This business aviation blog post is part of a series on business aviation operations in U.S. sanctioned countries.
While the U.S. sanctions against Iran do not prohibit individuals from traveling to or from Iran, as with the Cuba sanctions, the increasing U.S. and international sanctions on Iran make it a difficult destination for U.S.-registered aircraft and U.S. nationals to operate. Moreover, you may spend months of pre-planning and, even then, a successful outcome in terms of obtaining the required government licenses and authority is not certain. Non-U.S. registered operators also face challenges in credit arrangements, aircraft fueling, replacement parts, and use of U.S.-based 3rd-party providers of trip support services.
1. How does Iran place in terms of U.S. sanctioned countries?
Iran has been subject to broad U.S. sanctions since the late 1970s, and these sanctions have periodically been modified and increased in scope, particularly over the past few years. The primary U.S. sanctions on Iran are found in the Iranian Transactions Regulations (31 CFR Part 560) and Executive Orders issued by several U.S. presidents. Currently, U.S. sanctions prohibit U.S. persons and companies from exporting most goods, which include U.S.-produced aircraft, services, and technology to Iran and prohibit the import of Iranian-origin goods into the U.S. Most payments involving U.S. banks and Iran are also prohibited. U.S. persons, wherever located, may not facilitate any prohibited transactions with Iran. In addition to the U.S. sanctions on Iran, the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and other countries have imposed sanctions on Iran that must be taken into consideration. Because of the current U.S. and international focus on Iran and the significant penalties that can be imposed on companies and individuals violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, any parties conducting operations in Iran must closely monitor the situation, since operations involving Iran can change quickly.
2. Is overflying Iran or an emergency landing in Iran permitted?
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which administers and enforces the U.S. embargo on Iran, has issued a general license that authorizes 3rd-party providers to obtain Iran overflight permits, pay for Iran-related navigation fees, and authorize emergency landings for U.S.-registered aircraft. Some U.S.-based 3rd-party providers have obtained specific licenses from OFAC allowing them to arrange and pay for Iran overflights and emergency landing permits for non-U.S. registered aircraft. An “emergency landing” must be an unscheduled event that occurs during an overflight of Iran. In the event of such an unscheduled landing in Iran, operators will need a contingency plan, since arranging services or support in the event of a technical problem will be difficult, particularly as it relates to obtaining parts and service for aircraft located in Iran.
3. What licenses are required to travel to Iran?
While U.S. citizens do not need a license to travel to Iran, a U.S.-registered aircraft traveling to or from Iran will require a Temporary Sojourn license issued by OFAC. These licenses may take months to obtain and are issued on a case-by-case basis. Typically, OFAC will only approve such license applications if the flight is for an authorized activity, such as humanitarian efforts, agricultural or medical sales, or journalistic activities. OFAC will generally not approve aircraft license applications for recreational or other unauthorized activities, including business meetings or commercial activity. Thus, there is no guarantee that the requests will be approved or approved by the required travel date. Some U.S.-based 3rd-party providers are authorized by OFAC to provide Iran trip support services for non-U.S. registered aircraft but must make arrangements through 3rd-party providers in countries not subject to U.S., EU, or UN sanctions.
See: OFAC and BIS for more information regarding the scope of Iran sanctions.
4. What services can U.S. 3rd-party providers offer regarding travel to Iran?
U.S. 3rd-party providers can provide travel-related services involving travel to Iran to U.S. and non-U.S. business aircraft operators so long as the arrangements are ordinarily incidental to travel and the required OFAC licenses have been obtained for the aircraft to operate to or from Iran. For example, a U.S.-based 3rd-party provider may:
- Prepare itinerary and changes, crew/passenger manifest, APIS and Master Crew List (MCL)
- Prepare and file flight plans involving Iran
- Provide weather and other flight-related information
- Handle local transactions and arrangements, including arranging and paying for landing fees, aircraft parking, airport slots, and navigational fees
- Arrange fuel, in-flight catering, ground handling, hotels, and transportation
- Deal with Iranian customs and immigration
It is the aircraft owner or operator’s responsibility to obtain the licenses authorizing the U.S.-registered aircraft to travel to or from Iran.
