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Here’s how to get a visa in Lebanon
Study, work or sightsee in this small but diverse nation.
It’s relatively simple for Americans to gain entry to Lebanon, now that the country allows for visas on arrival. Still, the country’s turbulent history makes for strict border control.
Buying a visa ahead of time is a common mistake a lot of Americans make before their first trip to Lebanon. Because it sounds safer than risking being turned away at the airport, they gather the required forms and FedEx their passports to the Lebanese embassy before booking a flight.
Not only is this a long and expensive process, it’s also unnecessary: US citizens are entitled to stay in Lebanon for up to three months on an entry visa without paying fees. Save your time and money by requesting a visa on arrival at the airport.
How do I get a tourist visa?
When you land at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, you’ll see a sign for “Visas.” This is not for you: US citizens get their visas at passport control.
Before getting in line, fill out the provided pink card with your personal information, the purpose of your visit and where you will be staying. You must include the address of your hotel or family you’re staying with, otherwise you risk being detained. It’s also a good idea to keep your plane ticket handy.
The border official stamps your passport, validating your visit for one month. If you plan to stay longer, renew your visa for two additional months at the General Security building in the area you’re staying in.
Studying at the American University of Beirut or the Lebanese American University? Getting a student visa is significantly more complicated than a tourist visa.
But you can’t do anything before you enter the country. Instead, you’ll first need to enter on a tourist visa. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll apply for a student visa with:
- A completed residence permit application form, signed and stamped by your university’s office for international students and registrar.
- An enrollment certificate from your university, notarized by your embassy and stamped by the UNESCO Council of Higher Education.
- A notarized statement pledging that you’ll avoid work during your stay in Lebanon.
- Proof of housing from your local mukhtar, which is similar to a mayor with a smaller jurisdiction.
- A paid statement of university fees.
- Your bank statement.
- Three passport photos.
- Three copies of the first page of your passport.
- Three copies of your entry visa.
- 300,000 Lebanese pounds — about $200 American dollars.
Submit all documents to your local General Security office, where you will pay your fees and have your photo and fingerprints taken. It takes about a month for General Security to process your documents.
Five tips for applying for a student visa in Lebanon
- Start as soon as you can. Gathering your documents takes a lot of time, often longer than you expect.
- Make an appointment at the US Embassy. Appointments are open in the morning only and fill up fast. You can enter the US Embassy with your documents and cash to pay fees only — that means no keys, purse or phone. Ask a friend to come along to keep an eye on your stuff while you’re inside.
- Prepare for extra fees. Every step of the application process costs money. And getting anything notarized at the US embassy costs $50.
- Renew your entry visa if you need more time. If your experience is like mine, you may not be able to get everything together in a month.
- Check your status with General Security. Avoid getting turned away because they’ve made changes or you’re missing a document.
If you’re lucky enough to find a job in Lebanon that provides a work visa, there’s not much for you to do — it’s up to your employer to put together your paperwork and pay any fees.
Processing can take up to six months or longer, and you’ll need to make sure you’re in the country legally while your employer gets your paperwork together. You might have to go to Cyprus for a day to renew your entry visa.
Getting a visa for Lebanon can be confusing and nearly always takes longer than you expect. But it’s possible with persistence and by staying on top of the process and documentation.
Common questions about visas in Lebanon
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