After my visa problems last year, when it came to applying for my residency permit in March, I wanted to be very careful to correctly identify all the hoops and then work out how to properly jump through them all.
For anyone who knows Turkey, it wont be surprising to hear that this was easier said than done. The very process of working out the process was complicated. Unfortunately, the official website – currently http://yabancilar.iem.gov.tr/ikamet.html – is a real gem. There’s nothing on it in a language other than Turkish, and it’s clunky, outdated and unclear, even in Turkish. Possibly further complicating matters – or possibly a reason for the complication? – is that official responsibility for residency permits recently shifted to a newly created department, the General Directorate of Migration Management, or Goc Idaresi Genel Mudurlugu (http://www.goc.gov.tr/main/).
As the proud new owner of a 12-month residency permit, I wanted to share my experience with others in the hope that it might help. Since finalising my application, I came across this bang up to date guide from the wonderful folk over at Yabangee. Published in early June 2014, it gives the very latest info (with the important caveat that nothing is ever really set in stone, and things are very definitely still fluid). I can say from experience that the advice offered is pretty accurate. My own experience differed in a few small ways, so I’m sharing my own step-by-step guide in the hope that it might explain some of the variation in process.
Step 1: make an appointment online (http://yabancilar.iem.gov.tr/E-Randevu%20Al.html – click on ‘Randevu Al’ where the gloriously flashing blue arrow is. The website is a treat). When I went to make my appointment in early March, I was horrified to see that the first available appointment wasn’t until mid-May, leaving me just a couple of days’ grace before my 90-day tourist visa expired. Luckily, when we went in to Uskudar Emniyet Mudurlugu, they told me that from the date you make your appointment (this is classed as the date you start your application), your tourist visa is frozen – so even if it expires while you’re waiting, you’re not illegal (this means you could technically make an appointment on the last day of your tourist visa and still be fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it).
– Note 1: One way in which my experience differs from Yabangee’s recommendations is that I had no problems applying at my local Emniyet Mudurlugu in Uskudar.
– Note 2: I found choosing the type of residency permit I wanted pretty confusing. I made my appointment to apply for the wrong category, which gave me some sleepless nights but turned out not to be a problem when I went to my appointment. They just changed it to the right category – a short stay tourist visa (kısa dönem ikamet, turizm amaçı)
– Note 3: whatever you do, just pick the earliest time in the day for your appointment. I foolishly chose 10.30am, thinking I didn’t want to have to get up too early and rush to my appointment. Big mistake. There is some disconnect between the online application service and the actual number of officials in each office. When I arrived at 10.25am, in true English style, I found that number 5 was still waiting for her 9am appointment. I was number 11. The problem was, the system seemed to allocate three people per half hour slot, when each application took at least one hour. They eventually got through everyone, but it was not a very fun experience (see below).
Step 2: Next comes the really fun bit: assembling the necessary reams of paper and making sure each one has the necessary multitude of stamps. For the above type of residency permit, what I had to provide was the following:
– My passport and photocopies of the picture page and the last visa I entered Turkey with
– 4 passport photos
– A currency exchange slip or bank statement (from a Turkish bank) showing that I have sufficient funds to support myself for the duration of my stay. The requirement is $500 per month, so I had to show I’m good for $6,000 for my 12 month permit. The challenge here is that the bank statement has to be from a Turkish bank – and of course you can’t a bank account with most Turkish banks without a residency permit and a registration number. According to the advice on Yabangee, some banks do let you open an account without this, but I couldn’t find one. So I went down the currency exchange slip route. After a lot of faffing about with international bank transfers etc, I found that the exchange office didn’t even want to see that I had the money. For a fee of around 90TL, they gave me the slip without so much of a whisper of evidence that I had the money. Obviously this might not be the same everywhere, but it’s worth a try before you go to the hassle of changing money.
– A tax number. This involved a trip to the Üsküdar vergi dairesi (tax office).Luckily, they seemed to be familiar with the process. All I had to do was pay and $85 and provide a copy of my passport, and I came away with my very own tax number.
– A receipt showing I’d paid a 50TL fee for my residency permit at the Üsküdar mal müdürlüğü (finance office – in the same building as the foreigners department).
– A general health insurance policy from a Turkish insurer (or a certified translation of a foreign policy). For me, this was the trickiest piece of the whole puzzle. Apparently, it’s a new requirement and there seems to be both ample confusion about what’s required, and numerous insurers waiting to cash in on clueless foreigners. Luckily, the official handling my application gave me a detailed breakdown of what the policy needed to provide. It was then relatively straight forward to shop around for the best deal. There are definitely some sharks out there, so be warned. Some of the first offers we got were for 2-300tl, accompanied by claims that this was the most competitive policy available. In the end, I found a perfectly satisfactory policy with Güneş Sigortası for just 1,100tl. There may well be cheaper options out there, but this was the best I could find.
– Proof of my address. As I live with a Turkish national, we simply went to an authorised notar (notary office), where E had to sign that he would be responsible for me during my stay in Turkey (gulp!). The fee for this was around 40tl, and was done in under half an hour.
– Finally, a colour print of your application.
Once this truckload of documents has been assembled, you just have to wait for your appointment. This is where the fun really begins. The first time E and I went, tensions were really running high. There was shouting in the waiting room. It was not pretty. Just be patient. Don’t expect things to operate like they do in your country. And definitely don’t try to skip the line, thinking that you’re just more important than everyone else. You are not.
– Note 1: don’t worry if you show up only to find that there’s a mistake in your documents or you haven’t got everything needed. I was terrified they’d tell me to return to go, but they just shrug, write you a list of what you need, and tell you to come back within 2 weeks.
Once your application is finalised, your local emniyet office will send it off to Ankara, from whence it will be delivered to your home address. They told me it’d take about a month. When a month had passed, I began to panic. Then a friend told me he’d been waiting three months for his. E went to the local post office to see if they’d received anything. Lo and behold, they’d tried to deliver my permit only 15 days after my application but no-one was home, so they’d sat on it for a while before returning it to the local emniyet office. I just had to go there, show them my passport and that was that.
One final word of warning: the start date of your permit will be the day that you make your online application. It is a pain in the ass to think that I’ll have to start this whole process again in less than 6 months, but there’s no use whining.
One final tip: although the advice online is a bit vague on this point, it is possible to leave the country after you’ve made your application but before your permit arrive. I was dubious to say the least when the emniyet office gave me a 2-page document certifying that I was able to return without a visa, especially given my previous visa nightmares. But I had to go to Jordan for work, and so I went. Both exiting and entering the country, I was referred to the chief immigration officer on duty by border officials who looked very perplexed. However the big boss dude seemed to know what he was doing and waved me through.