understand what I was looking for (despite some excellent acting on my part). Eventually I had to go to a professional studio to get the snaps. Printing and photocopying services were much easier to find. The visa form wasn’t a great experience though. The questions were written in English but at times were so badly translated that it was impossible to understand. The instructions read simply ‘uncompleted forms will not be considered, cross as appropriate’ (?), the only tickbox for ‘are you married?’ was ‘married’ and in most cases it was even unclear where to write the answers. I canvassed hostel opinion while filling it out!

I paid a visa agency called iranianvisa.com to contact the Iranian Foreign Ministry on my behalf. My research gave the impression that an agency increases the chances of approval and gets the job done faster too. The agency fee was 45 Euros, a paltry sum when compared to the 150 Euros I shelled out for the visa itself. For some reason, British citizens pay double the fee of any other country in the world. The whole process is made all the more nerve-jangling when a mis-entering of the information could result in the money being taken without a visa being issued. Adding it up, my Iranian visa cost about 200 Euros. That may sound like a lot but for me it’s a small price to pay for 90 days (30 days plus two extensions possible for 30 days each) for access to what I’m sure will prove to be a wonderful country.

As I said at the start of this post, I am buzzing with excitement. I’ve had a glimpse of Iranian hospitality already: a student waiting in line at the embassy wrote down his contact information and told me to get in touch once I crossed the border. He said he would love to have me to stay as would his family all over the country. Fantastic!

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One Comment already on “Iran visa secured!”
  1. 12:30 pmpermalink
    28 Oct 2012

    Kirsi

    Hi Will,

    Beautiful photos from Turkey!
    Just wanted to wish ManU a good game today at Stamford Bridge ;) It will be a tough one. Hopefully me and Antero will be there to see Chelsea play again in March :)

    Take care,
    Kirsi