July 16, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: On June 28, 2004, the Iraqi Interim Government assumed sovereign governing authority in Iraq. Three decades of war and government mismanagement have stunted Iraq's economy, leading to increased crime and poverty. Infrastructure is antiquated. Conditions in Iraq are extremely dangerous. The Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) is assisting the Iraqi government in providing security throughout the country. The workweek in Iraq is Saturday through Thursday.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: The Iraqi Embassy is open only for limited consular services and cannot issue travel documents at this time. The Embassy is located at 1801 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone number is 202-483-7500; fax is 202-462-5066.
The Iraqi government is currently reviewing entry requirements. For the most current information consult the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, DC.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens are subject to all Iraqi laws; individuals who also possess the nationality of Iraq may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Iraqi citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.
TERRORISM: The risk of terrorism directed against U.S. citizens and interests in Iraq remains extremely high.
AREAS OF INSTABILITY/SAFETY AND SECURITY: Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, and criminal elements remain active throughout Iraq. Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I)-led military operations continue, and there continue to be attacks against MNF-I throughout the country. While a number of attacks have been concentrated in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Bayji, Baqubah, Mosul and Kirkuk, the security environment across Iraq is dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. Attacks on military as well as civilian targets, including hotels, UN facilities, non-governmental organizations, police stations, checkpoints, individuals doing humanitarian work and several foreign Embassies, can occur at any time, especially during nighttime hours. There has been an increase in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and animal carcasses. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Rockets and mortars have been fired at hotels, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices have been used against targets throughout the country .
Large demonstrations have occurred in Baghdad and other areas of the country, some of which have turned violent. Security conditions are improving, but demonstrations and civil strife are likely to continue into the near future. Detailed security information is available at the Embassy's website http://iraq.usembassy.gov or http://baghdad.usembassy.gov and at http://www.centcom.mil.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, including the Travel Warning for Iraq, and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME INFORMATION: The U.S. Embassy and MNF-I are working with Iraqi police to establish law enforcement and civil structures throughout the country. U.S. and British military personnel are providing police protection as well as the security situation permits. Petty theft is common in Iraq, including thefts of money, jewelry, or valuable items left in hotel rooms and pick pocketing in busy places such as markets. Carjackings by armed thieves are very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care and to contact family members or friends. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Basic modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. The recent conflict in Iraq has left some medical facilities non-operational and medical stocks and supplies severely depleted. The facilities in operation do not meet U.S. standards, and the majority lack medicines, equipment and supplies.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Because the Baghdad International Airport is closed for security reasons, it is unlikely that a private medical evacuation can be arranged. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations, perhaps from outside Iraq.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, U.S. citizens should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers from the United States at
1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/ travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/iht.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Iraq is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of public transportation: Poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Good
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Poor
Availability of roadside assistance: Poor
Travel at night is extremely dangerous and should be avoided. There have been attacks on civilian vehicles as well as military convoys on Highways 1, 5, 10 and 15, even during daylight hours . Travelers are strongly urged to travel in convoys with at least 4 vehicles in daylight hours only.
Buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Poorly maintained city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. Long distance buses are available, but are often in poor condition and drive at unsafe speeds. Jaywalking is common. Drivers usually do not yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and ignore traffic lights (if available), traffic rules and regulations. Roads are congested. Driving at night is extremely dangerous. Some cars do not use lights at night and urban street lights may not be functioning. Some motorists drive at excessive speeds, tailgate and force other drivers to yield the right of way. For additional general information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. See also road safety information on Iraq at http://www.arab.net/iraq/iraq_contents.htm.
CIVIL AVIATON SAFETY OVERSIGHT : There are no commercial flights between the United States and Iraq. Any civil flights landing in Iraq are restricted to special charter operations supporting humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts. As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Iraq by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Iraq's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Customs and MNF-I officers have the broad authority to search persons or vehicles at Iraq ports of entry. Officers may confiscate any goods that may pose a threat to the peace, security, health, environment, or good order of Iraq or any antiquities or cultural items suspected of being illegally exported. Goods that are not declared may be confiscated by an officer. Persons may also be ordered to return such goods, at their expense, to the jurisdiction from which they came. Please note that in many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Iraqi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is able to provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens only. Because police and civil structures are in the process of being rebuilt, U.S. citizens may have little recourse to these entities in emergency situations, and may have to seek assistance from MNF-I police.
The banking and financial infrastructure has been disrupted and is in the process of rebuilding. Hotels usually require payment in foreign currency. No ATM machines exist. Restrictions on the use of the U.S. passport have been lifted.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Telecommunications are very poor. There is very limited international phone service in Iraq at this time. Local calls are often limited to a neighborhood network. There are no public telephones in the cities; however, calls may be made from hotels, restaurants or shops. Limited cellular telephone service is available in Baghdad. Public Internet service is not available.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction , please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: The Travel Warning on Iraq urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Iraq. However, U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Iraq despite that Warning are encouraged to register with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq located in the International Zone and obtain updated information on travel and security within Iraq . U.S. citizens may register with the Embassy via their e-mail address email@example.com, telephone 1-240-553-0584 (this number rings in Baghdad), or the Embassy's website at http://iraq.usembassy.gov or http://baghdad.usembassy.gov. Their after hours number is 1-914-822-5473.