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IRAQ - Ministry of Interior Effects Several Important Changes

On 8 February 2018, Iraq's Ministry of Interior (MOI) issued a notification making several important changes to the immigration rules.

What are the changes?

1. SEV-MEV Conversion

Effective immediately, MOI no longer accepts in-country conversion of Single Entry Visas (SEV) to Multi Entry Visas (MEVs).

SEV visa holders are to exit Iraq and then re-enter Iraq with their MEV Letter of Approval (LOA) for activation.

This is significant because personnel who entered with a 30-day SEV must now either:

  • coordinate to exit Iraq within the 30-day visa validity period and re-enter Iraq once they have their MEV LOA; or
  • overstay the 30 days, request an exit visa at the airport prior to exiting Iraq, pay the overstay penalty and re-enter Iraq with the MEV LOA.

2. Movement restrictions within Iraq for personnel with expired SEVs and MEVs

All personnel with expired SEV and MEV stickers are prohibited from mobilizing (i.e. transferring from one job site to another) within Iraq through a commercial airport, even if they have an active LOA letter. Instead, they must obtain an exit visa, pay the overstay penalty, exit and re-enter with a new valid LOA.

3. MOI activation within Iraq no longer allowed

The MOI Airport Offices will no longer activate LOAs for expats flying in with an LOA obtained in Erbil or any other location within Iraq. Expats are to fly in from outside of Iraq borders with a valid LOA to activate it.

4. Reversion to previous visa exit visa process at airports

The Exit Visa procedure for overstay expats has reverted to the old process of paying the flat fee penalty of IQD 500,000, and presenting a signed and stamped Exit letter request from the employer at the airport. There is no longer a need to send their passports to the MOI office several days before their travel to obtain an Exit Visa sticker.

5. Monthly demobbed personnel report

Effective March 2018, all companies are to send a monthly list of all demobilized personnel who had Iraq visas to the MOI, so that the MOI can notify the airport immigration officers.

This will require preparing a report listing all personnel who are no longer working with the employer. Please note that Iraqi law requires cancellation of all visas of personnel who leave Iraq and leave the employment of their Iraq visa sponsor, preferably before they depart Iraq.

Action Items

  • Clients are advised to review the expiry dates of their personnel's 30-day SEVs, and to begin making arrangements for "turn and burn" visa flights if they have received their MEV visa LOA letter; or overstay and get an exit visa, pay overstay penalty, exit and re-enter Iraq once they have their MEV visa LOA letter.
  • Clients are advised to carefully plan in-country movements for their personnel who have expire SEVs and MEVs.
  • Clients are advised to plan the movement of their personnel with new LOA letters issued within Iraq.
  • Clients are advised to have an exit request letter and IQD 500,000 cash at the airport for their personnel who require exit visas.
  • Clients are advised to maintain a chart listing the names, passport numbers and visa numbers of the personnel who have demobilized and no longer work with the employer who sponsored their visa and to provide this to the MOI Immigration Office at the beginning of every month.

This news alert was prepared using information provided by New Frontiers Business Consulting.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.