Sunday, July 6, 2014

Turkey: New Residency Permit Requirements Posing Huge Disconnects for Expats

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, expats in Turkey have experienced difficulties in traveling abroad since the introduction of new residency permit regulations in April, with long delays in paperwork being processed. 

The Istanbul foreigners’ department website has advised that expats waiting to apply for or to receive their residency permits (known as ikamet in Turkish) may be stopped at the airport if they attempt to leave or re-enter Turkey. 

According to the British Foreign Office, 40,000 Britons currently live in Turkey. 

Foreigners wishing to apply for an ikamet have to book an appointment to visit the local police. Yet, there are long delays for available appointments. The Istanbul police department website shows no available slots until October 2014. 

Some expats have found that their tourist visas and existing ikamets have expired before they can arrange a renewal. 

Although they are allowed to stay in the country if arrangements for a renewal have already been processed, they have been advised not to leave Turkey while waiting for an appointment, as they can be fined and banned from re-entering Turkey if they do not have the correct documents.

COMMENT:  As a retired diplomat, I urge all foreign residents in Turkey to consult with their nearest embassy or consulate in order to "get ahead of the Turkish government's confusion quotient" by making an appointment at your appropriate foreign affairs agency OR calling them to obtain CURRENT Government of Turkey information on residency requirements.

Another potential solution is to retain the services of an expat residency agency familiar with Turkish government regulations to assist in obtaining a new or renewed permits. Even learning about CURRENT regulations may be worth the cost.

For all nationalities, the below links may be useful:

A new department referred to as the General Directorate of Migration Management (GDMM), is being established in Turkey. Due to be fully operational by the end of 2014, it will eventually take over the handling of foreign residency permit applications from the police. 

Meanwhile, inconsistencies in the newly introduced laws have caused implementation problems for police throughout Turkey. 

Online expat forums and Facebook groups are full of stories about "ikamet" appointments where police have interpreted the rules in unexpected ways. 

The Istanbul foreigners’ department website states that people applying for a one-year "ikamet" must provide a bank statement showing 500 US dollars in a Turkish bank for each month of stay, notarized proof of address in Turkey and annual health insurance. However, some expats report that police have asked for documents that are not on this list. 

In an official statement, the GDMM office in Ankara said the department is "aware of the ongoing inconsistencies in the application process," and is working to "provide advice and guidance" to local police as they implement the new rules. 

Timothy Fisher, the British consul in Istanbul, said: “We are aware of the lack of clarity surrounding applications by British nationals for Turkish residence permits, and are concerned by the distress this continues to cause some residents.” 

Fisher added that the consulate had raised its concerns with the head of the GDMM and the Ministry of the Interior and updated information would be posted on the UKinTurkey Facebook page

Uncertainty about health insurance has produced further confusion for expats. When the new laws were introduced in April, many thought that emergency health insurance policies would be sufficient. 

Yet, an update to the GDMM website on May 23 stated that annual private health insurance covering inpatient and outpatient treatment and medical expenses will be required in future. 

Since many Turkish insurance companies do not offer health insurance for people over 70, this issue is also causing problems for many retirees.