Turkey Suspends Visa Issuance For Americans

Filed Under: Travel

Well that escalated quickly, to put it mildly. Turkish Airlines flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, so they’re a popular option for Americans, even if many prefer not to visit Turkey at the moment over safety concerns. Even if you only intend to transit a country, there’s something nice about knowing that you’d be able to enter the country easily in case your flight was canceled, etc.

Well, in the case of Turkey, that just became significantly more difficult. A worker at the US consulate in Istanbul was arrested over suspicions of being linked to a cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup. The US didn’t appreciate this, and issued the following statement:

Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel. In order to minimise the number of visitors to our embassy and consulates while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey.

With the US suspending non-immigration visa services in Turkey while they “assess” the situation, Turkey responded in kind, with the following statement:

Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel. In order to minimise the number of the visitors to our diplomatic and consular missions in the US while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have 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.

So Americans are no longer eligible for sticker visas or e-visas. As far as I know, this means that Americans can’t practically visit Turkey anymore, at least for those who don’t have existing visas (which should be honored).

Without getting into the actual merit of either side’s case here (since I really don’t know enough about this, other than what I’ve read in a few news stories), I don’t think there’s any denying that Turkey’s statement is incredibly childish. It’s one thing if they decided to have a reciprocal policy, but literally copying and pasting the statement of the US seems… low.

I’m curious to see how this plays out. Again, I get the concept of reciprocity, but you’d think at this point Turkey would want all the visitors they can get, given the huge drop in inbound tourists to Turkey. Furthermore, even for those not intending to enter Turkey, I imagine this will make a lot of people uncomfortable. So many people have safety concerns about flying Turkish (which I think are largely unwarranted, but the sentiment is out there), and the hostile relations here certainly won’t help in easing peoples’ fears.

Reuters reports the immediate impact this has had in Turkey — the Turkish Lira dropped 2.4%, the stock index fell as much a 4.7%, and Turkish Airlines shares fell 8%.

I’m curious to see how long this situation lasts.

What do you make of this immigration dispute between the US and Turkey?

  1. I don’t know anything about the geopolitics related to these decisions, but I wasplanning on booking a DOH-SYD J redemption with United miles and virtually all of the itineraries go through Istanbul with long layovers. I wanted to use the Turkish Airlines free tour of the city on the layover, but that seems to have gone to hell (at least temporarily). Bummer!

  2. The press release states: “effective immediately we have suspended all visa services regarding the US citizens at our diplomatic and consular missions in the US.” Historically, I have gotten my “sticker visa” on arrival at the airport in Istanbul, not at a Turkish consular facility in the US. Unclear how this will affect that dynamic…

  3. @ Clam Shack — I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe Turkey issues visas on arrivals for US citizens anymore. I know they used to, but I believe nowadays an e-visa is the easiest way.

  4. Here is all you need to know about the geopolitical issues. Erdogan is essentially a corrupt dictator. Anyone who opposes him he arrests or kills under the guise of calling them gulinists (as in followers of the guy named Gulin who is living in exile in the us) He has been demanding the US extradite Gulin to Turkey (So he can execute him) and the US knows they will kill him and will not extradite him. So now anything that goes wrong in the country from Erdogans stealing is just blamed on Gulinists and the US conspiring with Gulin. It is essentially what every dictator does, fabrication some beef with the US. Like Maduro in Venezuela, Kim in North Korea and the mullahs in Iran. Their corrupt governments don’t work with all of the stealing they do, so they need a scapegoat to blame and it is always the US.

  5. BBC reports that current visa holders will honored and the visas will be fully suspended after a week.

  6. Regardless of what side in politics you fall on reciprocity is a fact of deplomacy. Brazil has followed this tit for tat reaction to us for years. Now Turkey. As someone who travels more than 200k miles a year I have enjoyed the fair and warm treatment of every country I’ve ever been to. But I am horrified and embarrassed by the way we treat honest visa holding foreigners as they enter our country. I have personally witnessed this. This will jeopardize the safety and freedoms we as Americans enojoy as we travel the world. Every other country in the world has the right to their national pride and as we insult them we should expect the same reaction towards us.

