A resort climate, well-developed cities and economy, and a welcoming attitude towards expats. It is fairly easy to move to Turkey even without a plan and long-term preparation. The Turkish residence permit is called ikamet. Tourists get a short-term ikamet. However, the number of accepting regions has decreased, while the number of denied applications has increased. Here is all that you need to know about the changes in the criteria for receiving an ikamet, and what you should do if your application was denied.
Grounds for Permanent Residency in Turkey
Turkey has a fairly loyal migration policy. As the country makes money from tourism, it has visa-free arrangements with half the globe. You can live here without any formalities for 90 days every six months. European Union, US and Japanese citizens, as well as the citizens of many other countries can enjoy an uninterrupted stay. In some cases, you will have to leave after 60 days, but you can return a day later and stay in the country for another 30 days (this process is also called a visa run).
If you like the country and want to stay longer, it makes sense to apply for a residence permit. This is the identity card of a foreigner which is issued for up to five years and allows the foreigner to legally live in the country and enjoy all its benefits:
- Open a bank account at a local bank. Foreigners without an ikamet often have to deposit a large amount of money. Otherwise their bank account applications may be rejected.
- IRenting becomes cheaper. In large cities, such as Istanbul, Ankara, or Antalya, if you rent for a long time (one year or more), you will find that it works out cheaper than monthly tenancy arrangements.
- Buy an unlimited SIM card. Tourist SIM cards are more expensive and are blocked after two or three months and cannot be restored.
- Savings on travel and museums. With an ikamet, you can get an individual travel card and do not have to pay for each trip separately. In state museums and parks, this card grants you the same discounts as the ones available to Turkish citizens.
- Use state medicine. You will get access to services in Turkish hospitals and clinics under insurance, while pharmacies will offer discounts for a doctor’s prescription.
Anyone living in Turkey legally for more than eight years is eligible for permanent residency (you can make short trips out of the country, but you cannot leave Turkey, for instance, for six months or a year: in this case the period will be reset to zero). In Turkey, permanent residency status is similar to citizenship: you can work for government agencies and vote in elections, while men have to do military service.
Depending on the grounds, there are several types of residence permits in Turkey:
- For tourists, property buyers, and business owners.
- For the family members of a Turkish citizen or immigrant with an ikamet who has been working for at least one year. In Turkey, you can become an ikamet sponsor for your spouse, parents or children, even if you are a tourist with a residence permit which is valid for a year.
- Study at a Turkish university. The peculiarity of this residence permit is that its holder cannot bring their family to the country, while only half of the student years count if the individual applies for permanent residency.
In addition to these reasons, Turkey provides humanitarian residence permits.
A work permit in Turkey is equivalent to a residence permit card. If you have one, you do not need a separate document. Foreigners working in Turkey can sponsor an ikamet for their families.
New buildings in Turkey
How to Get a Tourist Ikamet
Tourists can get a residence permit for one or two years. On social media, however, people have been noting that in 2023 the timeframe is being reduced: you might get a permit for six months or just three months. Nevertheless, this type of short-term residence permit is better than none because it can be extended.
You should start with renting housing. Bear in mind, though, that this cannot be done in every area. Due to the increased number of migrants, Turkey has introduced and is constantly updating the list of locations where you cannot obtain a residence permit. At the time of publication, there were more than 1,200. Therefore, before looking for housing, you need to check the selected area on the website of the Turkish Migration Service.
You need a standard package of documents for an ikamet. However, you may need to provide additional papers (you will be given a reasonable amount of time to add them to your application).
The mandatory set of documents includes:
- Application. You need to complete it online. On completion of the application, you must print it out and attach it to the set of documents
- Travel passport. It must be valid for at least 60 days more than the period requested for residency in Turkey.
- Four biometric photos.
- Bank statement or proof that you have the necessary funds to live in the country.
- Medical insurance which is valid in Turkey. The term for issuing an ikamet is calculated based on its term of validity: you will not be able to get a one-year residence permit if your insurance expires in six months.
- Confirmation of the payment of the application fee.
It can take up to three months to consider an application. Please note that the term of the residence permit is calculated from the date of the submission of the application. By law, an expat has the right to stay in Turkey while waiting for the decision on their ikamet application, even if their visa-free period has already expired.
How to Reduce the Risk that Your Residence Permit Application is Denied
Over the past 18 months, the influx of migrants into Turkey has increased significantly. Against the backdrop of the earthquake in the country and the crisis in the regional real estate market, the authorities are trying to control the number of visitors. Consequently, the percentage of refusals of residence permit applications is likely to grow. However, official data on this matter have not been published, and as a rule anyone whose application is denied never finds out why.
As a safeguard, we recommend collecting the maximum possible package of documents: for instance, attach utility bills in your name and a tourist plan which can prove the purpose of your stay in Turkey.
What to Do if Your Application is Denied
If you are denied an ikamet, you will have to leave Turkey. You can re-submit your documents not earlier than six months after the refusal. However, a foreigner has the right to challenge the refusal in court. You can stay in the country as long as the court proceedings last. The cost of the services of immigration lawyers varies significantly due to the instability of the dollar exchange rate and inflation. Furthermore, a positive outcome cannot be guaranteed.
Residency and Citizenship for Real Estate Buyers and Investors
To obtain a residence permit for one or two years, you can buy real estate in megacities like Antalya, Mersin, or Istanbul costing a minimum of USD 75,000, and in other cities costing at least USD 50,000. Unlike tenants, the ikamet applications of real estate buyers are not denied if all the required documents have been collected and the district is not restricted for ikamets. In addition, you can make money from buying a home in Turkey: the return on investments in flats in both big cities and coastal cities reaches 8% for long-term rentals and 12% for short-term rentals during the tourist season. Experienced investors making money from real estate resale sometimes earn even more. The key is that prices in Turkey, including real estate, have been skyrocketing since 2021. For instance, the price per square metre in July 2023 is 25% higher than in July 2022.
Big investors can apply immediately for Turkish citizenship. To participate in the programme, you must meet any of the following conditions:
- launch a business employing at least 50 people,
- invest at least USD 500,000 in the Turkish economy,
- invest USD 500,000 in other ways (for instance, open a deposit account at a Turkish bank for three years, buy government bonds for the same period, or acquire a stake in a real estate fund),
- buy real estate for a minimum of USD 400,000 and not sell it for at least three years. The programme applies to real estate not previously used to obtain citizenship.
Together with the investor, members of their family can apply for a passport. A special service works with investors and business owners in Turkey: the Investment Office.
In a Nutshell
In 2023, Turkey continues to offer a tourist residency programme. Even though the percentage of denied applications has increased, many foreigners still manage to get an ikamet. To get a tourist residence permit, you need to stay in the right neighbourhood, collect all the documents, and prove your tourist goals. To secure a residence permit, you can buy real estate (in this case, the district matters) or start a business, while you are eligible for citizenship in exchange for big investments.
Cover photo: Oleksandr Ryzhkov (Freepik)