The Government of Eritrea requires all foreign residents including diplomats to apply 10 days in advance for travel outside of Asmara city limits. This restriction can delay or prevent the Embassy from providing emergency assistance to U.S. citizens outside of Asmara since U.S. diplomatic personnel are not excluded from this restriction.
The consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Asmara has been closed for most visa services since February 2007. It is fully open for American Citizen Services in Eritrea, including reports of birth, passports, and notarial services.
Currency exchange on the street is illegal.
Eritrea has complicated citizenship laws and does not recognize renunciation of Eritrean citizenship. Dual nationals who enter the country on Eritrean travel documents are treated as Eritrean citizens, regardless of their other citizenship. U.S. citizens born in Eritrea, or who otherwise are considered to have acquired Eritrean citizenship, may be subject to certain obligations, including being drafted into national service, regardless of the documents they present at entry. (National service is approximately nine months of military training, followed by an often unspecified and open-ended number of years in military or other government service.) In some cases, U.S. citizens of dual nationality and Eritrean Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States have not been allowed to leave Eritrea as they have been drafted into national service.
U.S.-Eritrean dual nationals who enter the country on an Eritrean passport or national ID card must obtain an exit visa prior to departure. The exit visa application process can significantly delay travel plans. Exit visas may be denied, even for persons who entered Eritrea legally. Eritrean dual nationals are required to pay a 2% income tax on overseas earnings to the Eritrean Government prior to being granted an exit visa. Additionally, Eritrean authorities sometimes do not allow Eritreans who left the country after 1993 to depart Eritrea after visiting the country, even if they have a U.S. passport and a valid Eritrean visa.
Dual nationals cannot obtain civil documents such as birth and death certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, educational transcripts, property ownership records, or court records without proof of payment of the 2% income tax. The only exception is for hardship purposes (students and those unable to work) and this must be stated in writing by an Eritrean Embassy abroad only after registering there.
Persons of dual nationality are at risk of being arrested or held without charge for questioning. The Eritrean government does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of dual nationals. It will not inform the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of U.S. citizens, and has not responded favorably to requests by Embassy officials to visit incarcerated U.S. citizens. When arrested, a person may be held for many days without being told the purpose of his or her incarceration. Conditions are harsh – those incarcerated may be held in very small quarters without access to restrooms, bedding, food, or clean water. Visitors are advised to exercise caution when taking photographs in Eritrea. Foreigners in Asmara have been harassed and detained by local police and plain-clothes security officials for taking photographs of street scenes in the city. No law has been cited, but the justifications given have been that unmarked government buildings are in the background and/or that the pictures are being taken illegally for commercial reasons.
All foreign nationals in Eritrea are required to apply for permits to travel outside of Asmara. Travel permits must be presented upon request. Although formal police checkpoints no longer exist, persons have been asked to present travel permits at beaches, restaurants, and social events, so lack of formal police checkpoints should not discourage travelers from legally obtaining a travel permit. Persons have been jailed for not being able to show a valid travel permit. Applications for travel permits are available at the two Ministry of Tourism offices located on Harnet Avenue and Airport Road.
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