Since 2019, it has become fairly difficult for citizens of most countries to get a Syrian tourist visa that allows them to visit the country independently. That does not mean, however, that it is difficult to visit if you book a guided tour. In fact, in that case, it is super easy. This article highlights the different methods of obtaining a Syrian tourist visa, and the conditions that are attached to each type of visa. If you are hell-bent on visiting Syria independently (without a guide) then keep reading on, as I’ve explained how you might go about doing that.
What is “security clearance” and do I need it to enter Syria?
Almost all citizens require something known as “security clearance” to enter Syria. If you apply for the visa through a Syrian embassy abroad, they will apply for security clearance on your behalf. Otherwise, someone will have to apply on your behalf from inside Syria. Once security clearance has been issued, one can receive the Syrian visa either from the embassy (if that’s where you first applied) or upon arrival at the Syrian border..
Even if, officially, no visa is required (as is the case for most Arab nationals), security clearance is. You will be denied entry without it. The only two nationalities that are exempt from this are Lebanese and Jordanian nationals, who can just show up at the border and enter without any prior approvals. Everyone else needs to get security clearance or they will be denied entry and possibly even given a ban simply for trying without approval.
Also, don’t believe Wikipedia when it comes to entry requirements. As someone that runs tours to the country for people from various nationalities, I can simply say that the entry requirements are wrong. For instance, Wikipedia says that Omani nationals can visit Syria visa-free. We’ve had Omani customers before and not only do they require security clearance, but the visa itself is also super expensive (150 USD if I remember correctly!).
So how can I apply for security clearance?
Iraqi citizens and Chinese citizens, although requiring security clearance, can get it fairly easily, with many companies offering them this service in their respective countries. They are also not bound by the condition of booking a guided tour, unlike citizens of most other countries. On the streets of Syria, it is a common sight to see Chinese and Iraqi tourists wandering around unaccompanied.
If you’re not Chinese, Iraqi, Lebanese or Jordanian, then there are a few different ways you can go about visiting Syria, and they are as follows:
- You apply for security clearance through a registered tour company in Syria: By doing this, the company accepts responsibility for you whilst in Syria, and applies for your security clearance from inside the country. You are able to stay in the country during the days that you have booked a tour with a registered tour guide, and, in most cases, you must leave once the tour is over. This option is super easy – all you have to do is send them your passport copy, your job title and your contact information and, for most nationalities, your security clearance will be approved within a matter of days. Once issued, you will be able to get the visa on arrival at the Syrian border. For independent travellers, however, this doesn’t sound ideal.
- You apply through a Syrian embassy abroad: This option is considerably trickier and there’s a good chance you’ll be rejected. When filling in the visa form, you will have to put the details of a sponsor in Syria, as well as other documents such as those listed on the website of the Syrian embassy in Berlin. This sponsor can be a Syrian individual or business. However, it’s likely that your sponsor will be contacted about your visit, and if your reason for visiting isn’t convincing enough, or if you don’t know your sponsor in person, your visa will likely be rejected. Furthermore, the embassy visa usually takes around a month to process. The benefit of this method, however, is that you’ll be able to travel independently in the country. If you have entered the country by getting a visa this way, it is easy to get an extension by going to the “Immigration and Passports Department” in Damascus, and you won’t have to pay much money at all.
- Your sponsor can apply for you from inside Syria: This is basically the same as method number 2, but the difference is that the application process starts from inside Syria. Furthermore, the approval/rejection process is usually quicker, and they often give you an idea about the chances of approval upon application, unlike the embassy visa where they won’t tell you much. Bascially, your sponsor will have to go to the “Immigration and Passports Department” in Damascus and apply for your security clearance on your behalf and will be asked details about your visit.
In conculsion, for most nationalities, visiting Syria independently isn’t easy unless you have good friends in the country which are willing to sponsor your visit. However, it is possible to get a Syrian tourist visa with the help of a tourism agency – this method is very simple and easy. If you’d like to visit Syria on a group tour with us, check out our upcoming departures. Otherwise, get in touch with us so that we can arrange a custom tour for you that includes security clearance, allowing you to easily get into the country.