Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to Get a Turkish Residence Permit in Istanbul


Yay! Jace and I are now Turkish residents!

It was a very bureaucratic process and a bit of a pain in the butt, really. The rest of this blog is a how-to guide for anyone who's planning to get a residence permit, so if this is not you, you can stop reading now and save yourself some time, I won't be offended.

1) Make an Appointment (to put in the application papers)

Go to the government website and click on the "E-RANDEVU" button on the left-hand side. This will take you through to a page in Turkish. Don't worry about what it says, just click on the "RANDEVU AL" button at the bottom. You can now choose English and don't have to worry about not understanding what you're getting into.
Click on "New Appointment" and fill out the required information on the subsequent pages. Assuming this is your first time applying, choose "First Application" when it asks for you purpose. You will have to print out the forms in colour before you put in your application, but you can do this easily at any time before your appointment date, so don't worry about being hooked up to a colour printer at the time of making an appointment.
You then have to choose what kind of permit you're applying for. If you plan on staying and working in Turkey for more than 3 months, you should apply for a long-term residence permit. You should apply for this permit before your working permit (which will hopefully be organised by your work). If you're visiting Turkey as a tourist for longer than the 3 months of a standard tourist visa, you should apply for the Touristic Stay permit.
On the next page you are presented with options to choose a date and time, which will usually be 10-14 days from the date you're making it.
Now you have to check all the boxes saying you have all the necessary documents. Do it even if you don't have them all yet.
Next you get to fill in all your personal details. You can apply for your husband/wife and children as well as other immediate family members (siblings, parents and/or grandparents) on the same form.
If you're not printing the documents straight away, write down the application Reference Number so that you can log into the site again and print them out. You do this by going to the website, clicking on "E-RANDEVU", then "RANDEVU AL" and then "Find/Cancel Appointment".

2) 4 Passport Photos

If you don't have enough extras on you already, you can easily go to a shop and get 8 photos for about 20TL. It's the local custom to heavily touch up the photos and make you look like a freaky Beverley Hills housewife.

3) Passport & Copy of Passport

You will need to take your original passport and one b&w copy of your passport main page (which should have the expiry date, etc. on it) and the page with the entry visa and stamp. You can get these copies at shops in Istanbul for 10-25k.

4) Proof of Funds

You will need to prove that you have sufficient funds in Turkey for residency. The amount of money you need to prove will change depending on your nationality. When you fill out the forms above, you will be told exactly how much you need.
As Australians, Jace and I needed to prove that we already had US$300 for every month that we were applying for residence, i.e. for 12 months a total of US$3600 each. There are only two ways you can do this.
1. Get a bank account with a Turkish bank (see appendix below on how to do this) and transfer/deposit the required amount into it. You will then need a bank statement or receipt showing that you have the funds.
2. Get a receipt from a currency exchange office saying that you have converted the money, e.g. US$3600 into Turkish Lira. THIS IS EASIER THAN GETTING A BANK ACCOUNT AND YOU DON'T ACTUALLY NEED TO EXCHANGE THE MONEY TO GET A RECEIPT. It's bizarre, but true. Jace and I went to an exchange office in Sultanahmet up the road from the tram stop, explained that we needed receipts for US$3600 each for the permits and the guy at the exchange office just printed up four receipts for US$1800 each, without asking for proof of funds or any money in return.
The immigration police know this is what happens and they don't care, they just need you to prove you have money and these are the only two ways you can do it. YOU CANNOT USE A STATEMENT FROM A BANK IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY.

5) Appointment Day

The offices you need to go to to put in your paperwork are in Emniyet. Make sure you have all the documents you need and also a book, iPod or other entertainment as you'll probably be waiting a while.
There might be a direct bus from Taksim Square to Emniyet.
However, we took the funicular from Taksim to Kabataş, the tram to Yusufpaşa, walked following the signs to Aksaray metro station, and then went one stop on the metro to Emniyet-Fatih. You exit the metro station on the corner of Adnan Menderes Blv and Akşemsettin Cd and the police HQ are right in front of you, across Akşemsettin.
Go through the revolving door, the security scanner and present your passport to the police so they can enter you into the system.
You need to go to Block A on the first floor. After you go up the stairs, turn left and you'll see a line of chairs along the corridor as well as a waiting room with more chairs. There are electronic boards showing the ticket number and the counter you should go to. Your paperwork will have your ticket number in the top right corner. Sit and enjoy the atmosphere and occasional smell of urine for an hour or more.
When it's your turn, go to the window, hand the policeman/woman all your documents and smile. If you're lucky like I was, you'll have a nice young guy who speaks a bit of English.
Once they've looked over everything, they'll hand you back the papers all stapled together and written on, and your passport.
You then have to pay two different fees at two different windows. First, go downstairs to the cashier and pay the permit processing fee. For us, a one year permit cost 134.85TL (or 135TL; they don't give you the 15k back). You have to hand over the paperwork and the cash in TL. They don't accept US$ or Euro. Take your receipt.
Then you go back upstairs to a window on the left end of the row of service windows to pay 149TL (again in Lira only) for the permit book. Take your receipt.
Finally, go back to your original police person. You don't need to wait in line a second time. It seems that pushing past the other pushy people by shoving your paperwork right through the window, regardless of who's there or what the policeman's doing, is the established custom. They will take the paperwork and give you back two pieces of paper; one is a permit book receipt and the other is an appointment slip. The appointment slip tells you that you should show up on X day (usually a week away) at a specific time with both those slips of paper to collect your permit book from the office next to the waiting room.
Note: the office and cashiers are unmanned between 12pm and 1pm when everyone goes to lunch.

6) Collecting Your Permit Book

Probably the easiest part. Go back to the police HQ in Emniyet on the assigned date and time. Don't forget your paper slip and passport (for security). On the right-hand side of the the waiting room as you walk in is a little office. Hand the policeman your slip of paper, wait a few minutes for him to find your paperwork, sign the form where he asks you to. He will give you your permit book and you're done! Congratulations, you are now a resident of Turkey!

Appendix: How to Get a Turkish Bank Account

To open a bank account with a Turkish bank, you first need to get a tax number.

1. Getting a Tax Number

You need to go to a tax office or vergi dairesi in your local area. (Just put "vergi dairesi" and your suburb into Google Maps and you should come up with a few options nearby.) Take your passport and also a copy. You might also need proof of address in Turkey (they didn't ask us, however), so get a letter from your landlord/hotel/whoever.
We went to the vergi dairesi in Beyoğlu, not far from Tünel. Inside, we asked a person on the counter on the left side and they gave us forms to fill out. We completed the forms, handed them back and then waited about 20 minutes and were isssued with little cards with our Tax numbers on them.

2. Getting a Bank Account

The next day, we went to HSBC in Elmadağ (where we live) and spent an hour or so getting our bank accounts. I would recommend HSBC or Citibank as they are international banks. You will need photo i.d. with your address (like a driver's licence), your new tax card with the number and your passport. The form to fill out with HSBC is in English and Turkish. Make sure you put the address on your i.d. as your home address and then you can put your address in Turkey as your work address. You can then get your keycard sent to your work address.
We had to sign the terms and conditions in both Turkish and English, and then got two bank accounts, one US$ and one TL. You can also open Euro or whatever currency accounts you need and move all your money from home into them, if you like.

Friday, May 6, 2011