Turkey Begins Issuing Visas to Americans Again — But There’s a Catch

Nov 15, 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.


In early October, an arrest of a United States consulate employee by the Turkish government led to a sudden diplomatic breakdown between the two allies. First, the US suspended non-immigration visa services for Turkish citizens. Immediately afterwards, Turkey suspended all visa services for US citizens.

In the month since the breakdown, there has been little official communication about a thawing of restrictions. But, there have been interesting developments. For example, I was unexpectedly able to enter Turkey on October 23. The same day, a TPG reader sent an email saying that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US passport holders could receive visas on arrival — as long as you arrive from a country other than the US.

Where do things stand five weeks after the initial breakdown? Let’s check in.

In This Post

E-Visas

Turkey introduced an e-visa application process in 2013. This saved travelers from waiting in long lines and handing over $30 for a visa upon arrival. However, immediately after the suspension of visa services on October 8, the system blocked US passport holders from obtaining an e-visa from this system. And that’s still how it stands:

The first step of my eventually-successful attempt to enter Turkey on October 23 was to use one of the e-visa machines in the Istanbul airport. US passport holders are also blocked there:

For those that got an e-visa prior to the suspension of services, those are still being honored by Turkish border control agents.

Visa on Arrival

Although officially all visa services were suspended, as I experienced in October, US passport holders can still get a visa on arrival if arriving from a country other than the US. I’ve heard from plenty of others who have been able to use this back door to enter Turkey.

This was explicitly stated to a TPG reader by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

You can obtain a visa upon arrival, only if you travel to Turkey from a country other than US. (Transit passengers are also not eligible for visas upon arrival. For example NYC-Paris-Istanbul)

I reached out to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week to see if this is still the case. Instead of confirming or denying, the response directed me to my nearest embassy or consulate. Since I was in California at the time, I inquired with the Los Angeles consulate about the situation. Instead of answering questions about obtaining a visa on arrival, the response provided details about how to obtain a visa from the consulate (see below).

As none of these responses answered my questions, at this time, it’s unclear if Turkey is issuing visas on arrival to US passport holders.

Obtaining a Visa Pre-Arrival

As noted above, I contacted Turkey’s Los Angeles consulate with questions about obtaining a visa upon arrival in Turkey. Instead of answering these questions, the representative provided unsolicited directions on how to apply for a visa prior to arrival. I’ve followed up to see if this is the only visas that are being issued, but haven’t received a response.

This information isn’t being provided publicly at this time, but here are the (many) steps that the Los Angeles Consulate provided me on how to apply for a visa:

[Below] is the information for how to fill out the visa form. Please read carefully. You need to apply to our Office after completing the form with all the documents. You need to apply in person. Please keep in mind that we can issue a limited number of visas starting Monday (Nov.13) and you need to make an appointment after submitting your form to be able to secure a visa.

Important regarding recent developments: Please fill your citizenship as Stateless and your passport as stateless or any random country other than US to proceed.

Important Information:

  • There should be at least 60 days till the expiration date of your Passport or Travel Document by the time you are leaving Turkey. Otherwise you need a new document or need to change your Schedule.
  • If the website is down, please report it to the Call Center. As Consulate General, we have no control over website and cannot accept applications without the online form submitted.
  • Fill your full name and surname as seen on your Passport or Travel Document, in capital letters.
  • If you have a common name, don’t forget to fill out parents’ names.
  • If you have a US Travel Document, you need to select “Stateless” as your current citizenship.
  • If you have been in Turkey before, you are obligated to fill out the information in Travel History.
  • The Consulate will require additional documents. If you haven’t asked for the required documents for your situation, contact consulate.losangeles@mfa.gov.tr and describe your situation in detail to learn all of the documents.

In order to fill out and submit your application:
1. Go to www.konsolosluk.gov.tr – The website gives you the option to change language.
2. Select United States of America, Turkish Consulate General in Los Angeles
3. Click on Visa, then “Visa Pre Application”
4. Fill out the necessary information correctly
5. Make sure you select the correct visa type, most relevant to your application
6. Upload the documents correctly. If there is a problem uploading the document, contact us at consulate.losangeles@mfa.gov.tr Every visa type has different requirements. The Consulate may require additional documents. Contact our Office to learn the requirements.
7. Enter your personal information correctly
8. Enter your contact information correctly
9. Enter your travel information correctly
10. All applicants other than tourists who are staying in a hotel and don’t have relatives in Turkey need to fill out the Host or Contact person information
11. After finishing all the steps and checking your application, click “Complete Your Application”. In the next screen, click “Make Appointment” to make an appointment, then Download and Print the Application Form by clicking the little save sign above the SUBMIT button.
12. Click “SUBMIT” to submit your application.
13. Come to your appointment with all the required documents. (Unless you have been informed by our Office that you can send via mail)

Bring us:
1. the form (follow the directions in attached note to obtain the form)
2. if applicable letter from festival/club/organization, if you are part of a wedding or special purpose travel party, itinerary
3. travel information (plane ticket and hotel reservation) (If you are not staying in a hotel, you need to bring a letter in Turkish or English, from people you are staying with, inviting you, including their full names, alien ID no.s, phone numbers, e-mails and full address)
4. health insurance information (you need to have a valid international insurance showing you are covered for a minimum of US$30,000)
5. your passport
6. one biometric photograph
7. 160 usd for single, 200 usd for multiple entry, as Money order or cash
8. prepaid return envelope with a tracking no

There’s a ton of information in there. Basically, it boils down to saying you need to start your application for a Turkish visa online as a stateless person before going to a Turkish Embassy or Consulate with $160 (single-entry) or $200 (multi-entry) to be issued a visa.

This was the information provided by the Los Angeles Consulate. It’s unclear if the same process is being used at all Turkish Embassies and Consulates. For reference, Turkey has an official presence in Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City

Turkish Airlines Flights

Right after the visa ban started, Turkish Airlines issued a travel change waiver for flights through October 31. Unfortunately, this date has come and gone without a visa resolution in place. So, on October 31, Turkish Airlines re-issued the waiver for flights arriving in Turkey through November 20.

The restriction remains in place that you must have purchase your Turkish Airlines ticket by October 9. This is bad news for anyone who hasn’t been following the news carefully. Turkish Airlines still is selling tickets between the US and Turkey — and there are no notices or warnings in the Turkish Airlines website sales process.

Here is the statement Turkish Airlines customer service is providing customers about the situation:

Due to the recent developments, excluding passengers transferring to connecting flights in Istanbul or Turkish visa holders; for all passengers holding American passports flying to Turkey between October 12th, 2017 and November 20th, 2017 on our flights, with tickets issued on or before October 9th, 2017, reservation and route changes can be made free of charge through our call center +90 850 333 0 849.

Upon clarification, the Turkish Airlines agent also noted that you can call the US reservations line 1-800-874-8875.

The travel waiver provides further details:

  • Reservation and route changes: Regardless of whether there is space in the same fare class, reservation and route changes can be made within the same flight cabin, on condition that these are within the same IATA region. This also includes passengers with a stopover.
  • Refund requests:  Refund requests will be processed free of charge regardless of fare rules.
  • Extending ticket validity: Ticket validity may be extended to November 20 2017 and no price difference or penalty will be charged.

Bottom Line

The US-Turkey situation is still very much in flux. The good news for those that need to travel to Turkey is that there’s now a way that Americans can officially apply for a Turkish visa before arrival. The bad news is that it involves a horribly complex process. And, the addition of this formal method might mean the end of the informal visa on arrival process for travelers arriving from another country.

Featured image by Seqoya/Getty Images

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