  7. The Turkish government is totally paranoid. And they’re only shooting themselves in the foot. (and the part of my retirement account invested in Turkish ETFs)

  8. “Turkey’s statement is incredibly childish.” Have you heard what has come out of “our” mouths lately? “Childish” is an understatement of our leaderships behavior.


  9. I’m afraid Rob has it about right. We spent a month on a gulet (a Turkish sailing yacht) a decade or so ago with Turkish and American friends. It was wonderful.

    That was then and this is now. I think Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern secular Turkey, would be disappointed at recent developments.

  10. Don’t blame Turkey at all. Not that I had any plans to visit anytime soon but it’s not as if they’re dealing with a US administration that is being ruined by the best and the brightest this country has to offer. It’s a reciprocal policy – end of story. Copy and paste or not, doesn’t matter.

  11. Does this affect non-US citizens who may require visas and therefore the need to visit the Embassy or consulates within the US for travels to Turkey? In other words, are the Embassy and consulates closed to all visa services or just visa services for US citizens?

  12. We are flying Turkish business class next May after our Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona. BCN-IST-ICN before flying back to US. Since we are transiting through IST, do you think we’ll be OK?

  13. @KM – no impact to non-US citizens. I am a non-US citizen living in New York and called to verify that consular services are open for non-US citizens.

  14. Ben,

    You cant say “I really don’t know enough about this” then contradict yourself in the next statement by calling the Turkish Government’s statement childish. Either keep your commentary on travel alone or be balanced in your approach. You live in a country governed by a man who’s every second move is childish.

    It’s hypocritical and frankly wrong for people like yourself to sit there and criticize the immigration policies of other countries when America is doing all it can to make visiting there virtually impossible.

  15. @ Sam — I wasn’t criticizing the policy, but rather the way the statement was phrased. It’s an important distinction. As far as the childish leader of our country, tell me about it… we’re not in disagreement there.

  16. I can’t see the Turkish government restricting American tourists for long. My guess is that cooler heads (down the chain) will prevail and come up with a diplomatic solution.

  17. I’m not a supporter of the orange chump in the White House, but in addition to what has been previously posted, it should be noted that Turkey has had a number of US citizens arrested as a bargaining chip to exchange for Gulen. This is a bad situation, and Turkey is best avoided as of now.

    Erdogan has played a slow game of taking over Turkey and turning it into a dictatorship through the democratic process. It’s the same game Modi is playing in India, and Trump/Breitbert in the US. The analogy is why Trump has repeatedly said admiring things about Erdogan; he’s one of Trump’s models (the other is a Russian).

    It’s too bad, because Istanbul is a great, great city, indeed the center of the world.

  18. Strange as it might seem, the previous president at one point considered Erdogan his closest friend among world leaders and gave him full support through the military coup attempt. Go figure.

    But then I come here for travel tips, not political commentary. Can there be NO refuge from the political crap?

  19. Turkey has huge security problem. Isis has been using turkey as an in/out between the middle East and Europe for years. I’m happy the US is increasing security, and reducing risk. They need to do more honestly. Look how much terrorism has spiked in Europe due to easy immigration?

  20. This will be short lived…by that Im thinking a couple of months hopefully. Theres too much money at stake.

  21. US is being Childish. The arrested person is a Turkish national living in Turkey. Just because he works for an embassy (that can mean anything from driver to waiter at the Embassy cafeteria) doesn’t give him any special rights. I would have though after the Khobragade incident the US Department of State would have figured out that its not a good idea to try and through America’s diplomatic weight around for trivial issues. It only backfires.

  22. I can understand people having different political views from the current POTUS. But to compare him to a dictator who is having all of his political opponents, (heck even possible future opponents), arrested on false charges, jailed indefinitely, and in some cases murdered without a trial, is just lame. Or maybe I should say “Sad”. 😉

    Not to mention the folks here who have no sense of shame over their total hypocrisy, deriding the Donald with false claims of being allied with Vladimir. When it was Hillary who went to Russia with a “Reset Button”, and approved the sale of 10% of the US total supply of uranium to Russia n exchange for “contributions” to the Clinton trust.

