What foreign nationals should know about the new migration management in Turkey

What foreign nationals should know about the new migration management in Turkey

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Barbara Pusch*
Nearly two years ago, Law Number 6458, the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, entered into force.  Due to the increasing number of Syrians and the lack of legislation regulating the status of refugees in Turkey, the implementation of this law had been long overdue. Law Number 6458 had finally granted Syrians temporary protection and various legal rights in Turkey. As the displaced Syrians had been of primary concern to the Turkish public, the pros and cons of the consequences of this law had thus been primarily discussed in light of the particular Syrian case. However, within the course of the debate, the fact that this law not only determined the legal status of Syrians in the country, but also more broadly regulated the legal status of all foreign nationals in Turkey, had been largely overlooked.

In general terms, it can be said that Law Number 6458 is very comprehensive. It regulates not only the legal status of refugees, but also provides the legal basis for the construction of an entirely new migration management system and a complete revision of foreigners’ residence statuses. However, due to the focus on the change in the status of Syrian refugees within this law, large sections of Turkish society, as well as various international communities, are not yet aware of the law’s overall impact on all foreign residents.  Inevitably, this has led to chaos among authorities and foreigners. For this reason, the Istanbul Policy Center, within the Mercator-IPC-Fellowship Initiative and under the patronage of the German Consulate General in Istanbul, organized an event on March 13 in an attempt to better understand the precise changes that this law has made for all foreign residents of Turkey.

With the participation of Bülent Çetinkaya from the office of the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) in Ankara, Nuray Ekşi, a law professor at Yeditepe University, and other stakeholders, we began by introducing some general aspects of the new law. Following this, a panel discussion was held with Çetinkaya, Prof. Dr. Nuray Ekşi, Ömür Ceylan (the head of the Foreigners Department of the Istanbul Police Department) and Christine Yıldırım (of the Türkoğlu Law Bureau and the Die Brücke Association). The invited participants had the opportunity to discuss their concerns. Some of the most important information is summarized here:

•    Foreigners who wish to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days within a 180-day timeframe must apply for a residence permit.

•    When applying for a residence permit, the passport of the applicant must be valid for at least 60 days after the expiration date of the request permit.

•    The law distinguishes six different types of residence permits: Short-term residence permits, family residence permits, student residence permits, long-term residence permits, humanitarian residence permits and victims of human trafficking residence permits.

•    In the future, foreigners who plan to settle in Turkey will be able to apply for residence permits at the Turkish Consulates in their home country. This will reduce the waiting time in Turkey.

•    Short-term residence permits automatically expire after the permit holder has spent more than 120 days abroad.

•    After having resided in Turkey with a short-term, family or student residence permit for more than eight years, foreigners have the right to apply for long-term residence permits. The applicant must be permanently residing in Turkey, (in other words, this means that they have not been abroad for a total of more than 364 days over the last five years or for more than 120 days in a row).

•    If holders of long-term residence permits want to work, they must apply for a work permit.

•    The inspection of marriages has become international standard because of the increased number of marriages of convenience. Turkey is no exception.

•    Holders of work permits do not need to apply for a residence permit anymore. Work permits are granted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

During the event, it became apparent that the new migration management system is still not functioning smoothly, as the DGMM is still being established. However, representatives are positive that the chaos around foreigners’ residency will end as soon as the necessary structural reforms are completed. Let’s hope!

For further information:

•    Law Number 6458 has been translated into eleven languages (http://www.goc.gov.tr/icerik3/11-dilde-yukk_327_328_1174).

•    The Webpage of the Directorate General of Migration Management also contains detailed information on the documents required for different types of residence permits (http://www.goc.gov.tr/icerik6/ikamet-izni-basvurulari-icin-gerekli-belgeler_350_361_3603_icerik#).

•    Information on work permits is provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (http://www.csgb.gov.tr/csgbPortal/yabancilar/eng/index.html).

* Assoc. Prof. Dr. Barbara Pusch is a Mercator-IPC Fellow at Sabancı University’s Istanbul Policy Center.