Get your Turkish visa online immediately
Every year, more than 30 million tourists visit Turkey, making it the sixth largest tourist destination in the world (excluding the United States and China) and the fourth largest in Europe. This trend started in the early 1980s with late President Turgut Özal’s tourism drive. Only in 2013 did the Foreign Ministry decide to contribute. Better late than never. The ministry recently opened an online electronic visa (e-visa) facility at which it takes about three minutes to apply and get an e-visa. No more visits to the Turkish consulate. No more paper trail. No more waiting at the airport. Just a few clicks and keystrokes and you have an e-visa!
Among the 30 million tourists to enter the country every year, a third are required to have visas. The objective is to turn all visas into e-visas shortly. Currently the system is processing and issuing 2,500 e-visas a day. That makes about 500,000 annually. To achieve the 10 million mark, kiosks are being installed at Turkish Airlines ticketing offices for e-visas. Before issuing an airline ticket, the ticketing officer needs to see your visa. See the time and carbon saving potential of the new kiosks? Just go to the Turkish Airlines ticketing office and get both the ticket and the visa immediately. There is potential for Turkish Airlines in this as well. Rarely in Turkey do we ever see examples of such smooth coordination between ministries for the common good. I even enjoyed the user-friendly new website for e-visas. (www.evisa.gov.tr/en)
However, the disconnect between different institutions for achieving common goals does seem to prevail in Turkey. While the e-visa applications is likely to contribute to the number of tourists visiting Turkey, the alcohol restriction bill being discussed in the Parliament is likely to have a negative impact on tourist arrivals. We’ll see what happens.
Finally, whether this visa ease will lead to better immigration flows to Turkey from surrounding countries is another key question. Lately I was talking to Ambassador Naci Koru, Turkish deputy foreign minister and the architect of this fine example of e-government in Turkey. I have often been lectured about the benefits of e-government. Here you have a concrete example of it in action. The system does not yet include work and study permits, but the ministry is pushing on that front, too. The first step appears to be on university lecturers. Their online applications will be automatically diverted to the relevant authorities and an e-visa will be sent to their e-mail boxes immediately. I happen to know how hard it is to get a work and study permits in Turkey. The government tends to consider granting work and study permits as a favor, something imposed by foreigners. Wrong. It is the skilled expats who are doing us a favor by choosing to contribute to the Turkish economic transformation process. Just check OECD education indices – the countries around Turkey have higher average years of schooling than Turkey does. Take a look at Armenia, Palestine, Syria and see the potential for Turkey. When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Turkey could not gain from the brain drain, even from the Turkic republics. Now, in this age of Arab transformations, things have to be different.