I do have a few contacts now in Tehran, especially 2 ladies I made friends with in December in Malaysia. They have invited me to come and will help me around. I know as a US citizen, visas can be challenging to obtain even here in the US Pakistan Iranian Special Interests section. How about flying to KISH ISLAND and doing the visa application there?
Do not fly to Kish before having a visa to the mainland because as an American national you should take part in a tour and be accompanied by a tour guide to travel in Iran. The visa reference number for the Americans takes about 30-45 days to be secured from the MFA. In the visa application form the MFA should be informed about the hotels and itinerary in Iran. After having the reference number, the visa can be collected in two working days by direct referral or in one working week by posting the docs to the Iran embassy.
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