    And Obama who derided Romney for calling Russia “our greatest geo-political foe” by saying “the 80’s called and they want their foreign policy back”. Then was caught on open mike whispering to the Russian figurehead President to tell Putin “”This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” to give in to Russian interests, on such minor issues as missile defense. 😉

  23. @Prabuddha I don’t consider the arrest of an employee of the US consulate trivial. Sorry if you do. Not to mention the fact Turkey is trying to arrest a second employee of the US consulate. In addition to a US national they arrested last year and detained and are trying to use as a hostage to force the US to deport a political leader of the current Turkish leadership. They are also doing the same thing to Germany where they are holding several german nationals hostage. This is a regime who has arrested over 40,000 people for allegedly taking part in the coup and they fired over 120,000 people, so you will excuse me if I don’t give much credibility to Turkish prosecutors when they claim someone committed a crime against the state. Are we supposed to allow them to keep arresting employees of the US consulate to use as bargaining chips? This from a Turkish leader who comes to this country with a security detail which beats viciously beats protesters inside US borders. The Turkish government is not our friend don’t kid yourself.

  24. @The Value Traveler I’m thinking weeks not months. Both sides have too much to lose here. The US needs access to those air bases and Turkey needs access to the tourist dollars. The only wildcard are the morons in charge of each country and whether or not their egos will let them negotiate.

  25. Had a trip booked to Capadoccia leaving Friday, the wife booked the visas online, she booked hers but hadn’t done mine yet. Lesson learnt – don’t leave travel booking to the wife, if I want it done right, I have to do it myself.

  26. @Fredd lies by saying President Obama thought of Erdogan as “his closest friend among world leaders.”

    @RobertHanson lies by consciously ignoring all the parallels between Trump and dictators/fascists.

    Lying is a very common strategy in both Trump supporters and Russian trolls.

    Erdogen, Putin, Un, Trump, etc. are just different tints of the same color.

  27. @NinLA:

    I was on a cruise last year that ended in Istanbul. The cruise company informed us we needed to handle our visas on our own. So anything that affects air passengers entering the country should impact sea- and land-based arrivals in the same manner. It is for *any* entry into the country, not just air travel.

  28. Ok great, so it looks like your OK if you are only transiting and not actually going through Customs?

  29. The policy was never reciprocal in the first place. Americas could enter Turkey via a sticker visa issued automatically upon arrival. Turkish citizens, by contrast, have never been part of the visa waiver program in the US. Turks had to go for in-person interviews, etc., to get a US visa. They couldn’t just show up at JFK or whatever and get issued a visa automatically.

    The Turkish tourism industry (and cosmopolitan secular Turks generally) already hate Erdogan, and this only makes it worse.

  30. @Richard Bradley – Buzzfeed had a very interesting piece on Breitbart’s role in the hate movements in the US: http://bzfd.it/2i1xKjr

    “…helped create the “neoreactionary” movement, which holds that Enlightenment democracy has failed and that a return to feudalism and authoritarian rule is in order.” This is what Big Orange’s minders are doing/leading him into.

    Regarding the Hilary/Obama conspiracy freaks here…DO SOME RESEARCH AND STOP REPEATING BIG ORANGE’S LIES. http://wapo.st/2y6HnU2

  31. Mrs. Fredd and I are currently in India, thanks to a $1300 EK business class fare. That’s why I visit blogs like this.

    Unlike some, I don’t worship ANY politician. Like many, I tire of politics imfesting so many areas of our lives.

    Did I lie about Obama’s friendship with Erdogan? A harsh accusation in a travel blog! Judge for yourself.

    Obama names his world leader best buddies!


    Erdogan and Obama: Best friends no more


    Having spent a month in a Turkey, I’m not pleased with the positive comments made of Erdogan by the previous OR current president.

