July 19, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. The country is still dealing with the economic challenge of recovery from its long civil war. Political power is concentrated in the office of the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, each representing one of Lebanon's three largest religious sects (Maronite Christians, Sunni, and Shi'a Muslims). About 15,000 Syrian troops are stationed in the country, and Syria retains a significant political influence, especially in foreign policy. Since 1973, Lebanon has been in a state of war with Israel.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required. Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel may be refused entry into Lebanon. Travelers whose passports contain Israeli stamps or visas and who also hold an "Arab nationality" may be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Travelers who have overstayed their entry visa validity in Lebanon have to adjust their status with the Surete General (Department of Passport and Immigration) prior to their departure. Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008, tel. (202) 939-6300. Additional information can be found on the Embassy of Lebanon's web site http://www.lebanonembassyus.org. Travelers may also contact one of the Consulates General of Lebanon:
7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510
Los Angeles, CA 90028
6600 S.W. 57th Avenue, Suite 200
Miami, FL 33143
(Honorary Consul, for Florida residents only)
1959 E. Jefferson, Suite 4A
Detroit, MI 48207
9 E. 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
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 if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: In addition to being subject to all Lebanese laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Lebanese citizens. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE: Lebanese males 18 to 30 years old are subject to mandatory military service of one year. Dual nationals who visit Lebanon are not exempt, except as allowed by Lebanese law. Dual nationals are strongly advised to contact the Military Office of the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, or call (202) 265-2335 or fax (202) 667-0063 for details prior to traveling to Lebanon.
Due to the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon, Syrian-American men over the age of 18 who are planning to visit Lebanon are strongly urged to check with the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. concerning compulsory military service. Even American males who have never resided in or visited Syria, but whose fathers are/were Syrian, are required to complete military service or pay to be exempted. Possession of a U.S. passport does not relieve the bearer of this obligation.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Americans have been targets of terrorist attacks in Lebanon. The perpetrators of many of these attacks are still present in Lebanon and retain the ability to act. Security incidents have occurred in Lebanon with little warning. Travelers should be alert to dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout south Lebanon, and in some mountain areas in north Lebanon. Security conditions in areas along the Israel-Lebanon border are subject to change.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warning for Lebanon, Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, and other Travel Warnings 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 United States, or, for callers outside the United States 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: While the crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, both car thefts and house break-ins occur. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to the local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of crimes is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs homepage at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: In Beirut and the surrounding areas, modern medical care and medicines are widely available. Such facilities are not always available in outlying areas, although no location in the country is more than three hours from the capital. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services and without such payment may deny service even in emergency cases. A list of doctors who speak English is available from the U.S. Embassy.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans 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. 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.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States 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, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that 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 may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers within 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/ith.
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 Lebanon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Drivers often maneuver aggressively and pay little regard to traffic lights and stops signs. Lanes are generally unmarked. Pedestrians, especially, should exercise great caution. Inter-city directional signs are improving throughout the country, but side roads are often not signposted at all.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html. For specific information concerning Lebanese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Lebanon.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As the U.S. has not re-authorized direct air service between the U.S. and Lebanon since the end of Lebanon's civil war, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lebanon's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Lebanon's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. (800) 322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Lebanese Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of such items as firearms or antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, D.C., or one of Lebanon's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. 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 http://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 United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Lebanon's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe in Lebanon, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Individuals charged with drug offenses are usually not released on bail and can expect to remain in jail while judicial authorities prepare their cases for prosecution.
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.
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/family/index.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 standard 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.
FAMILY MATTERS: Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Lebanon and the United States dealing with the return of children who are subjects of international parental child abduction. Lebanese fathers of minor children (under 18 years of age) may legally prevent their children from leaving or being taken from Lebanon. Likewise, a Lebanese husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. During a custody dispute or divorce proceedings, either party can request an injunction to prevent the other's departure from the country. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy is unable to lift the travel restriction. Parents should also note that American custody orders might not be enforced in Lebanon. There have been recent kidnappings of Lebanese-American women by their Lebanese relatives in an effort to force these women into marriage.
PROSELYTIZING: While Lebanon guarantees freedom of religion, Americans who come to Lebanon purely as missionaries may encounter difficulties in obtaining, or maintaining, valid residency permits.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Lebanon are advised to register with the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security within Lebanon. Restrictions continue on the movement of U.S. Embassy employees for security reasons. Therefore, assistance in emergency cases such as arrests or deaths cannot always be provided in a timely manner.
The Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon. Public access hours for American citizens are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. However, American citizens who require emergency services outside of these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time. The telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, 543-600, 544-310, 544-130, 544-140, and fax 544-209. American citizens registering at the Embassy can receive updated information and warden messages via e-mail by subscribing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on consular services and registration can also be found at http://www.usembassy.gov.lb or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday local time.