Travel Consideration: Libya

Contributed By RealAdventures

Officially known as the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Libya has a developing economy. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country’s customs, laws, and practices. Tourist facilities are not widely available.

Passports and visas are required. On December 11, 1981, U.S. passports ceased to be valid for travel to, in, or through Libya and may not be used for that purpose without a special validation. See paragraphs on Passport Validation and U.S. Treasury Economic Sanctions. Visa application and inquiries must be made through a Libyan Embassy in a third country. The land border with Egypt is subject to periodic closures even to travelers having valid Libyan visas. Short-term closures of other land borders occur with little notice.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the authorities.

Crime is a growing problem in Libya. The most common types of crime are auto theft and theft of items left in vehicles. Libya’s beaches are the frequent site of muggings and purse-snatchings. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police, the U.S. Interests Section at the Belgium Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside of Libya. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

Basic modern medical care and medicines may not be available in Libya. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services.

While in a foreign country U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.

Driving in Libya may be hazardous. Police enforcement of traffic signs and laws is rare. As a result, it is often difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers on Libyan streets and highways. Wind-blown sand can make roads impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles. Road conditions are poor, and public transportation, which is limited to occasional bus service, is poor.

PASSPORT VALIDATION: Without the requisite validation, use of a U.S. passport for travel to, in, or through Libya may constitute a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1544, and may be punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. The categories of individuals eligible for consideration for a special passport validation are set forth in 22 C.F.R. 51.74. Passport validation requests for Libya can be forwarded in writing to the following address:

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services
Office of Passport Policy and Advisory Services
U.S. Department of State
2401 E Street, N.W., 9th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20522
Telephone 202-663-2662, Fax 202-663-2654.

The request must be accompanied by supporting documentation according to the category under which validation is sought. Currently, the four categories of persons specified in 22 C.F.R. 51.74 as being eligible for consideration for passport validation are as follows:

(a) Professional Reporters: This category includes full-time members of the reporting or writing staff of a newspaper, magazine or broadcasting network whose purpose for travel is to gather information about Libya for dissemination to the general public.

(b) American Red Cross: An applicant in this category must establish that he or she is a representative of the American Red Cross or International Red Cross traveling pursuant to an officially-sponsored Red Cross mission.

(c) Humanitarian Considerations: An applicant in this category must establish that his or her trip is justified by compelling humanitarian considerations or for family unification. At this time, "compelling humanitarian considerations" include situations where the applicant can document that an immediate family member is critically ill in Libya. Documentation concerning family illness must include the name and address of the relative, and be from that relative’s physician attesting to the nature and the gravity of the illness. "Family unification" situations may include cases in which spouses or minor children are residing in Libya with and dependent on a Libyan national spouse or parent for their support.

(d) National Interest: For this category, the applicant’s request must be otherwise found to be in the national interest.

In all requests for passport validation for travel to Libya, applicants must submit their name, date and place of birth, and U.S. passport number for themselves and all concerned persons.

U.S. TREASURY SANCTIONS: In addition to the restrictions on the use of a U.S. passport discussed above, all U.S. persons (defined as "U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens of the United States, anyone physically located in the United States, and any entity organized under the laws of the United States") are subject to the Libyan sanctions regulations administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). For up-to-date information about the embargo on Libya, consult OFAC's home page on the Internet at or via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 1-202-622-0077.

On January 7, 1986, the United States imposed economic sanctions against Libya, which broadly prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in unauthorized financial transactions involving Libya, including, in part, the following: the export to Libya of all goods, services, or technology; the import of goods or services of Libyan origin; engaging in the performance of a contract in support of an industrial, commercial, or governmental project in Libya; or dealing in any property in which the Government of Libya has any interest. The economic sanctions also prohibit U.S. persons from working in Libya.

In addition, these restrictions prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in unauthorized travel-related transactions to and within Libya. Please note, however, that transactions relating to travel for journalistic activity by persons regularly employed in such capacity by a news gathering organization are exempt from the prohibition. Please note as well that U.S. persons may engage in travel-related transactions for the sole purpose of visiting immediate family members in Libya, provided that the U.S. persons seeking to travel register with the Office of Foreign Assets Control or the U.S. Interests Section at the Embassy of Belgium in Tripoli. To register, U.S. persons who are potential travelers should provide (for each potential traveler – parents and children) the following information:

(A) name, date and place of birth of the person registering (including the name under which a registrant’s most recent U.S. passport was issued, if that is different);

(B) if applicable, place and date of birth of the registrant’s naturalization as a U.S. citizen, and the number of the registrant’s naturalization certificate, or, for permanent resident aliens, the alien registration number of the registrant’s alien registration receipt card;

(C) the name, relationship, and address of the immediate family member in Libya whose relationship forms the basis for the registrant’s eligibility; and

(D) the number and issue date of the registrant’s current U.S. passport, and the most recent date on which the passport was validated by the U.S. Department of State for travel to Libya.

Potential travelers should contact the Treasury Department at the following address and phone number:

Licensing Division Office of Foreign Assets Control U.S. Department of the Treasury 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20220 Telephone 1-202-622-2480 FAX: 1-202-622-1657.

UN SANCTIONS: The UN Security Council sanctions against Libya were suspended in April 1999 following Libya’s surrender of the two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. Government remain in place.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Libyan customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the introduction into Libya or removal from Libya of firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and currency.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Libya’s economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. ATM machines are rare. Although there is a wide discrepancy between the official exchange rate and the "black market" value of Libyan currency, foreign visitors should be aware that the penalties for use of unauthorized currency dealers are severe. Foreign visitors should also be aware that their passports might be confiscated in business disputes.

Children under 18 whose fathers are Libyan must have the father’s permission to depart Libya, even if the mother has been granted full custody by a Libyan court. Women in Libya are often subjected to strict family controls; on occasion families of Libyan-American women visiting Libya have attempted to prevent them from leaving the country. Young single women are most likely to be vulnerable in these circumstances. Finally, a Libyan husband is permitted to take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. For information on international parental child abduction and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at's_issues.html or telephone 1-202-736-7000.

There is no U.S. Embassy in Libya. The U.S. Government is not in a position to accord normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in Libya. U.S. Government interests are represented by the Government of Belgium, which, as a protecting power, can provide only limited services to U.S. citizens. Inquiries on the present local situation, like currency regulations, should be made to the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Belgium. The Belgian Embassy is located at Tower 4, That al Imad complex, in the capital city of Tripoli; mailing address: P.O. Box 91650, Tripoli, Libya. The telephone number is (218-21) 33771.

Commercial air service between the U.S. and Libya is prohibited by U.S. sanctions. As there is no direct service, or economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Libya's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet home page at

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