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I know that a(n inbound) travel ban based on nationality is normally enforced at the destination. It is most notable that Israelis suffer this kind of ban from most of the Arabic world.

Another notable examples are North and South Korea, which are reciprocal enemies and do not accept nationals of either nationality. It's also extremely difficult to actually get a passport for North Koreans.

And of course US travel bans issued by Mr. Trump against nationals of certain Muslim countries.

But I wanted to ask about the opposite, mostly for sake of curiosity. Are there countries that forbid and punish their own nationals to visit certain enemy states despite that destination state accepting them?

Example. National of country A can legally enter state B (from B's laws point of view, and most likely using a connecting flight), but when that person returns to the home country A they get prosecuted by law, e.g. if they have passport stamps, pocket money from B or just any other evidence to have visited that state. I am asking for bans that can be enforced with sanctions (from fines, hefty fines, to jail, revocation of passport, etc.)

From the first example: an Israeli dual national is likely to be able to visit Libya with a second passport, but I never heard about any Israeli law prohibiting individuals to visit Libya (should the government ever find out) and convicting such travelers.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jan 26 at 21:25

10 Answers 10

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South Korea bans its citizens from traveling to countries that the government deems unsafe. If Korean nationals visit the countries on the list without permission from the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they can be fined up to 10 million KRW (around 90,000 USD) or face up to a year in prison.

The list of countries South Koreans are not allowed to visit, includes Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria. All of these countries would allow Korean nationals to visit, but the Korean government does not.

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    I think this answer is most along the lines of the original question :) – mishan Jan 12 at 7:29
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Yes, there are several. Most famously, the United States bars travel to Cuba, although the strength and enforcement of the prohibition has waxed and waned, and if you want to split legal hairs it's not traveling that's prohibited, just spending money there.

Quite a few countries also try to ban their citizens from visiting Israel, with some countries like Bangladesh going so far as to inscribe the prohibition in their passports:

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However, all these bans suffer from the same basic failing that you can't dictate terms to other countries: Cuba and Israel are happy to accept Americans and Bangladeshis respectively, and are even courteous enough not to stamp any evidence of visiting into passports.

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    In addition to "baring" US citizens from Cuba, the US also graciously extends this to foreign nationals who have residency in the US. There was (sort of recently) a case of one guy with permanent residency status who traveled to Cuba without the appropriate permission slip and on return to the US was threatened with having his residency status rescinded. This is not totally surprising as the US also does things like extending ITAR restrictions well beyond US companies. – Peter M Jan 11 at 15:37
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    You could also mention that Israel itself bans travel to multiple Arab countries such as Iran. – JonathanReez Jan 11 at 17:13
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    @JonathanReez Iran is not an "Arab country," though you are otherwise correct that Israel bans its citizens from visiting countries it deems "enemies" without special permission. – mlc Jan 11 at 20:58
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    Lebanese can't come back to Lebanon if they entered Israel, or it's going to be their nightmare. Source: I am Lebanese. – Paul Karam Jan 12 at 8:00
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    @PeterM It's "barring", not "baring". putting something in quotes implies that you're saying exactly what the other person said, and there is no mention of baring in this answer. – Acccumulation Jan 13 at 7:55
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The US bans the use of a regular US passport to visit North Korea. (You can get a special validation passport if you need to visit North Korea.) However, this doesn't technically ban US citizens from visiting North Korea per se, as it doesn't ban US citizens from using a different country's passport or other travel document to visit North Korea.

