US Travel Warning: Leave Iraq or prepare for funeral

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Today the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Baghdad ordered a partial evacuation of their American staff.  In the meantime, the travel warning for Americans wanting to visit Iraq reads: Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorismkidnapping, and armed conflict.  This is the warning by the U.S. State Department for travel to Iraq, even though Iraq authorities had tried to promote the country as ready for tourism.  Erbil in Iraq was chosen as “Arab Tourism Capital” in 2014 by the Arab Tourism Committee. Yet, the cities of Karbala and Najaf are the most popular tourist destinations in Iraq due to the location of religious sites in the country.

U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited. On May 15, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil; normal visa services will be temporarily suspended at both posts.  On October 18, 2018, the Department of State ordered the temporary suspension of operations at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. The American Citizens Services (ACS) Section at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Basrah.

U.S. citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion). The Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will impose prison sentences of up to ten years on individuals who illegally cross the border. Additionally, fighting on behalf of, or supporting designated terrorist organizations, is a crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines in the United States.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Iraq, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Iraq:

  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs if you are unable to return as planned to the United States. Find a suggested list of such documents here.
  • Establish your own personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization, or consider consulting with a professional security organization.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Iraq.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
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