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TURKEY: New Residence Permit Law Will Overhaul Immigration in Turkey.

On April 11, 2013, Law No. 6458, Law on Foreigners and International Protection, was published in the official gazette of Turkey and is set to go into effect in one year. This new law will make vast changes to residence permit eligibility and procedure, and will create a new governmental office.

The changes span a wide variety of issues, including the requirements for residing and working in Turkey, protection of victims of human trafficking, changes in business visitor rules, procedures and categories of residence status, grounds for deportation, and processing of refugees. Changes include the extension of the 90-out-of-180-day rule for tourists to business visitors. Also, sticker visas obtained at the border will only be valid for 15 days. The rule to apply for a residence permit within 30 days of entry will be extended to 90 days. The renewal of residence permits will be accepted for filing at a much earlier period of 60 days before expiration. Also, a new provision will allow the initial filing of residence permits at consular posts.

Significantly, new categories of resident permit eligibilities will be created, including for those who will open a business or buy real estate in Turkey. The law also requires the creation of a new Administration General Directorate of Migration under the Ministry of Interior, which is underway.

Residence Permits

Until April 11, 2014, residence permits are being handled by the local and regional Police Departments under the Interior Ministry. With the new law, this process will be moved to the new Directorate of Migration, as well as to consular posts for certain applications. The new Directorate will establish new offices under the governor's and district governor's offices around Turkey.

New categories of residence permits include short-term, long-term, family, student, humanitarian, and victims of human trafficking.

According to the new law, a foreigner must seek a residence permit in an appropriate category if he or she intends to remain in Turkey more than 90 days. This is an expansion of the previous 30-day rule. Short-Term Residence Permits will be valid up to one year. The new Long-Term Permit appears to have some similarities to a U.S. green card. This type of permit will require that the person has already resided legally and continuously in Turkey for at least eight years, shown that he or she has not required public assistance for the last three years, provided evidence of financial self-support (including health insurance), and not be a threat to public order or security.

Procedurally, the new law indicates that those applying for new residence permits must do so at a Turkish consular post in the applicant's home country. For those who already have a current, valid residence permit, extensions must be filed with the new Directorate officials at the local governor's office.

The new law stipulates that if a person is granted a work permit, he or she no longer must obtain a separate residence permit. This will be a relief to international assignees who have dealt with tremendous delays in residence permit issuance due to massive backlogs of applications at the local police departments in many municipal locations.

Deportation and Ban on Reentry

The law also creates new harsher procedures and penalties for deportation and a ban on the re-entry of foreigners who are out of status or not abiding by the terms of their stay. The ban may be up to five years in some circumstances such as overstaying, and up to 10 years if the person is deemed a "security threat."

Protection of Refugees and Victims of Human Trafficking

The new law also better protects refugees and victims of human trafficking. It is a significant step for Turkey's protection of human rights, particularly considering the refugee flow into Turkey from neighboring countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Under the new law, Turkey will not be able to return foreigners to countries where they will be subject to torture or inhumane treatment.

The new law indicates Turkey's awareness of the need to overhaul its management of foreigners. As Turkey's economy has grown, it is now a leading location in the region for expatriates of many international companies, as well as a prime location for new investment. As a result, the number of foreigners needing work permits has grown exponentially. Also, based on its location bordering several countries in turmoil, the processing of refugees has become a growing problem. Further detailed guidance is sorely needed well in advance of the April 11, 2014, implementation deadline.

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