Iran Visa London UK

How to Get an Iranian Visa in London, UK.

by Ellie Cleary

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Getting an Iranian Visa in London, UK (2017).

This information was correct as of June 2017 and is reflective of my experience only. Please check for the current requirements, costs and procedures on the UK Iranian Embassy’s Website

Iran is many things.

A country you can just show up to it is not. Especially if you happen to have an American, British or Canadian passport that you are travelling on.

All nationalities (except Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Georgia, Malaysia, Syria Turkey and Venezuela) are required to apply for a visa for travel to Iran.

Iran Visa London UK

Making new friends at the Iranian Embassy in London.

Some nationalities are eligible for a ‘visa on arrival’ – Americans, Canadians and Brits are not. 

As I experienced during my own visa application process, arrangements are constantly changing, requirements are tightened or relaxed, and can do so with little warning. The following is my experience of getting an Iranian visa in London in July 2017 with a British passport; please see your government’s travel advisory website for the most up to date information to check the current situation.

You can find the websites for Americans, Canadians and Brits here: UKCanadaUSA.

As a Brit longing for a taste of Iranian hospitality, culture and architecture, the first step I had to take towards getting my Iranian visa was booking a tour via an agency for the duration of my stay. I chose to travel with G Adventures given their commitment to responsible tourism.

Iran Visa London UK

Mission complete! In Tehran at the freedom tower…

Planning for your Visa & Letter of Invitation.

Tours are mandatory for Brits, Americans and Canadians travelling to Iran, unless you have a sponsor in Iran.

The only way to get around a tour as a Brit is to have an Iranian resident sponsor your visa application, or you are currently able to visit Kish Island (only) for up to 14 days without a visa. In the past there were ways to “get around” the tour requirement, but these seem to have been clamped down on.

Once my trip was booked I submitted the application for a “Letter of Invitation” (sometimes referred to as “Authorisation Number” or LOI) via G Adventures. Your travel agent files this application with the Ministry of Tourism in Iran who then reviews the application and returns the authorisation number to you around 21-14 days prior to the departure of your trip – so prepare for it being pretty last minute.

One grounds for refusal of your application is Israeli stamps in your passport – or even stamps from Jordan at the land border with Israel according to some sources. Those travelling on Israeli passports cannot enter Iran.

My application for an authorisation number was delayed because of a new requirement (June 2017) to ask British and Canadian applicants for CV’s as part of their application (previously this only applied to Americans wanting to visit Iran).

My number arrived 5 days prior to departure of my trip (!) so I had to practically run to the Embassy to get my visa on time

Once you have your authorisation number back, it’s time to go to the Consular section of the Iranian Embassy in London to get your actual Visa.

For Brits, an authorisation number alone is not enough to enter Iran with.

British passport holders are only able to collect their Visa from an Iranian Embassy – in the UK that means a trip to London. It’s not possible to pick it up on arrival in Iran.

At the Iranian Embassy in London.

What you’ll need for your visit to the embassy:

– issued letter of invitation / authorisation number (print it out)
– payment in CASH, UK pounds only (165 GBP for standard service, 250 GBP for same day/rush)
– 2 passport photos (women need to cover their hair)
– completed application form (downloadable here)
– your passport
– Addressed Special Delivery envelope (available from post offices) if you are not doing the same day express service.

Ladies – bring a scarf to the embassy and dress modestly (cover legs and arms) – most women including foreigners covered their hair inside the embassy although this seemed to be more out of respect than being enforced.

The consular section of the Iranian Embassy is located off Kensington High Street in central London, and is open for Visas on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm for visa processing.

From what limited information I could find about going to the Embassy in London online I surmised that: a) there is usually a long queue well before 2pm b) the Embassy does not answer the phone c) the Embassy does not answer emails. I spoke to several disgruntled Brits of Iranian descent who had been trying to get answers as to whether their children needed to be present in person or not. Who in the send had had to turn up in person to find out.

I joined the queue at around 1.15 pm and there were already about 30 people in front of me. We waited until around 2.30pm to be let in – all the while watching as a variety of Iranians, Brits and other nationalities arrived, tried to get in, were told that there was a queue and either decided to just sidle in at the front (much to the loud protest of some) or head to the back.

During the 1.15hr wait I got chatting to two ladies of Iranian descent that were standing next to me. One was going on a pilgrimage there, one was taking her youngest child home to meet his grandparents for the first time. Within a few minutes we had a group of us chatting away about travel in Iran and I had several invitations to dinner!

If this is the famous Iranian hospitality – I thought – things are off to a good start. 

Once inside the embassy we were given numbers, called forward, submitted our paperwork and cash for the visa.

Iran Visa London UK

The beauty of Iran that awaits…

At the time of my visit (July 2017) the cost of a standard tourist visa for UK passport holders was 165 GBP.

The embassy only accepts payment in cash.

Because I only received my authorisation number 5 days prior to departure I had to fork out the extra cash (90 GBP) for the same day service. That meant that I came back to collect my passport with visa in it the same day at 5.30pm.

For standard service, the embassy posts your passport back to you (via the envelope you provide) – it is NOT possible to pick up your passport in person.

Now, you should be all set for travel in Iran!

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23 comments

Nisa August 13, 2017 - 2:10 pm

Thanks for writing this Ellie. Very informative! I have a question: if I do not take a tour, can I still ask the tour agency to get me a travel authorization number? If yes, how much does that cost?
Only if you know the answers Ellie.
thanks again 🙂

Reply
Ellie August 28, 2017 - 9:12 am

Hi Nisa, If I understand your question correctly – people used to do this in the past – as a way to get around tours but I understood that the Iranian government has started to get very strict on this (I recommend reading Lostwithpurpose.com who updated their post about this recently). I don’t know what the risk would be if caught doing such a thing too. Personally I felt much happier going on a legit tour and had a wonderful experience with G Adventures.

