Visa renewals in Damascus

Look at the hovering bird!Renewing your Syrian visa in Damascus is something of an experience. Because of the large influx of Iraqi refugees to the capital, it can feel like you are crammed into a room with half of the city. It is possible to get your visa renewed in other cities like Hama but you may need to wait three days for the paperwork to be sent to Damascus and back. If you go to the capital, you can pick up your extended visa the next day. Here are some tips based on our experience in December, 2007:

  1. The office doesn’t open until 9am, not 8am like the Middle East LP book says. You should get there early because the chaos only builds throughout the morning.
  2. Go to the 2nd floor to start the process. Look in the far left corner where there is a sign saying something about tourist visas.
  3. You will need 3 passport photos and money to buy a form costing 25 SP. Get stamps worth 10 SP plus change to get photocopies of your photo page and Syrian visa (10 SP).
  4. The Jazz Cafe next to the passport office does photocopies and seems to know exactly what they are doing. Just hand your passports over.
  5. You should allow at least 2 hours to get everything done. First you buy the form, fill it out, add the tax stamp worth 10 SP. Then there are 3 copies of another form to fill out (you don’t buy this one, it is free). The forms get sent around to various officials for signing and approval, including a General on the top floor. Finally it goes on a pile and you pick it up the next day.
  6. Elbowing and pushing your way towards the front of the queue is the accepted way to get things done.
  7. In theory your visa should be renewed after 15 days but we were told most offices were so overworked they didn’t mind if you came up to a month after entering the country. We appeared in Damascus over 30 days after entering Syria and nobody so much as blinked an eye.
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