Republic of South Sudan
Country Specific Information
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October 24, 2013

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. The capital city is Juba. South Sudan’s independence came after many years of civil war between forces in the south and the Government of Sudan. Despite the signing of numerous agreements in September 2012 regarding oil transport, border security, economic and financial matters, a safe demilitarized border zone, and the final status of disputed areas, the relationship between the two countries remains fragile. South Sudan is one of the world’s least developed countries. Its economy relies largely on revenues from oil exports and trade with its neighbor, Sudan. Oil production stopped in January 2012 following a dispute with Sudan over transit fees, further reducing the country’s foreign reserves considerably and forcing it further into debt. Production of oil in South Sudan resumed in April 2013.

The Security Council established the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) under a Chapter VII mandate in 2011. UNMISS consists of approximately 7600 uniformed staff, 900 international civilian staff, 1300 local civilian staff, and 400 UN Volunteers. Numerous UN agencies and non-governmental organizations provide humanitarian and development assistance. South Sudan also has a large diplomatic presence.

Electricity, telephone and telecommunications, roads, and other forms of infrastructure are unreliable or sparse in many areas. Civilian institutions, including the criminal justice system, are rudimentary and not presently functioning at a level consistent with international standards. There are no government services available in many parts of the country. South Sudan operates as a cash economy, and tourist facilities are limited throughout the country. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on South Sudan for additional information on U.S. – South Sudan relations.

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SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit South Sudan, please take the time to tell the U.S. Embassy in Juba about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.

U.S. Embassy, Juba
Kololo Road, Tongping
Juba, South Sudan
Telephone: 211 912 105 188

The U.S. Embassy in Juba offers passport and notarial services to U.S. citizens once per week, including renewals and the provision of emergency passports. 

The U.S. Embassy in Juba does not accept and adjudicate initial claims of U.S. citizenship, known as consular reports of birth abroad. For this service, please visit a U.S. embassy elsewhere in the region. Routine consular services are available at the U.S. embassies in Kampala, Uganda, and Nairobi, Kenya. See the following websites for information: http://kampala.usembassy.gov ; http://nairobi.usembassy.gov.

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ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: U.S. citizens need a valid passport to enter South Sudan. If visiting or living in South Sudan, you should ensure that your passport is current and secure and that it has at least two vacant visa pages and is valid for six months beyond your date of entry. U.S. citizens are required to obtain a visa in advance of arrival. Further, you may be asked to state the purpose of your visit upon arrival. You should register with the Aliens Department at the Ministry of Interior in Juba if you are staying in South Sudan for more than three days.

If you are traveling from South Sudan to Sudan, you will be required to obtain a Sudanese visa or an entry permit prior to arrival at a port of entry.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of South Sudan.

You can find Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction on the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs. For further information about customs regulations, please refer to the Bureau’s Customs Information sheet.

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THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Care should be exercised in border states between South Sudan and Sudan where tensions exist due to the long, undemarcated border. Armed militias with decades of experience in the long civil war that preceded South Sudan’s independence will require time to adapt to the outbreak of peace. Clashes between ethnic groups are common. In the past, a Ugandan rebel group group known as the “Lord’s Resistance Army” has operated along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Government of South Sudan has limited capacity to deter crime or provide security to travelers, especially outside the capital city of Juba.

The U.S. Embassy in Juba has implemented measures to protect U.S. government personnel living and working in South Sudan. These include requiring U.S. government personnel to travel in armored government vehicles at night, and to obtain advance permission for travel outside of Juba. Many embassies permit eligible adult family members to reside in the country, although currently eligible family members of U.S. government personnel are not permitted to reside in South Sudan. Similar measures are followed by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and some non-governmental organizations with operations in South Sudan.

Land mines remain a hazard in South Sudan, especially outside of Juba. Visitors should travel only on main roads, unless a competent de-mining authority has marked an area as clear of mines. 

The Embassy’s ability to provide consular services outside of Juba, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. Many areas of South Sudan are extremely difficult to access, and travel in these areas is sometimes hazardous. Less than 300 kilometers of paved roads exist in the country, which is the size of France. The infrastructure is extremely poor, and medical care is not always available or is very basic.

Stay up to date by:

  • Following us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.
  • Downloading our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Google play store, for travel information at your fingertipsproviding easy access to updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, and U.S. embassy locations. Travelers can also set up e-tineraries to keep track of arrival and departure dates and make notes about upcoming trips.
  • Bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
  • Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security and check some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
  • Calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.

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CRIME: High unemployment and severe economic downturn have encouraged criminal activity. Following an increase in security-related incidents in Juba, the U.S. Embassy has imposed a curfew from 1:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. to better ensure the safety of its personnel. You should try to avoid crowded public areas and public gatherings, and avoid traveling alone if possible. Report all incidents of crime to the South Sudanese police.

Carjackings and banditry occur in South Sudan. Travel outside of Juba should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. 

Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may be breaking local law. 

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VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we cancontact family members or friends.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in South Sudan, you are subject to its laws, even if you are a U.S. citizen. You may be questioned or detained by police if you don’t have your passport with you.

South Sudan’s security services commit arbitrary arrests and often detain foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens. The country’s legal system is rudimentary and sometimes ineffective. U.S. citizens may have little recourse to justice should they be detained and legal proceedings can be lengthy and seemingly subjective. Contractual and other business disputes with local partners may not be resolved in a manner that is consistent with international practices and judicial fairness. Security forces often operate outside civilian control, and do not always follow laws governing due process and treatment of detainees.   

