Mar 23 2020

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International Travel

Country Information

North Korea – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel to North Korea due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.

  • Individuals cannot use a U.S. passport to travel to, in, or through North Korea without a special validation from the Department of State.
  • Special validations are granted only in very limited circumstances. More information on how to apply for the special validation is available here.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in North Korea as it does not have diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea. Sweden serves as the protecting power for the United States in North Korea, providing limited emergency services. The North Korean government routinely delays or denies Swedish officials access to detained U.S. citizens.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of North Korea, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). For more information U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you receive a special validation to travel to North Korea:

  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney.
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Special Passports

*U.S. passports are not valid for travel to, in, or through North Korea, unless they are specially validated by the Department of State. See here for how to apply special passport to travel to North Korea.

Quick Facts

1-3 months validity (North Korea requirement); 6 months validity (China requirement)

Two pages are required for entry stamp

Not permissible to take Korean money out of the country

Embassies and Consulates

  • The Department strongly urges U.S. citizens not to go to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.
  • North Korean authorities, under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, impose unduly harsh sentences–including for actions that in the United States would not be considered crimes.
  • They also threatened U.S. citizens with being treated in accordance with the “wartime law” of the DPRK.

Sweden as Protecting Power: Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to its citizens:

  • Sweden serves as the protecting power for Canada, Australia, and the United States, providing limited emergency consular services.
  • North Korea still routinely delays or denies consular access to U.S. citizens, even when requested by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang and despite North Korea and the United States both being signatories to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Munsu-Dong District
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Telephone: +(850)(2) 3817-485 (reception)
Fax: +(850)(2) 3817-663
Emergency Contact at the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang: Telephone: (850-2) 3817-904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy); Telephone: (850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)

Department of State Emergency Contact: 24/7 from within the United States 1-888-407-4747 / from outside the United States 1-202-501-4444.

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600
Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(10) 8531-3300

Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on North Korea for information on U.S. – North Korea relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

U.S. passports are not valid for travel into, in, or through the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) due to the serious and mounting risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. citizens in North Korea. Those traveling on U.S. passports in North Korea should have already departed North Korea. Those who wish to travel to North Korea on a U.S. passport after this time must obtain a special validation in a limited validity passport under 22 C.F.R. 51.64, which will be granted only under very limited circumstances. U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizen nationals abroad can apply for this special validation at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

With a special validation to enter North Korea in a limited passport: one to three months validity to enter North Korea. If you enter and depart North Korea through China, six months validity on your passport with multiple entry/exit visas for China. Note: you cannot enter North Korea through the Demilitarized Zone from South Korea.

If you enter North Korea without a special validation: the Department of State can revoke your passport for misuse under 22 C.F.R. 51.62(a)(2). Further, you may be subject to felony prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1544 for misuse of a U.S. passport.

Where to apply for a DPRK visa: DPRK Embassy in Beijing, China or in any country that has diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Beijing:

No. 11, Ritan Bei Lu,
Jianguomen Wai,
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-6639 (Visa Office)
Telephone: (86-10) 65312-1186
Facsimile: (86-10) 6532-6056

If you reside in the United States, inquire through the DPRK Mission to the UN whether your request for a DPRK visa will be approved before you leave the United States for China:

The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 972-3105
Facsimile: (212) 972-3154

If you reside in a country with diplomatic relations with the DPRK, ask the DPRK embassy in that country for visa advice.

If you try to enter North Korea without required travel documents: you may be denied entry, fined, detained, arrested, or imprisoned.

If you plan to enter and depart North Korea through China without multiple Chinese visas in your passport or with Chinese visas that expire before you depart North Korea, you may not be able to exit North Korea.

HIV/AIDS: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrtictions for visitors to or foreign residents of North Korea.

Safety and Security

Please see the sections on “Local Laws and Special Circumstances” and “Criminal Penalties.”

Crime: North Korea does not release crime statistics. Petty thefts have been reported at the airport in Pyongyang.

Do not buy counterfeit and/or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. The purchase of counterfeit and pirated goods is illegal in the United States and may be illegal in North Korea.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: Report the crime to your local host/liaison and contact the Embassy of Sweden for assistance. Your local host/liaison should contact the local authorities on your behalf.

