Do I need a passport or visa to enter?
A passport and a visa are required. Visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Syria from a Syrian diplomatic mission located in the traveler’s country of residence. Visas issued by the Syrian Honorary Consulates generally have a maximum validity of two entries. Travelers planning to remain in Syria for an extended period, however, should submit their visa applications to the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC, where they may request a multiple-entry visa with a six-month validity. Persons planning to visit neighboring countries while in Syria (even for a short day trip) should apply for a multiple-entry visa from the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC. Visit the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2215 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 232-6313 or visit the website of the Syrian Embassy for the most current visa information.
Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian immigration authorities by their 15th day. Syrian-American men or American men of Syrian origin, even those born in the United States, may be subject to compulsory military service unless they receive a temporary or permanent exemption from a Syrian diplomatic mission abroad prior to their entry into Syria. (Please see the section on Special Circumstances below.)
Syria charges a departure tax at its land and sea borders for all visitors except those on diplomatic passports. As of June 2011, the land/sea departure tax is 550 Syrian Pounds (~$12) for all visitors; however children under the age of 11 are exempt from paying the fee.
The Syrian government rigidly enforces restrictions on prior travel to Israel, and does not allow persons with passports bearing Israeli visas or entry/exit stamps to enter the country. Likewise, the absence of entry stamps from a country adjacent to Israel, which the traveler has just visited, will cause Syrian immigration officials to refuse admittance. Overland entry into Syria directly from Israel is not possible. U.S. citizen travelers suspected of having traveled to Israel have been detained for questioning.
Syrian security officials are also sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which U.S. citizens, especially those of Arab descent, believed to have traveled to Iraq were detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Iraq through Syria have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Syria has been closed without notice, stranding U.S. citizens on either side of the border.
A child under the age of eighteen whose father is Syrian or of Syrian descent must have his/her father’s permission to leave Syria, even if the parents are separated or divorced and the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court. On occasion, the families of Syrian-American women visiting Syria have attempted to prevent them from leaving the country, generally in order to compel the woman to marry. Although under Syrian law a woman does not need her husband's explicit consent every time she wishes to leave Syria, a Syrian husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. government cannot help U.S. citizens to leave Syria.