5. What is the validity period for licenses to operate to Iran?
Validity of OFAC Temporary Sojourn licenses are determined based on the purpose and needs of a particular trip. In some cases, an OFAC license may authorize multiple entries into Iran over an extended period of time. In other cases, they may be valid for a specified number of days. OFAC licenses contain specific terms and conditions outlining what licensees can and cannot do under the license, and there are strict recordkeeping requirements.
6. Are there other restrictions to consider?
Your insurance, lease agreement, and/or company operations specifications may not permit you to operate to or overfly Iran. Even with necessary licenses in place, you could have challenges paying for services given the increasing number of Iranian banks that have been added to OFAC’s Specially Designated National List. Use of credit cards issued by U.S. banks is also prohibited in Iran, and other credit arrangements involving Iran are prohibited or severely restricted. Keep in mind that U.S. 3rd-party providers cannot be involved in Iran-related travel transactions unless they are ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran. Also, U.S.-based 3rd-party providers cannot refer operators to local Iranian service providers, including ground handlers. If an operator requires additional services in Iran beyond what is deemed ordinarily incident to travel, this must be arranged using a non-U.S. 3rd-party provider and operators will have to obtain such assistance on their own.
7. Can an aircraft and crew remain in Iran after passengers disembark?
Your aircraft and crew may remain in Iran during an authorized trip. This is a less- restrictive situation than Cuba, where corporate aircraft and crew must depart and reposition elsewhere as soon as passengers offload. Check with your 3rd-party provider on crew visa requirements and any security you may wish to arrange with local Iranian providers for aircraft, crew, and passengers. Ground handling services are generally adequate at major centers in Iran.
8. Can a 3rd-party provider assist operators in obtaining these licenses?
Yes, your 3rd-party provider can assist in working with OFAC and any other U.S. Government agencies to obtain the necessary licenses and help secure legal guidance regarding a planned trip to Iran. Keep in mind that U.S.-based 3rd-party providers cannot assist with any services to Iran for U.S. operators until the proper licenses and other authorizations are in place. Non-U.S. operators, however, may request services immediately, as long as their country does not have sanctions against Iran (check with the applicable authorities).
9. Any other plan “B” considerations?
It is a good idea to have a satellite phone with you so that you can communicate with your operations department and 3rd-party provider without having to rely on local cell phone service. Depending on the credit arrangements that are available, you may need to carry cash to pay for some services. As previously noted, it is important to think about other contingency plans in the event that the aircraft encounters any maintenance issues while on the ground in Iran.
Because of the significant restrictions and complexities for U.S.-based operators operating in Iran, advance preparation is critical to achieving a successful trip. Moreover, operators should be realistic in their expectations and should not assume that licenses from the U.S. Government will always be granted or issued in a timely manner. Operators should also be aware that, while U.S.-based 3rd-party providers may currently assist with business aviation flights to Iran for non-U.S.-registered operators and licensed U.S. operators, this situation may change at a moment’s notice due to the ever-changing political situation. However, your 3rd-party provider can assist operators in providing the most up-to-date information, guidance on obtaining the appropriate licenses, and overall guidance through this complex process in order to make the trip as smooth as possible.
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About Bobby Butler
Bobby D. Butler, Jr. is Vice President, Chief Compliance Officer and Director of Internal Audit of Universal. Bobby has extensive experience with compliance and international business issues and is a regular speaker on subjects such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), global anti-bribery, export controls, economic sanctions, anti-boycott, anti-trust and the like.
Bobby is the former Chairman of the Board of International Compliance Professionals Association (ICPA) and a member of the Houston District Export Council. In addition, he holds membership positions with the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, the Greater Houston Business Ethics Roundtable and the American Bar Association. He is adjunct faculty with the University of Houston and Houston Community College. In addition, he serves on the advisory boards for University of Houston’s Supply Chain and Logistics Technology Degree Program and Houston Community College’s Business Curriculum and Export Academy.
Bobby is a certified Compliance and Ethics Professional and holds a Masters in Business Administration – International Business with honors from Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas. In addition, he holds a BA in Political Science from Loyola University, New Orleans, LA and completed a fellowship from Loyola’s Institute of Politics.
Bobby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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