The ongoing visa issues between the US and Turkey

Published on: Oct 24, 2017, Last Edited: Oct 24, 2017 | Tags: USA Visa Requirements, Turkey

In October 2017, both the US and Turkey stopped issuing visas to each other's citizens. This has caused considerable upset and chaos, with the US threatening to impose sanctions on Turkey to try and force the Turkish government to rescind its visa ban, and Turkey rejecting sanctions which it deems to be 'unreasonable'. At the time of writing this press release on this piece of USA visa and ESTA news, the situation is in deadlock.

The background to this USA immigration news item: how did we get here?

The situation began with the arrest of a Turkish citizen, Metin Topuz, who worked as a translator for the US embassy in Turkey. The Turkish authorities stated that they suspect Topuz of espionage and also of links to the group known as the Gülenist Terror Group which launched a coup in 2016 against the Turkish government. In addition, several US missionaries have been detained and either deported or threatened with deportation. The situation has escalated, with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stating in mid October that he no longer acknowledges the authority of the USA's ambassador to Turkey. The US retaliated by refusing to issue non immigrant visas to Turkish citizens, and the Turkish government did likewise for US citizens. The Us government continues to demand information about the whereabouts of Topuz, but as this item of ESTA and USA immigration news goes to press, it seems that none has been forthcoming. In order to try and resolve the deadlock, the Trump administration has threatened sanctions against Turkey, but the Turkish government has responded that it rejects most of the sanctions, and will only comply with sanctions that are congruent with the Turkish constitution. In addition, all major political parties in Turkey have condemned the USA's USA visa sanctions against Turkish citizens.

Which visas are affected by this move by the Turkish and US governments and the USA immigration authorities?

The USA immigration authorities have stated that they have stopped issuing non immigrant visas to Turkish nationals. This term is very broad, however, and a little vague (perhaps deliberately so) and so it is unclear whether it also applies to:
  • Charity workers
  • Academics coming to give conference presentations
  • Applicants for job interviews
  • Workers who are not diplomatic or government officials
  • Dual Turkish and US passport holders
  • Diplomats travelling to the US for a holiday or other leisure, rather than business, reasons
Though logically one might expect the visa denials to apply only to diplomatic visas, a number of high profile cases in which academics, missionaries, charity workers, and (in 2017 to global outcry) the all girls robotics team from Afghanistan, have been denied entry to the US casts doubt on this notion. It is more likely that the rules will be applied haphazardly and in several cases in a discriminatory fashion. In addition, it has been stated that any Turkish citizen who still holds a valid US visa will be able to enter the US during this period of tension and visa suspension

What was the usual situation for Turkish visas in the US?

Turkish nationals were not covered under the ESTA visa waiver scheme, and so all Turkish travellers to the US needed to apply for a visa to visit the States, whether for business or for leisure. The type of visa would depend on the more precise reason for travel, for instance studies, medical treatment, visiting family members, ortourism, to name but a few of the many options. 

Did US citizens need a visa to enter Turkey?

Yes, almost all US citizens have needed a visa to enter Turkey, prior to the tension that arose between the US and Turkish authorities this year.

What types of visas have been suspended for US citizens wishing to travel to Turkey?

It appears that all types of Turkish visa that US citizens might apply for have been suspended. Effectively, this means that US citizens are unable to visit Turkey in the present time. This has understandably caused great disruption, for example by preventing families from reuniting, causing holidays to be cancelled, and interrupting international employment. 

Check back for future press releases

Watch this space for more USA visa news and ESTA news as the situation in Turkey develops and new developments in the field of immigration and visas arise in the future.

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