Obtaining a tourist visa to visit Iran is notoriously challenging.

In general there are three categories that visitors to foreign countries fit into when planning a trip.

1.       No visa is required to enter

2.       Purchasing of a mandatory Visa On Arrival (VOA)

3.       A visa must be obtained in advance (usually through the foreign consulate or embassy in the home country)

What documentation you require for entry is primarily dependent on your nationality and subsequently your nation’s diplomatic relations with the country you intend to visit. The rule of thumb is: the better ‘friends’ they are, the fewer restrictions in place.

Iran is in a category of its own. Naturally, visa is required, but in effect it is a two-step process to obtain the necessary visa.

Step 1

In order to apply for an Iranian visa, you must first be officially invited to the country. Unless you have personal contacts that are able to secure the necessary documentation directly from the Iranian Ministry, you are forced to hire a travel agency to obtain an ‘invitation code’ on your behalf.

In early October, anticipating this trip, I hired an agency in Tehran. They forwarded me the reference number application which I completed and returned. I waited just over a week until the agency contacted me with news that they had an invitation code for me.

They would send my code to ‘the embassy of my choice’ for Step 2 – the processing of the visa. Normally I would have selected Ottawa where I would be able to courier my passport for the final visa from my home in Calgary, but since the Canadian Foreign Ministry’s decided to expel all Iranian diplomats mid-September of this year, this was not an option. After some research, I elected The Hague in The Netherlands – it was en route to the Middle East, I had never been to Amsterdam and most importantly, I had read some recent success stories of foreigners getting Iran visas issued there.

In order to finalize the sending of the code, I needed to pay the agency 45 euro for their troubles. Like the case of choosing which embassy to liaise with, this would normally be dead simple, however; due to economic and financial sanctions currently imposed on Iran, no western banks have relations with Iran and no capital is legally allowed to flow in or out of the country. There are serious penalties overlooking this regulation – just ask UK bank Standard Chartered.

To circumvent this, the agency provided me with an individuals’ bank account info located in the UK. So, I attempted to transfer the amount to the UK bank account using the online banking services of my Canadian bank. It didn’t work. After days of trying different methods and contacting both the sending and receiving institutions, it was apparent that the Canadian banks had restrictions against the BIC number is was trying to use.  I had no choice but to send the funds via wire transfer. This was feasible, but it was going to cost me $40 to send 45 euros instead of $13 to send the amount - not the end of the world, but worth working to avoid.

Before spending over $100 dollars on something intangible halfway across the world, I wanted to make sure that the Iran embassy in The Hague was on board to issue me a visa. Because of short embassy working hours, time difference between Holland and Canada, and my tendency to hit ‘snooze’ it took three different mornings of waking up at 3 AM to call the embassy via Skype and try to learn if they had my received code.

At the end of these attempts, I had accomplished little to secure peace of mind. I decided that it was worth the risk and that I would have to trust those involved.

Once I emailed confirmation of the wire transfer to the agency, they sent me my code. Step 1 was complete. Nothing more could be done on this front until I arrived in The Hague and handed over my passport. My plans were more in the balance than ever.


06/20/2013 9:53am

Hi,there so marvelous,before reading this topic I thought getting Iranian Visa is simple for every one however it take long time.
Your process for getting visa never can be compare to Canadian Visa for Iranian.lollllllllll

08/12/2013 6:45am


I'm not entirely clear what the cost is for Canadians. Is it 45 euros for the agency including the Visa, or 45 euros in addition to the visa? I'm probably going to just make my arrangements in Turkey, so I'll avoid the wire transfer costs and do it in person.


12/04/2013 12:09pm

How long is your tourist visa emitted for? can you renew it?

12/04/2013 2:13pm

Hi SAM, you misunderstood me in previous comment.
I am Iranian student who could not get Canadian visa ,any where if, you want to come to Iran I can ask from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

12/04/2013 2:16pm

Hi SAM, you misunderstood me in previous comment.
I am Iranian student who could not get Canadian visa ,any where if, you want to come to Iran I can ask from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

12/04/2013 2:17pm

Hi SAM, you misunderstood me in previous comment.
I am Iranian student who could not get Canadian visa ,any where if, you want to come to Iran I can ask from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

03/24/2014 9:06pm

I would like to know which agency you used, to get the code, because I learned there are some agencies out there which will simply take your money and do nothing. Thanks!

03/25/2014 9:14am

Hi Sebastien,

I can't remember which agency I used. If you share your email address with me, I will introduce you to my friend in Iran who works for an agency. He may be able to help you.


04/03/2014 6:18pm

Sebastien and Trevor,

Have you heard of the rumor that Canadians (and Brits) could no longer get Iranian visas for independant travel? Apparently this new regulation would apply this april (2014).

It already was a big challenge to get one... I start to wonder if I will simply go somewhere else.

04/03/2014 8:30pm

Yes, it seems to be true. If you haven't received your authorization code yet, it's too late.

Trevor got me in contact with the key2persia travel agency, which offers a 12 days open-jaw tour, departing from Istanbul either on June 12, 26, or July 24. The price includes the flight from/to Istanbul. You may ask to have your code delivered to the Istanbul consulate, and arrive there one week before your trip to Iran, to get the visa.

I'm used to travelling by myself. But then, last time I was forced to be part of a group (in DPRK) and it was wonderful. It was great to share the experience. So, hopefully this trip will be as good!


08/01/2014 4:03am

i paid 40$ as a vietnamese passport holder live in canada

08/20/2014 8:00pm

I am a Canadian who is scheduled to go on an organized tour in Iran on September 6. I sent my application for the authorisation code on August 3. Do you think it will take longer than 3-4 weeks to receive the code? I can fly to Washington DC to get the visa (they can process it in one day for an added fee). I am just concerned that it might take longer than 3-4 weeks to receive the code... Any info or advice would be appreciated!

08/22/2014 12:58pm

Renee, I am a Canadian too, just back from Iran. I must say that the delay to receive the code depends greatly on the company you use. At first, I tried with two iranian companies: key2persia.com and uppersia.com Both failed to provide a code after 2 months and a half, always replying vaguely to my emails, and telling me it would come soon. Can you believe I had to submit my form 5 times to the first company!! Tabarnac!, as we would say in Quebec.

To this day, I still believe both companies never submitted my code request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran. They never said so, but I think they were waiting until they would have a large enough group.

So, if you want my advice, and you really want to go to Iran (it's wonderful - I highly recommend it!) stick to a non-iranian company. I know only one: Lupine Travels. They respond promptly, and they seem serious. They are expensive! But these other iranian companies simply don't deliver the code.

On top of that, consider flying to Istanbul, and have the code delivered to the consulate there. It's on the way to Iran, and Turkey is a very good B plan, in case things don't work out with the visa. Good luck!

P.S. FYI, the normal delay for a code is 7 to 10 days. Then, the same day visa service in Istanbul was 120 Eur. If you successfully get a code with a company, please share the info here.


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