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? To get a student visa for Lebanon, you’ll need the following documents on arrival to the airport:
An admission statement or student card for the accredited Lebanese university you’re planning to attend.
A document that proves you have sufficient funds to finance your studies.
Students attending through a grant or scholarship are exempt from documentation. But you’ll want to take along the address of where you’ll be staying in case authorities have questions.
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’ve already landed a job in Lebanon, your employer must apply for your visa through General Security. A company representative will need to get preapproval from the Labor Ministry. In some cases, they’ll also need to prove that a Lebanese person is unable to perform your job. If you’re hoping to find work after landing in Lebanon, you can apply for a work visa at the Bureau of Public Relations with separate documents that indicate:
The length of your stay and reason for visiting.
The address where you’ll be staying.
The commercial relationship you’ll be engaging in.
Your financial stability to prove solvency.
Work visas applied for through the bureau are granted for one month and renewable only once.
Prepare for your trip: Lebanese embassies and consulates
The political climate in Lebanon can vary from month to month, so you’ll want to stay informed on current events and policies. Start by contacting the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, DC, at 202-939-6300 or email@example.com Or visit the Lebanese Consulates General in the United States at locations in Los Angeles, Detroit and New York City.
24/7 support for stress-free travel visa application for your next trip
US tourists can enter Lebanon for up to three months with a visa on arrival. But you may want to consider studying up on the country’s political history and travel warnings to prepare for your stay. If you’ve yet to book your flight to the Middle East, compare flights to get the most affordable deal for your travel budget.
Common questions about visas in Lebanon
No. Lebanon almost always denies entry to visitors with evidence of a visit to Israel in their passport. The US State Department also notes that travelers who visit Lebanon after Israel may be subject to detention or arrest.
Don’t panic: The Lebanese government tends to be pretty forgiving about this. Extend your visa at the General Directorate of General Security in Beirut with:
Two photocopies of your passport ID page.
Two photocopies of the entrance stamp page in your passport.
Your financial stability to prove solvency.
Depending on your situation, you may need to purchase an exit visa prior to departure if you’ve overstayed your initial visa
Explain your situation at your local General Security branch. They’ll tell you the steps you need to take from there. In my experience, there’s a good chance it will take time to gather the necessary documents, given how often UNESCO goes on strike.
You can either wait a couple more weeks and check in again, or you can pay to expedite your residence permit. To have it expedited, explain to the General Security’s main branch that you’d like to pay for the return of your passport, and they’ll tell you what to do.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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