Iran Visa procedure for Indians


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Iran visa for Indian passport holders - update

Dear Fellow Travelers

This post is intended to be an update for Indian passport holders desirous of traveling to the Islamic republic of Iran. The post is a reflection of my personal experiences in the month of march and April 2014 and the information gathered. I'm giving below some events in chronological order so that it may help others:

1. In February 2014, I started planning a trip to Iran (starting 25th april and ending on 13th of May) using Mahan Air as the carrier. Dates were selected keeping in mind Mahan's flight schedule from Delhi to Tehran.

2. I created a profile on Couchsurfing primarily to overcome the difficulty of finding accommodation in parts of Iran such as Rasht (Caspian sea coast), Hamadan, where I suspected tourism infrastructure to be less developed than Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran. I have never used CS before and therefore was overwhelmed by the generosity of total strangers (Iranians) who were open to hosting me, guiding me during my travel or providing other helpful information. Some later turned out to be travel agents but most were doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

3. Till sometime before 1st April 2014, Indian passport holders were entitled to a 15 day visa on arrival (VoA) for visiting Iran for touristic purposes. Based on posts on Thorntree forum as well as phonecalls to hotels in Tehran, I understood that this is no longer the case. Just to be doubly sure, I called up IKA's visa cell direct and was saved from what would have been an expensive mistake.

4. I was clear, by April mid that I would require a pre-approval code from the ministry of foreign affairs, Tehran (MFA) just like other nationalities. I applied for the same using an agency in Tehran and this was granted in 3 working days without any hassles. The cost varies from $40-$100 depending on your agent and how quickly the code is required.

5. I then approached the Iranian embassy in Delhi whereupon I was advised that as a tourist I should work with one of their 4 approved agents (list is on the door of the embassy's visa section). These agents charge approximately INR 3500/- as handling charges. I mentioned that the person who helped me with the code in Tehran has not mentioned any such route and that I should get the visa directly from the consulate.

6. In the meantime, I had checked several times with Mahan air's sales office in Delhi regarding seat availability and fare and they confirmed that:

  • Seats are available freely as the Nowruz (persian new year) had past in march. One can even buy the ticket same day by cash payment.
  • Mahan will not allow boarding with merely a pre-approval code. One must have visa stamped in the passport. Their IGI office confirmed that there were two deportation cases earlier this month wherein people were sent back as they didn't have visa stamped in their passport.
  • Minar travels (who also sell Mahan air tickets in Delhi) is one of the 'approved' agents for visa processing and even when I was checking for the seats, the sales lady asked me to work via their agency. I politely and firmly declined that to avoid the additional charge.

7. Between 23rd and 25th april, after getting the pre-approval code from MFA, I was at the Delhi consulate in-person twice. I was then given a list of other formalities that included:
a) Visa fees of INR 2640 to be paid at specified account (UBI, Bengali Market).
b) A medical certificate from an approved diagnostic center that shows that I do not suffer from any of - Hepatitis B&C, TB, HIV/AIDS. The diagnostic center charges INR 5000/-

8. If I were to travel on 25th (only two days to go), I'd have to pay an additional 1740 towards the same.

9. These fees as well as withdrawl of VoA is given on the Mumbai consulate site as well (I discovered this later):

I recalculated my visa cost and realized that I was looking at approximately INR 12,000 (or USD 200) for anything less than 5 day processing of visa (2640+1700+5000+2640).
I've not included the approved agent 'facilitation' charges in this figure nor the timelines involved in getting the medical tests done.

As my leave situation did not permit this level of uncertainty, I abandoned the plan and stayed back in the country.

Sharing this here as kamal had helped me with information during the course of the planning.