US and Turkey Suspend Visa Services, Effectively Halting Travel Between Countries

Oct 9, 2017

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Update 12/28/2017: The Turkey-US visa spat has been resolved and now Americans are able to easily apply for Turkish e-visas once again.


Tensions are rising with one of the United States’ key allies in the Middle East. Effective immediately, US citizens are unable to get Turkish visas. This essentially halts travel of US citizens to Turkey for those who haven’t already obtained a visa.

Here’s what happened: Last Wednesday, a US consulate employee in Istanbul was arrested for suspected ties to Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric exiled in the US whom the Turkish government blames for organizing an attempted coup last July. The Turkish government has used the coup attempt to justify arresting at least 40,000 people — including domestic and foreign journalists — and firing 120,000 for suspected ties to the opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In response to the arrest, the US Embassy in Turkey’s capital of Ankara released a statement Saturday, saying that it’s “suspended all non-immigrant visa services at US diplomatic facilities in Turkey.”

As Turkey isn’t part of the US visa waiver program, Turkish citizens are required to get one of these visas in order to visit the US. This move effectively shuts down travel to the US by Turkish citizens who haven’t already obtained a visa. Now, only Turkish citizens applying to permanently move to the US will be able to apply for visas.

In response, Turkey released a nearly verbatim statement noting it has “suspended all visa services regarding the US citizens at our diplomatic and consular missions in the US. This measure will apply to sticker visas as well as e-Visas and border visas.”

This tit-for-tat diplomatic row between the countries comes just two weeks after President Trump hailed Turkish President Erdogan’s leadership in Turkey, saying Erdogan “has become a friend of mine.” President Trump said, “I think now we’re as close as we’ve ever been.

TURKISH AIRLINES FLIGHT CHANGES/CANCELLATIONS

Currently, only Turkish Airlines flies directly between the US and Turkey. Since it was possible for US citizens to get a visa on arrival in Turkey, you have been able to book flights and fly without a visa. For those who are stuck in this situation, Turkish Airlines has already released a change/refund request program.

The waiver is available for tickets purchased prior to October 9 for flights scheduled from October 9-31. Only flights terminating in Turkey are eligible. If you’re connecting through Istanbul (IST) to another final destination, this waiver doesn’t apply.

Here are the details of the travel waiver:

For American passport holder passengers: 

1) Reservation and route changes can be made free of charge. 

2) Refund requests: 

  • a) Refunds can be issued for tickets which have not been used. 
  • b) On tickets which have been partially used, a refund for the unused portion of the ticket can be issued. 

3) Extension of ticket validity: The validity of tickets can be extended to October 31st, 2017 (inclusive) without paying any price difference or penalty. 

4) These implementations are applied to only Turkish Airlines and AnadoluJet flights

One issue with this waiver is overnight layovers in IST. Due to Turkish Airlines schedules, many flight options require a long or an overnight layover in Istanbul. Turkish Airlines even promotes free city tours and hotels for those on long layovers. It’s unclear if those with long or overnight layovers will be able to change their flights due to the inability to leave the IST airport during a scheduled long layover.

Featured image by Erhan Ortac/Stringer via Getty Images

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