The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated February 25, 2013, to update information on security incidents and to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Iraq, including kidnapping and terrorist violence. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.
U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs; mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets; and shootings using various direct fire weapons. Numerous insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and sectarian violence persist in many areas of the country at levels unseen since 2008. Due to the potential for political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings.
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available at the U.S. Embassy website.
The U.S. Embassy is located in the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad. The IZ is a restricted access area. Iraqi authorities are responsible for control of the IZ. Travelers to the IZ should be aware that Iraqi authorities may require special identification to enter the IZ or may issue IZ-specific access badges. Individuals residing and traveling within the IZ should continue to exercise good personal safety precautions.
Increasingly, many U.S. and third-country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and often with security advisors and protective security teams.
Although there have been significantly fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), which includes the governorates of Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk, than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the IKR remains dangerous, and threats have increased in recent months. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security escort when traveling outside secure facilities.
The Government of Iraq strictly enforces requirements regarding visas and stamps for entry and exit, vehicle registration, authorizations for weapons, and movements through checkpoints. The Embassy highly recommends that all U.S. citizens in Iraq carefully review the status of their travel documents and any necessary licenses and government authorizations to ensure that they are current and valid. U.S. citizens are urged to immediately correct any deficiencies in their travel documents. U.S. citizens are strongly advised against traveling throughout the country with deficient or invalid documents. For more information about entry/exit requirements for U.S. citizens, please see our Country Specific Information page for Iraq.
U.S. citizens should avoid areas near the Syrian, Turkish or Iranian borders, which are especially dangerous and not always clearly defined. The Turkish military appears to have suspended operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel terrorist group (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK) located along Iraq’s northern border. However, hostilities could commence at any time. Sporadic confrontations also occur between Iranian security and Kurdish rebels in Iran, near the border with Iraq. Additionally, extensive unmarked minefields remain along this border. In many places, the border between Iraq and Syria is not under Iraqi government control and armed groups operate in these areas, which has led to violent incidents at some border crossings. Unrest in Syria has resulted in large numbers of people seeking refuge in the area. Iranian authorities previously detained, for an extended period, U.S. citizens who were hiking in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) in the vicinity of the Iranian border. The resources available to the U.S. Embassy to assist U.S. citizens who venture close to or cross the border with Iran are extremely limited.
The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens throughout Iraq, including Baghdad, is particularly limited given the security environment. The U.S. Consulates in Basrah and Kirkuk cannot provide routine services such as passport applications, extra visa pages, and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. U.S. citizens in need of these services in Erbil must make an appointment with the Consulate on-line, either through the Embassy’s website or the website for the Consulate in Erbil. The Embassy’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages to U.S. citizens in Iraq. U.S. citizens in Iraq who need emergency assistance should call 0770-443-1286.
For information on “What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis,” please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Emergencies and Crisis link. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
U.S. citizens who choose to visit or reside in Iraq despite this Travel Warning are urged to take responsibility for their own personal security and belongings (including their U.S. passports) and to avoid crowds, especially rallies or demonstrations. U.S. citizens who choose to travel in Iraq should be aware that Iraqi authorities have arrested or detained U.S. citizens whose purpose of travel is not readily apparent. Persons also have been detained for taking photographs of buildings, monuments, or other sites, especially in the IZ in Baghdad.
All U.S. citizens in Iraq, including those working on contract for the U.S. government, are urged to inform the U.S. Embassy of their presence in Iraq by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain updated travel information. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to provide updated security information or to contact them in emergencies. The Embassy also offers SMS text alerts delivered to your mobile phone when new security and emergency messages are released.
U.S. citizens may obtain the latest security information or other information about Iraq by contacting the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via email, or by accessing U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s website. The after-hours emergency numbers are 011-964-770-443-1286 (from the United States) or 0770-443-1286 (within Iraq). As cell phone service is unreliable in Iraq, emergency calls may also be placed through the Department of State at 1-888-407-4747.
Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App, available through iTunes and Google Play for travel information at your fingertips. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.