How to Enter Syria

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.

Special Travel Circumstances in Syria

U.S. citizens should carry a photocopy of their U.S. passport with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, they will have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Although Syria is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until weeks after the arrest, if at all. When the Embassy learns of U.S. citizen arrests and requests consular access, it generally takes approximately two months for access to be authorized. Moreover, security officials have also in the past not responded to Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of persons detained for “security” reasons.

Syrian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Syria of items such as weapons, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, cheese, fruits, pharmaceuticals, modems, cosmetics, and some electrical appliances. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Syria in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Syrian pounds only by licensed moneychangers, the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS), the Real Estate Bank, and at private banks, some of which maintain offices inside four- and five-star hotels. Four- and five-star hotels and high-end stores in Syria generally accept credit cards, although most restaurants and stores operate strictly in cash. Foreigners visiting Syria are required to pay hotel bills in U.S. dollars, Euros or other non-Syrian hard currency. Traveler’s checks are not accepted for payment in Syria, and banks will not cash them unless the traveler has an account at the bank in question. There are no U.S.-based banks operating in Syria. There are fourteen private banks operating in Syria, with branches and ATMs in most major cities. These ATMs usually honor major debit/credit systems. U.S. banks are restricted by law from transacting business with the largest public bank in Syria, the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS), so U.S. banks will not process ATM transactions from CBS branches. Funds may be transferred into Syria through Western Union. Wiring of funds through private banks is possible only if the traveler already holds an account with the bank in Syria; transferring funds through the Commercial Bank of Syria is not possible due to U.S. sanctions. Restrictions on wire transfers from Syria to locations abroad and restrictions on withdrawing U.S. dollars have changed several times in 2011 because of the fluctuating political situation; private citizens seeking to transfer funds outside of Syria or to withdraw U.S. dollars from a bank in Syria should check with the relevant financial institution for up-to-date regulations.

Syrian-American and Palestinian-American men who have never served in the Syrian military and who are planning to visit Syria should check with the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. prior to traveling concerning compulsory military service.

Effective June 1, 2011, the period of mandatory military service for men who have completed the fifth grade is 18 months. The period of mandatory military service for men who have not completed the fifth grade is 21 months.

U.S. citizen men over the age of 18, even those who have never resided in or visited Syria, and whose fathers are of Syrian descent, are required to complete military service or pay to be exempted. Possession of a U.S. passport does not absolve the bearer of this obligation.

Since May 11, 2004, Syria has been subject to an executive order implementing sanctions in accordance with the Syria Accountability Act. These sanctions prohibit the export to Syria of products of the United States other than food or medicine, and prohibit any commercial aircraft owned or controlled by the Syrian government from taking off from or landing in the United States. Under the authority provided in Section 5(b) of the Act, the President has determined that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive the application of these sanctions in certain cases and for certain products, as specified in the Department of Commerce's General Order No. 2. For additional information about implementation of the Syria Accountability Act, consult the Department of Commerce web site.

The Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations prohibit U.S. persons from receiving unlicensed donations from the Syrian government. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions which a U.S. person knows or has reasonable cause to believe pose a risk of furthering terrorist acts in the United States. For additional information about the Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations, consult the terrorism brochure on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page or via OFAC's info-by-fax service at (202) 622-0077.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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