Doing business

Current business situation

On 16 January 2016, UN sanctions on Iran were lifted, as were many of the sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States. As a result, the Australian Government has also lifted most of Australia’s autonomous sanctions, opening up new opportunities for Australian business.

Key sectors in Iran that Austrade considers offer real potential for Australian firms are agribusiness, food, health, education, mining, oil and gas, and water. Opportunities to invest in oil and gas and in mining will interest some Australian firms but the need to understand how new oil contracts will work, how the mining sector will be managed and new investment laws means that investors will need to take a medium-to-long term approach.

Certain sanctions and business risks remain and Australian firms will continue to face a range of market-specific barriers, so the need for due diligence will continue. Australian companies seeking further information about business opportunities in the Iranian market are encouraged to contact Austrade on 13 28 78 or by email at info@austrade.gov.au.

Businesses should also obtain independent legal advice before making commercial decisions with respect to Iran and consult their financial services provider before entering into commitments.

Information on remaining Australian sanctions in relation to Iran is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website. Businesses considering trade with Iran are encouraged to visit this website.

Detailed information on the export of defence and dual-use goods can be accessed from the Department of Defence’s Defence Export Control Office.

Efic, the Australian Government’s export credit agency, has resumed provision of financial support to Australian companies doing business in Iran if their bank is unable to assist. Efic provides financial support to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are exporters; Australian companies in an export supply chain; Australian companies establishing business operations overseas to improve supply and service capability to clients; and Australian companies operating in emerging and frontier markets. Support provided by Efic supplements bank capacity and is provided on a commercial basis. For more information, visit Efic’s website at www.efic.gov.au.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides advice for business travellers and tourists going to Iran. This is regularly updated and should be checked before planned travel.

Business culture

Although Farsi is the national language of Iran, at senior business levels English usage is reasonably widespread. However you should consider using someone with English-Farsi language skills if undertaking a visit program or ongoing business development.

When meeting someone in a business context make sure to always shake hands, it is a sign of courtesy and respect. For male visitors, before shaking a woman’s hand wait to see if they extend their hand, if they do not, simply nod your head and smile. When doing business in Iran stick to formalities and once a relationship has been established, addressing them by their first name can begin.

Men should be smart and conservatively dressed, a suit is standard and often expected although wearing a tie is not a necessary. Whether conducting business or just visiting, women should wear very conservative clothing that covers arms, legs and hair and when in public most women cover their hair with a scarf. In recent years the government has become more relaxed in what clothing they are willing to tolerate. Many women will now be seen wearing makeup, jeans and scarves that barely cover the hair. However as a foreigner it is best to dress extremely conservative, particularly when doing business.

Appointments and meeting should be made in advance and confirmed by telephone and in writing. A few days before the meeting or prior to arriving in Iran it is important to telephone again to confirm the time and place for the appointment. Business hours are from Saturday to Thursday, 9.00am to 5.00pm, with lunch usually taken for an hour at around 1pm. Friday is a holiday and no business will take place on this day. There are a few key periods to avoid when trying to conduct business in Iran. ‘No-Rooz’ is the major holiday for Iranians and is a New Year celebration falling around the 21st of March. During this time all offices, businesses and most shops will close for two to three weeks. Ramadan, the month of fasting, is another time to avoid business in Iran.

Setting up in Market

Before setting up in market, business should familiarise themselves with Australia’s remaining sanctions in relation to Iran, and seek independent legal and financial advice before making commercial decisions or entering into commitments.

For more information about Australia’s remaining sanctions in relation to Iran, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Banking and finance

The government has been moving towards liberalising the banking sector, although progress has been extremely slow. Foreign banks have been operating in Iran’s free-trade zones since 1998, however the banking sector is dominated by state-owned banks.

Links and resources

Government, business and trade

Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines
IRI Customs Administration
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

News and media

Tehran Times

Please note: this list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only.