On October 8, 2017, the U.S. Mission to Turkey announced the immediate suspension of all nonimmigrant visas services at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, as well as its Consulates in Istanbul and Adana. Citing the need to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel” and “minimize the number of visitors to our Embassy and Consulates while this assessment proceeds,” the United States will no longer process new nonimmigrant visa applications for visitors, temporary workers, diplomats, or students within Turkey. Less than 24 hours later, the Turkish Mission to the United States issued a nearly identical statement directed at U.S. Citizens.
This visa tit-for-tat is the latest development in the fraying of a once-strong relationship that continues to deteriorate. Washington’s decision on Sunday followed the arrest of a Turkish Citizen employee of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. According to Turkish authorities, the consular employee’s arrest stemmed from alleged connections to the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom President Erdogan’s administration blames for the failed June 2016 coup d’état in Turkey. This arrest and the United States’ ongoing refusal to extradite Mr. Gulen, coupled with the indictment of 15 Turkish Security Officials in the United States, the arrest of U.S. Citizens in Turkey accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and Washington’s support of Kurdish fighters in Syria, amongst other conditions, have destabilized the long-standing U.S.-Turkish alliance and created the climate to support these reciprocal measures.
In a statement issued October 9, 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, described the recent arrest that triggered this suspension, as well as the ramifications for current visa holders and Turkish Citizens seeking U.S. Visas outside of Turkey. Importantly, Ambassador Bass confirmed the suspension was not a ban on Turkish Citizens traveling to the United States on previously issued U.S. visas. Petitioners may continue to file on behalf of Turkish nationals. Moreover, Ambassador Bass advised that Turkish Citizens may apply for U.S. visas outside of Turkey. Also, the suspension of processing nonimmigrant visas does not apply to ongoing or new applications for immigrant visas, which will continue per usual.
Even though the Turkish government’s initial statement mirrored the U.S., its prohibition on U.S. Citizens extends beyond Washington’s suspension. In fact, while U.S. Citizens with previously issued visas to travel to study, work, visit, or live in Turkey will continue to be allowed to do so, the government will not issue new visas to U.S. Citizens, no matter where they are applying. Additionally, there is concern that certain ports of entry will require U.S. Citizens holding a Turkish visa to have entered Turkey using said visa prior to October 8, 2017, meaning U.S. Citizens presently seeking to utilize their visas for the first time may be turned away.
This situation remains fluid and subject to numerous clarifications, and we will continue to provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you have any questions regarding how these actions affect your ability to travel, or to seek assistance in procuring a nonimmigrant visa in a third country.