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

5 Feb 2013

Getting Iranian visa extensions

Posted by Will

Iran Extension (Dec 2012, Jan 2013 – Esfahan, Shiraz Offices)
N.B. Visa information falls out of date quickly so check a number of different sources. I am a British citizen travelling with a British passport. Visa rules and costs many be different for your nationality.

p1060724-800Moderate. I applied for my first visa extension in Esfahan and my second visa extension in Shiraz. I also visited the visa extension office in Kerman and they were also happy to extend my visa a second time (I didn’t use them in the end).

If you are travelling on a 7 day transit visa then it doesn’t seem possible to extend your visa. I have met two people who have been refused an extension (in Tehran and Esfahan). If you are travelling on a 15 day visa-on-arrival then it seems as though you can extend although you will be asked more questions and definitely not given more than 15 days extension.

Most cyclists will be travelling on a 30 day tourist visa like me. The maximum number of days any office will extend your visa for is 30 days and I was told at Kerman office that visas can not be extended unless they are within 2 days of expiring.

My first extension in Esfahan was harder than my second extension in Shiraz which leads me to believe the widespread reports on the internet that Shiraz is the easiest extension office are correct. In Esfahan, the boss of the office wanted to give me only 20 days extension. I mounted a very simple and gramatically incorrect argument of why I needed 30 days. I mentioned cycling and how I had cycled all the way from England to enjoy travelling in Iran. I also said I wanted to learn more about Islam (‘mikham farsi o yard begiram’ – a useful phrase). Amused by my attempts at Farsi, he yielded. I filled out the application form, provided the necessary documents, gave a fingerprint, walked to Melli Bank to deposit 300,000 Rial (12USD), gave the office the receipt of payment and waited 3 hours in the office until I was handed back my stamped passport.

In Shiraz I didn’t have to argue with anybody but I did have to provide quite extensive information in an interview (in English). The office was chaotic but being a European (or more importantly not Afghan) I was looked after, always told what to do and even given tea and cake while waiting. I deposited money in Melli Bank, handed in the correct documents, gave a fingerprint, had an interview, ate cake, was asked one question by the boss and then I received my extension. All in all about 2 hours.

There are some important things to know to make your extension go smoother:

p1030027-800- Have a good story about what you’re doing in Iran and why you need a full 30 day extension. Otherwise, they may offer you less days.
- Never say you are staying in an Iranian person’s home. It is illegal in Iran.
- Never mention Couchsurfing. Again illegal.
- Do have the name of a hotel and preferably the hotel card up your sleeve. The authorities don’t check.
- Do have extra copies of your passport and passport photos in your bag. In Shiraz I unexpectedly had to full out another form and had to provide an additional passport photo.
- Do compliment the linguistic talent of everyone who speaks a word of English to you. Making friends in the visa office will push your application forward. In my case, both times an officer took me under their wing and made sure I knew what to do, that everything was filled out correctly and even put in a good word for me with the boss.
- Understand that the offices work more on an ad-hoc basis than strict procedure. Making friends in the office, knowing some basic Farsi words, mentioning your love of Iran, will all contribute towards persuading the boss you’re worthy of an extension.
- Look smart

Documents required: passport, passport copies (x2), any previous extension copies (x2), passport photos (x2), visa extension application form filled-in (available at the office), receipt for 300,000 Rial paid at Melli Bank (account number available at office)
Cost for everyone: 300,000 Rial (12USD)

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