Expats in Turkey facing travel problems due to new residency permits

by Ray Clancy on July 2, 2014

The British consul in Istanbul has raised concerns with government officials that expats in Turkey are having difficulties travelling abroad since new residency regulations were introduced in April.

The new rules mean that any expat who tries to leave the country without a residency permit, an ikamet, may be stopped from doing so. Those arriving without one could be refused entry.

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Getting the proper permit is difficult due to delays in the system

But getting a permit is proving difficult because of huge delays in the system, with the paperwork taking far longer than expected to process. Also, foreign applicants need to book an appointment with their local police department and there are long delays with no slots available currently until October.

‘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,’ said consul Timothy Fisher.

‘The consulate had raised its concerns with the head of the GDMM and the Ministry of the Interior and updated information will be given out as soon as it is available,’ he added.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, some 40,000 British people currently live in Turkey. Some expats have found that their tourist visas and existing permits have expired before they can arrange a renewal. Although they are allowed to stay in the country if arrangements for a renewal are in the pipeline, they have been advised not to leave Turkey while waiting for an appointment.

There also seems to be a lack of communication between the Border Police and local police departments. Theoretically, if you have a letter showing you have an appointment booked then you should be allowed to travel. But police at airports are not necessarily accepting this.

This has resulted in people being fined up to 300 lira (£83) for trying to leave the country without a permit and being banned from entering the country for 90 days.

The new department, the General Directorate of Migration Management (GDMM), which has been created to deal with the permits is not due to be fully operational until the end of 2014 when it will take over the handling of foreign residency permit applications from the police.

There also seems to be inconsistencies regarding the documentation needed for a permit. The official list for those applying for a one year permit says they must provide a bank statement showing a minimum of $US500 in a Turkish bank for each month of stay, notarised proof of address in Turkey and annual health insurance. But some expats have been asked for additional documents.

‘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,’ said a statement from the GDMM office.

The confusion has means people living in Turkey being unable to travel home for important events such as family funerals, weddings, graduation ceremonies and for their annual holiday.

Uncertainty about health insurance has produced further confusion for expats. It was thought that emergency health insurance policies would be sufficient. However, a recent update to the GDMM website said that annual private health insurance covering inpatient and outpatient treatment and medical expenses will now be required. This does not apply to people aged over 65.

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