If you break local laws in South Sudan, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what is legal and what is not while you’re in South Sudan. Penalties for breaking the law may be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating South Sudan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. 

There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods.Engaging in sexual conduct with persons under the age of 18 or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and international law, if you are arrested in South Sudan, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas. That said, security officials rarely contact the U.S. embassy in Juba when U.S. citizens are detained.

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SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: South Sudan is in a state of transition, as it recently became an independent nation and is recovering from many years of civil war with Sudan. Civil and governmental institutions are being developed with international assistance. If you are traveling or doing business in South Sudan, you may find it difficult to identify legal or administrative remedies if problems arise. We often do not get timely notification of the detention of U.S. citizens in South Sudan. 

South Sudan’s official currency is the South Sudanese pound. You must be prepared to pay cash for all purchases, including hotel bills, airfares purchased locally, and all other travel expenses. South Sudan has no international ATMs, and local ATMs draw on local banks only. U.S. currency issued prior to 2006 is not accepted in South Sudan. Photography in South Sudan is a very sensitive subject. It is strongly advised that you apply for a South Sudan Photo Permit through the Ministry of the Interior. In addition to filling out a form you will also need to submit: two passport size photos, a copy of the bio page from your passport and US $50.00.

Even with a permit, you must be careful taking pictures in South Sudan, as people have been arrested and even physically assaulted by police for using a camera. Please follow these simple rules to reduce the risk of being harassed or arrested:

  • Never take pictures of official/government buildings, vehicles, or persons in uniform.
  • Do not take pictures of infrastructure such as bridges. 
  • Keep your camera concealed and do not take random photos in public.
  • Always ask a person’s permission before taking his or her photograph.
  • Always be courteous if someone shies away from having his or her picture taken.

Be prepared for people to react negatively if you are taking pictures in public or in crowds. If someone becomes hostile toward you, get out of that situation as soon as possible.

If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on Travel.State.gov.

LGBT Rights: Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in South Sudan with penalties up to 10 years’ imprisonment. If non-consensual, the penalty is up to 14 years imprisonment. There are no reports that this law was enforced during this year. Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is widespread, and there are no known LGBT organizations. While there are no reports of specific incidents of discrimination or abuse during this year, stigma could have been a factor in preventing incidents from being reported. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.

Accessibility: While in South Sudan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. South Sudan does not mandate access to transportation, communications, or public buildings for persons with disabilities. It is very difficult for persons with physical disabilities of any kind to travel in South Sudan.

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MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Persons with conditions which may require medical treatment are strongly discouraged from traveling to South Sudan. Medical facilities in Juba fall far short of western standards; outside the capital, few hospitals exist; hospitals and clinics are often poorly equipped and staffed. If you need medical treatment, you must pay cash in advance for it. Ambulance services are not available outside Juba. Not all medicines are regularly available; you should carry sufficient supplies of needed medicines in clearly-marked containers. Routine immunizations and vaccinations for diseases such as yellow fever, rabies, polio, meningitis, typhoid, and hepatitis A and B are recommended. 

Malaria is prevalent in all areas of South Sudan. The strain is resistant to chloroquine and can be fatal. Consult a health practitioner before traveling, obtain suitable anti-malarial drugs, and use protective measures, such as insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito nets. If you become ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while in South Sudan, or within a year after departure, you should promptly seek medical care and inform your physician of your travel history and the kind of anti-malarial drugs used. For additional information about malaria and anti-malarial drugs, please see the Center for Disease Control information on malaria.

Polio cases have recently been reported in the country again after an absence since 2009.

You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

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MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

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TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in South Sudan, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The following information is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout South Sudan are hazardous due to erratic driver behavior, pedestrians and animals in the roadways, and vehicles that are overloaded or lack basic safety equipment. There are very few paved roads in South Sudan; most roads are narrow, rutted, and poorly maintained. Local drivers often do not observe conventions for the right-of-way, stop on the road without warning, and frequently exceed safe speeds for road, traffic, and weather conditions. Driving at night can be dangerous because of the lack of street lights throughout the country.

Roads in South Sudan are often impassable during the rainy season, from March or April to October or November. Take spare tires, parts, and fuel with you when traveling in remote areas, as service stations are separated by long distances.

U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling, including traffic laws. In South Sudan, vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road. 

Many local drivers carry no insurance despite the legal requirement that all motor vehicle operators purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury must report the incident to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines, jail sentences, and corporal punishment.
 
There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles.

Public transportation is by small buses, vans, or taxis, and is limited to within and between major towns. Many drivers of these vehicles have little training and are reckless, and the vehicles are often poorly maintained. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. Travelers are encouraged to hire cars and drivers from reputable sources with qualified drivers and safe vehicles. While there is some public transit to rural communities by irregularly scheduled mini-buses, many areas lack any public transportation. 

You should be extremely careful in crossing roads in South Sudan. Crosswalks do not exist, and incidents of cars striking pedestrians are common. 

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 

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AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in South Sudan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

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CHILDREN’S ISSUES: Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

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This replaces the Country Specific Information for South Sudan dated March 27, 2013 to update the section on Country Description, STEP enrollment/Embassy location, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

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