    Look at the photos from decades ago of a secular Iran. IMHO Erdogan is taking Turkey in the same direction. Awkward, considering NATO and the country’s strategic position.

    Broadway shows, late-night TV and now the NFL… I hope Lucky’s blog doesn’t go political and close yet one more avenue of pleasure for folks like me.

  32. Hahaha instead of Laurel and Hardy we now have Donald and Erdogan.

    And guys, do’t forget the NRA video that has gone viral. Very informative and educational.

  33. It’s not as if the Turks haven’t given us plenty of reasons to be upset with them already (Anyone recall Erdogan’s visit to DC and the MMA exhibit on the lawn of the Turkish Embassy several months ago?), but the recent arrest of of one of our embassy workers in Istanbul seems to have been the straw with the White House. This wasn’t even an American citizen who was taken. It was a Turkish worker at the embassy who was charged with having ties to Cleric Fethullah Gulen (which is the same charge that the Tyrant of Turkey levels against anyone who disagrees with him these days). The Cleric is living in the US (and I believe holds a US Passport, but Erdogan believes we should hand him over to be executed because they asked us – dispite the fact there appears to be no evidence to support the charges against him). In response to the arrest, the United States severely scaled back visa services for travelers to Turkey and predictably, Turkey responded by doing the same thing to us. But in a sign that they might finally be taking the U.S. seriously, their Justice Minister came out the same day urging both sides to rethink this position and return to a more normal diplomatic stance. He clearly wouldn’t have sent such a signal without clearing it with Erdogan first, so perhaps they’re ready to be a bit more reasonable.

    And to be sure, the Turks make a fair point in this specific case. This was a Turkish citizen who was arrested, not an American. They do indeed have the right to bring their own people to trial if charges are filed, no matter how ridiculous those charges may seem. But that raises the larger question lurking in the background here. Why was it the arrest of one of their citizens at our embassy which drove the Trump White House to finally take action? The far bigger issue, is how Erdogan has now managed to imprison more than a dozen American citizens, including Pastor Andrew Brunson, for months on end and openly hold them hostage (Turkey admitted this last week) until we meet his demands. A foreign nation is holding Americans hostage with their president openly stating that we won’t get them back unless we deliver Fethullah Gulen to them for punishment. That’s a far cry more serious than Turkey arresting one of their own citizens inside their country and putting him on trial.

    You do not have to like the current U.S. President or dislike him, to recognize the Turkey has been acting more and more like a dictatorship and finally the U.S. has had enough. We need to let Turkey know that if they are truly our ally and want to be treated as a fellow NATO country then they need to start behaving like a responsible nation. If this is the Trump administration’s first strike in that direction perhaps we’ll drag Erdogan back to a reasonable position and bring our people back home. Who can object to that?

  34. @Bill – no one is the US’s friend right now. Regardless, if the host government considers that staff at a foreign embassy are engaging in activities meant to subvert the host government, they can take action. In the case of officials with immunity, they can request their expulsion from the host country. Ultimately, the foreign nation is still only a guest in the host country and vice-versa.

  35. Does anyone have credible evidence of US passport holders with a visa being stopped from entering Istanbul? I have my visa, hotel reservations for 2 weeks and airline tickets. I can’t afford to be turned away from the airport on October 18th.

    I have tried the State Department with no success. My hotel cheerfully tells me all is well, just come and I will not be turned back.

  36. @Kirsten, my friend and I entered Turkey on October 11, via a TA flight from Amsterdam. We’d obtained E-visas a couple of weeks prior to our trip and had no issues entering. We didn’t even know about the visa issue until the attendant at our hotel informed us. As always, my time in Turkey (Istanbul this time around) was lovely. If you already have the E-visa, you should be okay, unless something changes.

  37. Maybe we should all sue the government together for disrupting our holiday travel plans/business.

    I imagine those are real damages after all why do we care if the Turks arrest Turkish citizens. I mean they don’t care if we arrest US citizens right?

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