SYRIA

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Country Description: The Syrian Arab Republic has a developing, mixed-sector economy. The ruling Ba'th party espouses a largely secular ideology, but Islamic traditions and beliefs provide a conservative foundation for the country's customs and practices. The constitution refers to Islamic jurisprudence as a principal source of legislation, but the legal system remains influenced by French practice. Tourist facilities are widely available, but vary in quality depending on price and location. The work week in Syria is Saturday through Thursday. The U.S. Embassy is open Sunday through Thursday.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: Passports and visas are required. Visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Syria. Travelers who arrive without valid Syrian visas will be denied entry by Syrian immigration officials. Entry to Syria is not granted to persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps, or to persons born in the Gaza region or of Gazan descent. Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian immigration by their fifteenth day in Syria. Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 who are of Syrian birth or recent descent are subject to the Syrian compulsory military service requirement, unless they receive an exemption from the Syrian Embassy in the United States prior to their entry into Syria. An AIDS test is not required for foreigners prior to arrival in Syria. However, tests are mandatory for foreigners (age 15 to 60) wishing to reside in Syria. The AIDS test must be conducted in Syria at a facility approved by the Syrian Ministry of Health. A residence permit will not be issued until the absence of the HIV virus has been determined. Foreigners wishing to marry Syrian nationals must also be tested for HIV. For further entry information, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2215 Wyoming Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 232-6313.

Medical Facilities: Basic medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of Syria, but not necessarily in outlying areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health care services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proved useful. The international travelers' hotline at the Centers for Disease Control, telephone (404) 332-4559, has additional useful health information.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crime is generally not a serious problem for travelers in Syria. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, protecting personal security, and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa." They are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws and legal practices of the country in which they travel. Penalties for possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use are severe in Syria. The penalty in Syria for growing, processing or smuggling drugs is the death penalty, which may be reduced to a minimum of twenty years imprisonment.

Currency Regulations: Syrian currency cannot be exchanged for any other currency. Travelers must declare all foreign currency when they enter Syria. Amounts in excess of $5,000 U.S. (or $2,000 U.S. for those holding dual Syrian-American nationality) is subject to confiscation upon leaving Syria.

Registration: U.S. citizens who register at the U.S Embassy can obtain updated information on travel and security within Syria.

Embassy Location: The U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, is located in Abu Roumaneh, Al-Mansur St. No. 2; P.O. Box 29. Telephone numbers are (963-11) 333-2814, 771-4108, or 333-0788. The fax number is (963-11) 224-7938.

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