Dear reader, please note that this article is strictly informational. For details we advise you to direct all your questions to the Directorate General of the Migration Management located on Vatan Caddesi No. 64 in Istanbul. They will be able to address all concerns you might have.
Most foreigners arrive in Turkey on a visa valid only for 90 days out of every 180. The laws regarding tourist visas changed in 2014, so ignore any out-of-date information that says you are able to extend your stay in Turkey by simply exiting and re-entering the country every three months, as was permissible under the old regulations. In other words, if you stay here for your full 90 days you cannot re-enter Turkey until a total of 180 days has passed from the start-date of your last visa. If you are planning on travelling back and forth from another country to Turkey, as long as you do not exceed your 90 out of a 180 day allowance, this may work for you. But if you do plan on settling here for more than a few months, it makes sense to get yourself a residence permit.
So you came, you saw, you liked, and now you want to make Istanbul your home. One of the first steps is getting a residence permit, or ikamet. As of May 2015, all applications and renewals are processed by the Directorate General of Migration Management. Once you have used the online form to make an appointment, simply collect all the necessary documents, and arrive at the Direcorate half an hour before your appointment (to allow time to pay your fees and find your way around).
Make an appointment online
Use the online application form at e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr to make an appointment with the Directorate General of Migration Management's head office at Vatan Caddesi No. 64, Aksaray. As of January 2016, residents of specific districts will be given appointments at centers within those districts. The relevant information is below.
Residents of Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, and Şişli will have appointments at the Beşiktaş Çalışma Grup Başkanlığı (No.10 Gönenoğlu Sokak, Gayrettepe, Beşiktaş)
Residents of Beylikdüzü, Büyükçekmece, and Esenyurt will have appointments at the Beylikdüzü Çalışma Grup Başkanlığı (No.18 Hürriyet Bulvarı, Beylikdüzü)
Residents of Kadıköy and Üsküdar will have appointments at Kadıköy Çalışma Grup Başkanlığı (No.1 Kuzu Kestane Sokak, Bahariye Caddesi, Kadıköy)
Residents of Pendik, Kartal, Maltepe, Sultanbeyli, and Tuzla will have appointments at Pendik Çalışma Grup Başkanlığı (Hükümet Konağı, Yücel Sokak, Pendik)
The new registration process requires upload of a biometric photo, so make sure to have a digital version of your latest mug shots at hand. You will also be required to enter passport details, addresses in Turkey and abroad, a rough estimate of your income, and contact information. While first time applications require the applicant to hand in their documents in person, applicants for renewal are now required to send all their documents by mail, eliminating the need for a personal appointment. If you had an existing appointment at the Foreigner's Department, don't dispose of the printed application form just yet, you may be required to send them in or hand them over as well.
The fees for the residence permit and the permit card have to be paid at the cashier's desk at the Directorate General (or at local tax offices in the case of a renewal). Fees at the Direcotate General must be paid in cash. The amount varies depending on which country you are from, but is usually around 300 TL.
While the date of birth is entered in the DD/MM/YYYY format, the passport issue and expiry date has to be entered in the MM/DD/YYYY format. In case of doubt, click the little calendar icon next to the box and select the correct date there to avoid format errors.
Please note: on the last screen you will be asked if you already had an appointment at the Foreigners' Department. If that is the case you will now be prompted to enter the date and time of the appointment. Again, use the calendar and clock icons for correct format. If 'your' time slot is not available or creates an error message, try to select another time slot instead.
What you need
On the day of your appointment, don’t forget to take all the necessary documents and fees with you or you risk being sent away. If you're applying after August 13, 2016, you can apply for a Short-Term Residence Permit that is valid for up to two years (while Family Residence Permits have been extended up to three years). The documents you will need for a Short-Term Residence Permit are:
1. Your passport.
2. Photocopies of your passport’s information/photo page and the page which has your visa for your last date of entry.
3. Four passport-sized photos – you can get these done at any of the photography shops you find down the city’s backstreets.
4. Proof that you have the financial means to stay in the country for the length of time you require, i.e. $500 per month or its equivalent in another currency. This has to be presented in the form of a statement from your Turkish bank.
5. A print-out of the online form you filled in.
6. Receipts of the payments made.
7. Proof of health insurance. Emergency insurance from your home country won't be accepted as a proof of health insurance. Full Turkish insurance is a requirement. Companies such as Güneş Sigorta offer basic policies suitable for residence purposes. You can buy Güneş Sigorta policies from any Vakıfbank branch.
8. Proof of address. This change also dates from the new law that came into effect in April 2014. A copy of a signed contract between yourself and your landlord is required. It must be notarized - do not forget to take your passport to the notary (noter in Turkish) when you go to do this! If you do not have a rental agreement and are staying with a friend or relative, they can sign a form at the notary which states that you live with them. For this, you will both need to go to the notary - you will need your passport and they will need their national ID. All notary offices in Istanbul have copies of this form.
9. Police check. This can be obtained from the Çağlayan Justice Palace (Çağlayan Meydanı, Abide-i Hürriyet No. 223, Şişli). Please note that this is a new regulation and has been inconsistently applied, however we recommend that to avoid disappointment you ensure that you have the necessary document.
For other forms of residence permit, such as student permits or family permits, additional documents may be required.
Until August 13, 2016 there had been a rule that anyone spending more than 120 days (for Short-Term Residence Permits) or 180 days (for Family Residence Permits) outside of Turkey in the previous 12 months would mean that their permit was cancelled. These restrictions have been removed.
Once you have made an appointment and collected all these documents, simply turn up at the Vatan Caddesi offices at the appointed time, and wait for your turn. You will meet with an official who will go through your papers. If you have any papers missing, you will be given one month to produce them. There is no need to make a new appointment for this - simple return in good time to the same office and same official as you had met with originally.
When your residence permit is ready, you will be notified by phone call or text message. You will need to collect it from the post office closest to your listed address.
Please note: The regulations above relate to foreigners from Group A countries: EU member states or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. All other countries fall into Group B. To check all country-specific rules, check Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.