In a game of 'would you rather', most Egyptians would rather endure slow and painful torment than have to deal with a trip to any government institution. Because, let's face it, it's never actually one trip – there's always that one missing document that sends you running around like a headless chicken for three days before Madam Olfat hands it back to you and says she never needed it in the first place.
At this point you need a vacation from trying to get the paperwork so you can go on your vacation.
So, let's break it down:
There are two types of permits you might need so you can travel outside of Egypt: a travel permit and a security clearance.
TRAVEL PERMIT (tasree7 safar)
A travel permit is issued by the army and is applicable to males between ages 19–30 (age of conscription), but not everybody needs one in order to travel.
You do not need a travel permit if you're permanently exempt from the army – for medical reasons, because you're an only child, or because you only have sisters. However, you'll need to prove your exemption status in your passport.
Grab your passport and exemption paper (shehadet e3fa) and head to your designated branch of the Egyptian Immigration, Citizenship, and Passports Agency (Masla7et el Gawazat). There you can get your passport renewed with the correct exemption information on it.
Use your current passport and travel with your exemption paper (shehadet e3fa).
We suggest you opt for option #1 to avoid any unnecessary holdup at the airport. Mantash na2es.
You do need a travel permit if...
- you've completed your military service and are still part of the reserve forces.
- you're temporarily exempt from military service.
- you're temporarily excluded from military service.
- you're a male under 19 years of age.
- you're a student with military service temporarily postponed because you're studying abroad.
How do you get a travel permit?
Head to your designated recruitment office, or to the Citizen Service Compound (Mogama3 Khedmet el Mowatineen) in El Zeitoun (this is the fastest and most organized facility), which is located on Gesr el Suez Street in Helmeyet el Zeitoun under Tagneed Bridge. Before you go, make sure you have the following documents (and copies thereof) ready:
- Completion of service certificate (if applicable)
- Certificate of military condition (shehadet el mo3amla el tagnideya)
- National ID card
- A certificate of tawdee7 mawqef min el ested3a from the army (obtained through the Citizen Service Compound.
- Passport (recommended, not required)
If you're a student, bring along proof of enrollment as well as el raqam el tholati of your military card (6 gond). You'll be granted a travel permit for the duration of your (mid-year or year-end) vacation, but travel permits aren't granted for students in their final year. For those looking to study abroad, you should also provide a letter from the Culture Affairs and Mission Sector.
Travel permits are usually issued on the same day, but they may take up to three weeks if you're headed to a country that requires a security clearance. Permit offices work 24/7, so try not to go during peak times then grumble about the process.
SECURITY CLEARANCE (tasree7 amny)
This is the god-forsaken piece of paper that makes our travels painfully complicated and sends us to Mogama3 el Tahrir where nobody has a clear answer whether you need it or not. Making the process all the more frustrating is the reality that you may bend over backwards to issue a security clearance for a country that requires a security clearance, then nobody bothers to look at your security clearance! But still, better to go prepared and get it done than to find yourself at the airport and unable to travel.
Your security clearance is issued at the Mogama3 by the Ministry of Interior if you're between the ages of 18 and 40 and are heading to one of the following destinations:
- South Korea
- South Africa and neighboring countries
Your security clearance, which you can only get from Mogama3 regardless of your location in Egypt, takes 4–7 days to issue and needs to be picked up in person. Security clearances are only valid for two months..
How do I get a security clearance?
Head to Mogama3 el Tahrir, go up to the second floor, and walk into room 15 with the following documents in hand:
- A valid passport, preferably with a profession proven in it
- An HR letter if you’re working
- Your national ID card
- The visa of the country you’re travelling to
- A carefully completed application form that you'll pick up from Mogama3 – make sure you have your father’s full name (up to fourth generation) and his birth date.
- 5 EGP (exact change or else you're out of luck – they won't give you gum in exchange for your 20 EGP bill)
- 3 copies of each of A) your passport, B), your visa, C), your ID card.
In most situations, you'll find that one of two scenarios will play out:
You have a specific job or higher education degree stated in your passport, which means that you most probably won't need a security clearance for any of the countries other than Turkey and George, which you'll be able to get very quickly. If you only have your degree stated in your passport, it would be best to bring along an HR letter.
If your passport states that you’re a student or a laborer (carpenter, chef, driver, etc.), you will most likely require a security clearance, and you’ll also need an invitation from the country. For Turkey and Georgia, you'll need a letter of invitation from a person living in the country in order to get your visa; you'll begetting a visiting visa, which you'll need in order to get the clearance.
Females traveling with their parents or spouses don't need security clearances so long as the person they're traveling with is clear to travel and they can provide a marriage certificate in the latter case. If heading to Turkey or Georgia, females have the option to get an accompanying visa if traveling with their husband/father who can get a clearance.
The dubious thing about the security clearance is that no one – neither the person issuing it nor the person informing you that it needs to be issued – is certain that you'll actually need it in order to travel. So if absolute truth does exist in this world of ours, it does not exist in the world of security clearances. Err on the side of caution and follow these steps to a tee to get your clearance done, because it's better to go through the process of getting it than to find yourself frustrated at an airport and unable to travel.