For decades foreigners who wanted to live in Turkey could do so without ever getting a residence permit. All you had to do was go abroad and return to renew your tourist visa every three months. But Turkey has had enough of it and they have changed the rules: a tourist visa will now be valid for ninety days within a period of 180 days. So now if you want to stay in the country longer, you have to buy a residence permit.
The new Turkish rules are of course mainly a way for the state to generate income, but they show Turkish confidence too: it’s worth living in this country, so we want you to pay more for it than only four times the price of a tourist visa (a total of 60 euros per year).
It’s even more interesting in light of the possibly soon-to-change visa rules for Turks who want to travel to Europe. Many Europeans don’t know this, but it is very hard for Turks to cross the European border. Even to get a visa to go on a city tour or family visit is a total pain in the ass. You have to get a whole set of official documents (including for example ownership papers of a house or a car or anything else valuable, and papers that prove the company you work for is officially registered, etc etc) and even if you comply with all the rules, a tourist visa can be turned down for no apparent reason.
Add to that the humiliating way Turks are treated at any visa section of any European country, and you understand why Egemen Bagis, Minister of EU Affairs, recently said: ‘The moment when our citizens feel the least European is when they wait for hours in visa queues to go to Europe.’
The anticipated change will make it easier for Turks to travel to Europe. Once Turkey signs the ‘readmission agreement’ (an agreement dealing with the handling of refugees using Turkey as a base to get to the European Union) then visa restrictions for Turks will be loosened. The first groups benefiting from that will be business people, students and artists. Then other groups will follow. It’s not even a political discussion anymore, only the technical details have to be discussed.
You may find that strange, but there are just deals to hold on to and rules to be followed. For example, Turkey had to introduce biometric passports, which was done earlier this year. The readmission agreement is also part of the deal, so once Turkey has complied, the matter is settled.
I have heard some foreigners living in Turkey complain about the obligation to get a residence permit. That pisses me off a bit. Getting the residence permit itself is not so difficult, it’s mainly a matter of having enough money in your account to support yourself. Nothing compared to what a Turk needs to do to even go on a weekend trip to Paris. Please, I would like to say, realize how totally blessed you are with your European passport that takes you over practically every border around the world with no trouble whatsoever. The new rules on both sides are a first step towards some balance between the rights of European and Turkish citizens.