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    Agreed about the second sentence. You could freely add that this passport misuse is considered felony, so a criminal act. – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Jan 11 at 19:47
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ what about dual citizens, who would legitimately have multiple passports? I don't believe you can conclude it's always a passport misuse or a felony. – Stuart J Cuthbertson Jan 11 at 23:02
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Yeah, I didn't get that either. Are you saying that for people that have multiple legitimate passports including a US one, it would be passport misuse and a felony to choose a non-US passport when visiting North Korea? or are you assuming counterfeit passports or something? – JoL Jan 11 at 23:14
  • I didn't say that. I said that the linked article cites felony penalties – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Jan 13 at 8:25
  • "We will only issue a Special Validation Passport if your trip is in the national interest, and you meet all other passport eligibility requirements". Sounds like a pretty high bar. – Spehro Pefhany Jan 14 at 17:23
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India bans its nationals from visiting Pakistan as tourists. Of course there are exceptions. Business visits, visits to family or for a pilgrimage are allowed.

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    please add source as well. Thanks! – joe Jan 13 at 16:14
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    I can't find any evidence for this claim… lots of articles about how hard it is for Indian citizens to get Pakistani visas (and vice versa), but not much about exit bans by either country. Could be something I'm missing, but we need a source. – mlc Jan 13 at 21:59
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    There is no such restriction from India. Pakistan generally not grant tourist visas to Indians who do not have family ties or friends in Pakistan. But this is not a restriction from the Indian side at exit, which is what the question is about. – Pranab Jan 14 at 18:07
  • This is of historical, but India used to ban travel to South Africa, Israel and Southern Rhodesia business-standard.com/article/news-ians/… – hojusaram Jan 20 at 12:57
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North Korea bans their citizens from going anywhere outside North Korea in most cases.

As a side note, Wikipedia lists travel bans (but not reverse travel bans).

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    not technically. It just requires an exit visa to leave the country and never issues one except to spies and diplomats because they don't consider anyone to have a valid reason to apply for one. The USSR did the same, as did most Warsaw Pact countries. – jwenting Jan 13 at 10:35
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    @jwenting That's just semantics. "You can leave, but only if we allow you" is effectively the same as "You can't leave unless we allow you". I think countries requiring exit visas is within the spirit of the question. – JBentley Jan 13 at 11:18
  • I think Uzbekistan also still has exit visas. Fun fact: there are some other countries which are exempt from needing exit visa, and they check exit visa for Uzbek citizens on their border when those try to leave country for some 3rd destinarion, which is a disgrace in my opinion. – alamar Jan 13 at 11:26
  • @JBentley not really. Most countries you can't leave unless authorities let you through outgoing customs. E.g. the Netherlands reserves the right to deny you authority to leave the country if you have outstanding fines or an arrest warrant (and probably other reasons). This is limited by Schengen treaty restrictions to flights leaving the EU but the restriction is there. – jwenting Jan 13 at 22:03
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    @jwenting Presumably every functional government has some set of people they won't let leave regardless of their destination (at least if they catch you), perhaps wanted criminals or those pending trial or on parole or subject to some other kind of criminal punishment, children in situations where there are child protection or custody concerns, or unaccompanied people found to be unable to care for themselves. For this question to make any sense, those circumstances would have to be excluded. – Zach Lipton Jan 13 at 23:10
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Australian law allows the Minister for Foreign Affairs to designate a declared area in a foreign country, making it a criminal offence for Australians to visit or remain in that area, punishable by up to ten years' jail.

This law was instituted out of concern over the prospect of Australians travelling to ISIS-related conflict zones and then returning home trained for terrorism.

As far as I know, this law has so far only been applied at province level (Mosul and al-Raqqa) and those designations have ended, but at the Foreign Minister's discretion it could be used to impose a travel ban on an entire country.

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India has an "Emigration Certificate" system that bars its nationals from travelling on work visas to certain countries, unless pre-approval has been granted.

The background to this is that less-educated Indian citizens have been enticed to work abroad in menial jobs in countries with lax labour laws. Due to the pay differential for manual roles, this seems like an appealing prospect at first. However after landing at the destination they have faced bonded labour or slavery-like situations where they are not paid as promised, cannot leave (as their passport is confiscated by their employer), have to live in squalid conditions, under constant threat of arrest by local law enforcement.

