Permanent Residency in Turkey: Turkish Bureaucracy, Part 2 – This is the second part of a two-part series detailing my experiences with bureaucracy in Turkey during the first year. You can read Part One here.
Patience and Compliance: Obtaining My Permanent Residency
I had successfully gotten married to the love of my life, next I needed to apply for my permanent residency before my E-Visa expired in November. Every province in Turkey has an immigration office, known locally as the Göç İdaresi. This is where all long-term visas and permits are obtained. Located at the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe, Turkey hosts the world’s largest refugee population. This is largely due to conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others in the region. Being in a province of around 6 million people, Ankara’s immigration office is usually quite busy.
Almost three months after making the initial application, I received an interview appointment at the same office in January 2021. The line outside the building staggered up and down the street and it took 30 minutes to even make it inside. Next, we sat in a waiting room for two hours before my number showed up on the screen. We went to stand in another line at a specific office to have the interview and waited another 30 minutes. The interview was scheduled at 11:45 am but it wasn’t until around 2:15 pm that we could finally speak to an official.
The official took one look at my stack of documents and said something to my wife. She looked confused, they spoke for a minute, and then she angrily said, “Let’s go,” and we turned around and exited the building. Lighting a cigarette outside, she explained that he refused to process my documents because we did not have the right pink file folder to hold them in. I looked around and most, but not all, of the applicants were holding pink file folders. Luckily, a shop down the street was conveniently located to sell those folders as well as make copies or quick certified translations. The official also said he would allow us to skip the line and take the next available spot. Back inside his office, he gave us that blank stare that every career bureaucrat uses to simultaneously admonish you and let you know that your case doesn’t matter to them.
Before the application would be officially processed, however, we needed to pay the fee in the cashier’s line. That line took another hour and a half. When all was said and done, we spent five hours, six teas, two sandwiches, and one headache pill getting through that immigration office. As fate would have it, that wasn’t my last time in that office.
Corrections and Delays: One Tiny, Yet Crucial Mistake
About a month later, I received my permanent residency ID card. It was almost all correct, except for a misspelling of my middle name. Of course, none of my documents ever used that spelling so it was some careless data input on somebody’s part. Like any classic bureaucracy, however, it was going to be a serious problem for me if I didn’t get it corrected. Back to the immigration office, we went. This time, my wife and I went straight to the office where the official worked. After a short wait in line, she showed him the error. He said there was no way he could fix it and referred me to the documents office elsewhere in the building.
Upstairs and away from the crowd, we waited for the document’s official to get back from his lunch break. When he returned, we felt a sigh of relief as this was someone who actually seemed willing to help. He noticed the discrepancy, looked for evidence of it in the system, and promised to correct it within the hour. In much less time than he promised, he delivered me a new ID card with the correct spelling. After everything, we ran into the first friendly government official on our journey due to a misspelling of my name.
Struggling to Register My Name to My Address – Permanent Residency in Turkey
I finally had my permanent residency ID card, so it was time to register my name at our home address. This simple data entry would allow various government offices, banks, and clinics to link me to local jurisdiction. It would allow my wife and me to open a joint bank account, take out loans, open a mobile phone number in my name, and more.
We set off to visit the local population office in Çankaya, known as the Nüfus Müdürlüğü. After we got a number and walked up to the counter, my wife began to make our request. The official scanned through the documents and noticed that I was a foreigner. She said that they did not process foreigners at that office and that I would need to return to the immigration office. Not again! So, we got in a taxi and headed back there.
We went up to the information desk back at Göç İdaresi and told him our situation. The man behind the desk said that it’s not possible to register anybody at a home address from that office and that they’ve never had that responsibility. Really starting to get frustrated, we decided to call it a day!
The next day, we tried again and went back to the population office and hoped that another official would help us finish this. This time we did get another official and we did get a different answer. The new directive was that I can only register in the same population office as my wife, which was back in Sincan. Already going through the trouble of getting married in that city, I only saw more struggles ahead. At this point, I was ready to just give up and push the entire situation to the back of my mind.
A few months later, we visited my mother-in-law at her home in Sincan and helped her run some errands. She had just bought a new apartment and needed to update her address. We took this chance to not only register my wife at the new address but also finally get me registered as well. In contrast to the bustling population office back in Çankaya, this office was completely empty of residents. One obviously bored official sat behind his desk and we took a number just to keep things legitimate. He registered my mother-in-law and wife without issue but said that he was not able to do the same for a foreigner at this office. Unbelievable.
With patience already long lost, I simply tried to adapt to my apparently impossible transition to Turkish life. I would keep using my wife’s bank account, use a phone under her name, and do whatever else it would take to have a “normal” existence in the country. Still, something was scratching at the back of my head. After seeing three different population officials in two different locations, I realized that we got answers that simply couldn’t make sense. I decided that it had to boil down to either a general apathy or a serious lack of training. I decided that I was going to make my situation their problem to fix.
We built up the courage to go back to the Çankaya population office one more time. We took a number, waited, and then luckily got a completely new official at the desk. My wife took charge and told them all about our dealings with the bureaucracy up to that point. She said that we weren’t leaving the office until her husband was registered. The official begrudgingly went to go retrieve her manager. Within minutes, the simple data input was finished and my address was finally registered. After over a year in the country, it was finally done.
Perseverance and Focus: Staying Positive Despite the Challenges
Simply focusing on the good things in the country during your experience as an expat will do wonders for your mental health as you deal with the most frustrating bureaucracy. Even as you feel that your time and money is being wasted going between offices with little progress, it’s still important to remember why you made the move abroad in the first place. I have experienced plenty of inconveniences in Turkey during my time here, though I realize how much privilege I have and how incredible this country truly is.
Even though my wife took the lead in navigating the mess, we could have benefitted from some expert assistance. With the full disruption of the pandemic, Turkey’s bureaucracy seemed extra frustrating. Although this wasn’t a typical move abroad in many ways, I still wish I had the assistance of an immigration lawyer who had helped people through the process before.
I joined Expat Empire in 2020 to leverage my experiences in helping others achieve their dreams of moving abroad. Even though I have lived abroad for several years in different countries, I am still constantly learning new ways to adapt to expat life. We have developed a series of consulting services that will be customized to your unique situation. Wherever, whenever, and however you choose to go abroad, we’re ready to help!