Lost or Stolen Passports:

If your passport is lost or stolen in North Korea, you will need to contact the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, U.S. Protecting Power, for assistance in reaching out to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and obtaining a replacement passport. You will also need a replacement visa for China.

For further information:

  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Call us in Washington at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • See the State Department’s travel website for Worldwide Caution, Travel Advisories.
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
  • See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the Embassy of Sweden immediately. See our webpage for further information

Educate yourself about North Korean law. The North Korea legal system is an instrument of state power and not an independent branch of the government. Protections guaranteed under the U.S. legal system do not apply, and your U.S. passport does not confer special status. Your local host/liaison may be able to provide useful guidance. However, do not assume your host will provide assistance to you if you are arrested, or that any information you shared with your host will not be turned over to North Korean authorities.

Criminal acts unique to North Korea:

  • Showing disrespect (both physically and verbally) to the country’s former leaders, Kil Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, or the country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un including but not limited to tampering with or mishandling materials bearing their names or images such as money, newspapers, or political slogans in Korean
  • Entering North Korea without proper travel documentation
  • Possessing material, printed or digital including e-book readers, DVDs, USB drives, documents, literature, audio and video files that is critical of or hostile to North Korea
  • Proselytizing or carrying out religious activities, including activities that may be construed as such, like leaving behind religious materials, either intentionally or unintentionally
  • Engaging in unsanctioned political activities
  • Unauthorized interacting with North Koreans
  • Taking unauthorized photographs
  • Having unauthorized conversations with North Koreans
  • Traveling without authorization even for short distances
  • Exchanging currency with an unauthorized vendor
  • Shopping at stores not designated for foreigners
  • Bringing pornography into the country

No Expectation of Privacy:

  • All electronic and multimedia devices including USB drives, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, Internet browsing histories, and cookies are subject to search for banned content.
  • Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
  • If DPRK authorities permit you to keep your mobile phone when you enter the country, it will not function unless you use the DPRK mobile service, which will enable DPRK authorities to monitor your calls. GPS-trackers and satellite phones are not allowed.
  • A host or minder will keep track of you.
  • Removing or tampering with political slogans and signs or pictures of political leaders.

Criminal Penalties: At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years. While in North Korea, you are subject to North Korean laws. If you violate North Korean laws, even unwittingly, you may be:

  • Held in isolation without charges for lengthy periods of time,
  • Interrogated without counsel,
  • Compelled to draft public confessions,
  • Tried,
  • Convicted,
  • Sentenced, and
  • Sent to a labor camp for years.

Some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Press: North Korea officials watch journalists closely to prevent them from unauthorized conversations with North Koreans or questioning the policies, actions, or public statements of North Korea’s leadership.

  • North Korea has confiscated objectionable material from foreign journalists.
  • Journalists who engaged in activities that challenged the regime have been deported, arrested, or detained to face criminal charges.
  • For additional information on the lack of freedom of information in North Korea, see the Department of State’s Human Rights Report for North Korea.

U.S. Government Economic Sanctions Against North Korea: North Korea remains one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world.

  • The government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea are blocked persons, and U.S. citizens may generally not engage in transactions with them or with their property.
  • Most exports to North Korea are subject to licensing by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
  • The importation and exportation of goods, services, and technology from or to North Korea are generally prohibited unless authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and, for exports or goods, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security.

UN Security Council statements November 17, 2017: For information on the United States and the United Nations Security Council concern regarding escalating tensions from the recent missile launch, and other activities prohibited by United Nations Security Council Resolutions, see UN website.

Customs Regulations: North Korean authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and video files, computer equipment, DVDs, USB drives and other digital media, and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be pornographic or intended for religious proselytizing or subversive activities. Please see our information on customs regulations.

Dual Nationality: North Korea does not recognize dual nationality. If you are of Korean heritage – even if you are a U.S. citizen – you could be subject to ten years of military service in North Korea and taxes on foreign source income. Please see our information on Information on Dual Nationality.

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations because same-sex sexual relations are considered a foreign phenomenon. DPRK claims that there are no LGBTI in the country. It would therefore not be possible to organize an LGBTI event here.

Additionally, any open demonstration of affection is frowned upon, as well as between opposite sex couples.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State’s Human Rights report for further details.

Persons with Mobility Issues. Hotels and medical facilities are generally accessible. However, pavements/curbs are high.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.


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