ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The visa and residency requirements for the Kurdistan Region have yet to change, meaning tourists can visit the semi-autonomous region under the same rules as before, a Kurdish official said on Tuesday.
Visas and residency cards have been one of the most pressing concerns for foreigners who plan to travel, work or live in the Kurdistan Region or who are already based there and are worried about their legal status due to developments between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq since the Sep. 25 referendum on independence held in the Kurdish region.
A few days after the vote, Baghdad imposed an international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region’s airports and called on the KRG to hand over control of all border crossings to the central government.
After more than five months of closure, Baghdad officially ordered the opening of the two airports in the Kurdistan Region, stating the decision was made after it was agreed upon to restore Iraqi federal authority over the Region’s airports and crossings.
“Up to now, nothing has changed regarding visa and residency processing,” Yadgar Anwar Faraji, known as Sheikh Yadgar, General-Director of Erbil Residence Office, told Kurdistan 24.
He mentioned that foreigners entering the Kurdistan Region, whether through the Erbil and Sulaimani airports or international border crossings, would go through the same process as before.
However, Sheikh Yadgar cautioned that after the Newroz celebrations, an Iraqi delegation from the passport and residency department is expected to visit Erbil and discuss the current immigration and residency system for the Kurdistan Region.
“It is unclear whether the system will remain as it is or change after the meeting,” he said.
As the flight ban was imposed on the Kurdistan Region, expats with residency card in the Kurdish region were forced to pay up to $500 in fines at the Baghdad airport, a penalty for ‘illegally’ entering the country.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish region has been issuing its own visas and residency cards for years, different from the one provided to foreigners applying through Iraqi embassies. The current Kurdish visa, however, does not allow foreigners to travel to other parts of Iraq, beyond the KRG’s administrated areas.
Tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region must obtain visas prior to the traveling. However, nationals from a number of countries can receive visas on arrival. They include: Austria, Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Croatia, Australia, Canada, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, USA, and UAE.
Iraq does not allow any foreign nationals to enter without a visa.
Editing by Nadia Riva