To mitigate this, India has the "Emigration Certificate" system. Any Indian traveling with a work visa to United Arab Emirates (UAE), The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Brunei, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand and Iraq, has to apply for and receive emigration clearance from the Indian government's "Protector of Emigrants" office. This has to be done weeks before the flight. Such workers receive pre-departure orientation about their rights and are registered with the Indian missions for any future assistance.

If Indians travelling on a work visa to those countries turn up at the airport without this clearance, they will be denied exit. India operates outbound emigration control at its airports for this purpose.

Indian citizens who have completed the 10th grade, are above 50 years old, or have lived abroad for three years, are exempt from this rule.

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This appears to be fairly common, although it was more common in the past.

A number of countries bar their passport-holders from visiting Israel, sometimes with an inscription in the passport along the lines of "This passport is valid for all countries except Israel", or "This passport is valid for all countries except those listed in Exhibit A" (where Exhibit A lists Israel). Examples of such countries include most countries in North Africa, most countries in the Middle East, countries in South Asia such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, countries in South East Asia such as Malaysia and Indonesia, etc.

In the past, lots of countries barred their passport-holders from visiting the USSR, South Africa, China, Israel, North Korea, etc. It seems that Israel still remains one of the few widely-banned countries.

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    Indonesia does not belong on your list: both Israel and Indonesia permit each other's citizens to enter. timesofisrael.com/… – lambshaanxy Jan 12 at 3:38
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    "In the past lots of countries barred their passport-holders from visiting the USSR, South Africa, China, Israel, North Korea"- any specific examples? – lalala Jan 12 at 14:11
  • I'm assuming you meant South-Africa during apartheid, half the world can visit without as much as a visa these days? – Neil Meyer Jan 12 at 15:03
  • @lalala I will try to find some authoritative sources. IIRC, some colonies of the British empire used to forbid travel to the USSR. – Flux Jan 12 at 19:21
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Saudi Arabia not only forbids travel to Israel, it even forbade aircraft traveling to Israel to pass through its airspace until just recently (March 2018 - only Air India).

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    Forbidding airspace crossing is much more common than forbidding travel to a country. For example, Ukraine and Russia have reciprocal bans for each other's aircraft to fly through, but citizens of both countries may travel through the border. – alamar Jan 13 at 11:25
  • @alamar, Bit aside from the topic, but Saudi Arabia not only does not allow travel to Israel, but they will deny entry to those who previously ever traveled to Israel (if they see the stamp in the passport). – ouflak Jan 13 at 11:42
  • Will it deny entry for its own citizens who traveled to Israel, though? – alamar Jan 13 at 11:50
  • I've wondered about that. Don't know and I wouldn't dare ask the question openly if I was ever in Saudi. I'm assuming there are exceptions for diplomats. – ouflak Jan 13 at 11:55
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    I think that "you're afraid to ask if it is even permitted" is a de facto ban. – alamar Jan 13 at 15:26
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Some countries have specific regulations that affect citizens that have specific classified knowledge by virtue of their employment. These ban or restrict travel to hostile countries. These bans can be open ended to such an extent that one list that I have seen includes countries that either now do not exist or have changed their regimes and are now friendly.

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  • The USSR had a large portion of its economy serve the military in some way, so a significant part of the population could fall under classified knowledge limits. My grandpa actually had worked on sensitive projects, my parents told me they were worried this would be an obstacle to their hope to immigrate to Israel, but USSR mostly banned that anyway until late 1980s and by the time they got permit (I think 1889~90), the classified-knowledge aspect was apparently less enforced. – Beni Cherniavsky-Paskin Jan 13 at 16:04
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    @BeniCherniavsky-Paskin I think you mean 1989 rather than 1889? – mlc Jan 14 at 1:02
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    @mlc Soviet time-travel projects are especially sensitive. – Geoffrey Brent Jan 14 at 4:17
  • yes, I meant 1989~1990. – Beni Cherniavsky-Paskin Jan 19 at 17:58

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