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Dav September 26, 2017 - 10:21 pm

Hi Ellie,

Sorry I’m bothering you again with another question!

So I’m due to visit the consulate on Friday with my Authorisation Number. However, the G Adventures site suggests you need to show evidence of your flights. I wasn’t planning to book my flights until the visa was firmly in my passport. Did you book your flights before getting your visa?

Many thanks!

Reply
Ellie September 27, 2017 - 4:16 pm

Hi Dave, i didn’t have to show flight booking evidence. Have a wonderful trip!

Reply
FADAK ALI June 18, 2018 - 7:10 pm

Hello Ellie,

Thanks for a very helpful article!
I’m about to got to the consulate to apply, but I’m not sure if my two children (both under 18) need to attend the consulate for their visas?
By any chance do you know what happened to the couple you mentioned in the article?

Reply
Siddiq Birader August 19, 2018 - 10:22 pm

For a British passport holder, If you have an Iranian sponsor, I assume there is no need for going through a tour operator, is this correct ?

Reply
Ellie August 20, 2018 - 8:57 pm

Hi Siddiq, yes correct no need for a tour then, but your sponsor needs to apply for an authorisation number for you from the ministry of tourism in Iran before you can apply for your visa. Good luck and enjoy Iran!

Reply
Adrian Harms September 22, 2018 - 7:33 pm

Thanks for a very useful description of the Visa process for Iran in 2017. To reiterate our experience getting Visas in 2018: – we first obtained our Visa Authorisation Numbers through our tour organiser (G Adventures) and then visited the Consulate (50 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DD) to get our Visas. There was somebody on the steps of the Consulate when we arrived at about 12:45pm who told us to queue on the opposite side of the road to the Consulate. About 15 minutes before the Consulate opened someone came and gave everyone in the queue (about 20) a numbered ticket. Just before 2pm we were let into the Consulate. When our number was called we went to the first window to have our fingerprints taken on an electronic fingerprint machine. We then went to the second window where we handed in our Visa Application Form (downloaded from the Iranian Embassy website and completed beforehand) together with our printed out Visa Authorisation Number, two passport size photos, and a stamped addressed special deliver envelope to return our passports (bought from the Post Office). They asked for our £165 (£250 if you want it the same day!) and gave us a receipt for our passports. Very straightforward – whole process took about twenty minutes. Our passports arrived a week later!

Reply
Ellie October 20, 2018 - 3:59 pm

Hi Adrian, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience! It sounds like not much has changed (except perhaps the queue being shorter – not sure if that is a good thing). I hope you had a wonderful trip to Iran!

Reply
Kris February 15, 2019 - 1:00 am

Hi Ellie, thank you for such a helpful article. I’m looking at booking a trip for two months time. Is it best to book my flights and hotel and apply for my VISA, or apply for the VISA first? Also, how long is the application process?

Reply
Ellie February 16, 2019 - 6:29 pm

Hi Kris, glad to hear that, thanks and excited to hear you are heading to Iran! It looks like you have a UK email so I’m assuming you’re travelling on a British passport? As you know, you need to take a tour / travel with a tour guide (assuming you don’t have an Iranian sponsor) so the process is you book your tour first. About 12 weeks out the tour companies applies for your Authorisation number from the Iranian Tourism Ministry in Tehran. Only once you have that, can you apply for your actual visa. As you probably read my auth number only arrived a week before my departure so I had to hot foot it to the Embassy in London and pay extra to rush my visa – unfortunately not much that can be done in that situation. Your tour company can advise you further as well if you have any questions. G Adventures (who i travelled with) have a good guidance section on it here: https://www.gadventures.com/trips/iran-discover-persia/3803/details/#visas-and-entry-requirements
Enjoy Iran!!

Reply
Lorraine Motamed March 9, 2019 - 1:07 pm

Hi
How did you dress in Iran as we are going I’m finding it trick to have the correct outfits.
Thanks

Reply
Ellie Cleary March 11, 2019 - 8:28 pm

Hi Lorraine,
We have more tips in this post here: https://soultravelblog.com/iran-travel-for-brits/ – Take cotton scarves to cover your hair, depending on what season you are travelling to Iran in, you’ll need long shirts that cover you to mid thigh or long cardigans plus trousers that cover your legs all the way past your ankles (not leggings, skinny jeans are fine as long as your top is long enough although they will be too hot in summer. 3/4 length sleeves are ok too, but to be on the safe side take tops with full-length sleeves. Have a wonderful trip to Iran!

Reply
Ali Huet March 14, 2019 - 12:18 pm

Hi Ellie,
Thank you for such an informative and valuable blog. Are you allowed to just turn up to get your visa stamp? Or do you need to book an appointment before turning up.

Thanks,
Ali

Reply
Ellie Cleary March 14, 2019 - 7:08 pm

Hi Ali,
No need for an appointment (for a tourist visa at least), you can just turn up and join the queue. You do need your LOI / Auth number before you can go to the Embassy to get the actual visa though.
Happy travels!

Reply
Ali Huet March 14, 2019 - 7:36 pm

Hi Ellie,

Thanks for the reply. I forgot to ask one more question. Is it the embassy you need to go to for the visa/stamp, or the consulate?

Thank you!

Reply
Ali Huet March 14, 2019 - 8:56 pm

Thanks for the reply. I forgot to ask one more question. Is it the embassy you need to go to for the visa/stamp, or the consulate?

Reply
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