What is the change? The Iraqi government has issued a letter stating that the “take-off and landing of aircraft” could resume in Kurdistan international airports starting Feb. 28.

What does the change mean? A letter issued to the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority approved the take-off and landing of aircraft in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah international airports starting Feb. 28 on the condition that the airports submit detailed reports on their air traffic levels on a regular basis. The letter is strong evidence that international flights at Kurdish airports may resume by the end of February, but it is not a guarantee.

  • Implementation time frame: International airports are scheduled to reopen Feb. 28.
  • Who is affected: Those traveling internationally to the Kurdish region of Iraq.
  • Business impact: When the airports reopen to international air traffic, foreign nationals traveling to the Kurdish region will no longer need to travel through Baghdad or other Iraqi cities.

Background: Following a Kurdish vote on independence in September 2017, the Iraqi government banned international commercial flights to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Direct domestic flights to the Kurdish region continued to operate and most foreign nationals traveling to the Kurdish region traveled through Baghdad or other Iraqi cities.

BAL Analysis: Employers should continue to comply with the immigration and company registration requirements of both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure there is no interruption of personnel flow if the ban is prolonged or reimposed. As of now, foreign nationals traveling to the Kurdish region must possess an Iraqi visa. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Ministry of Interior announced several important changes to rules for foreign nationals last week. Should international flights to the Kurdish region resume, travelers will no longer need an Iraqi visa in addition to a Kurdish visa. Kurdish authorities require visas for many nationalities, but depending on their lengths of stay, nationals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and many European countries may not be required to have a separate Kurdish visa in addition to an Iraqi visa.

It is unknown what the impact will be on foreigners traveling with an Iraqi letter of authorization (LOA) from Kurdish airports to Baghdad, Basra or other Iraq airports. Employers should work closely with BAL when planning employee travel into or out of the Kurdish region. The situation continues to change rapidly and travel requirements may change with little or no notice.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Iraq. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

Copyright © 2018 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact copyright@bal.com.