Important update 2018: this article was written in 2016 and unfortunately, the residence permit requirements have changed a lot since then. Currently, getting a residence permit in Istanbul has become a nightmare. I will write a new post with updated information soon. Good luck!
I know exactly how you feel. You visited Istanbul, you liked it and now you are determined to stay. However, you are lost. Laws about residency change almost every year and no one seems to know what are the exact requirements you need to fulfill in order to get your residence permit. I know the whole process can be frustrating, but you don’t need to worry, you have come to the right place. I recently got my residence permit (ikamet) in Istanbul and I will spend the next couple of hours writing about my experience so this will hopefully make your life easier.
But first of all, do you really need a residence permit? When you enter Turkey as a tourist with the e-visa, you can stay for up to 90 days without a residence permit. You need to get your ikamet only if you plan to stay longer than that. Some call it chaos, but we made Istanbul our home; read on to discover how to get your residence permit step by step.
How to get your ikamet (residence permit) step by step
1. Get your appointment (randevu) and print out your application form.
Go to https://e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr/ and click on “first application”. Then choose the type of residence permit you would like to obtain (short term, unless you are a student or you are married to a Turk). After you fill out the application form, download the PDF copy, save it and print it.
Appointments can be difficult to obtain, and when there are appointments available, they are often for a date that is months away. Please, plan accordingly.
2. Get your tax ID number (Vergi numarasi)
You will need this number to open your bank account, pay the residence permit fees, get your insurance, etc. To get your vergi number, look for the nearest Vergi Dairesi (tax office) and go there with your passport. Tell them “Vergi numarası başvurusu yapmak istiyorum.” All they will ask you is your address in Istanbul and your mother’s and father’s name. You should be able to get your vergi number in 10 minutes or less.
3. Open your Turkish bank account and put money into it.
One of the requirements to get your residence permit is demonstrating that you have enough money in a Turkish bank account to live on during your stay. The first step for that is opening a Turkish bank account. That is a challenge in itself! Most banks do require a residence permit to open an account and the only bank which currently opens bank accounts without a residence permit is Ziraat Bankasi. To open your account, you will need your vergi number and a Turkish telephone number (they will send you passcodes to your phone).
Once you have opened your account, you will need to put money in it. Since your residence permit does not give you rights to work in Turkey, the Turkish Government will ask you to have enough savings for the time you plan to stay ($500/month for the purposed stay). This means if you apply for a one-year residence permit, you will have to prove that you have at least 6000$ (or the equivalent in any currency) in a Turkish bank account.
I know $6000 is a lot of money that not everybody has. If that’s your case, you might try asking a friend to transfer the money to your account. Once you get your bank statement showing that you have that money in your account, you can transfer the money back to your friend. Alternatively, there are also some agencies that can transfer the money to your account for a fee.
4. Get your health insurance (sigorta)
You need to have a health insurance that covers you in case of an emergency during the purpose of your stay. Emergency insurance from your home country won’t be accepted and you will need a Turkish insurance. Groupama, Güneş Sigorta and Ankara Sigorta are some of the insurance companies offering health insurances specially designed for the residence permit purpose. You can get your health insurance for around 550TL/year.
5. Get a copy of your rental agreement or proof of address.
Your name should figure out in it. In the event your name is not in the rental agreement, your best bet is going to a notary with your flatmate or whoever has signed your apartment lease and ask for a taahütname, a document verifying that you live with her/him. They must present a valid ID and your passport to the notary. Notary prices vary, but be prepared to pay around 50 TL for this document.
6. Pay the fees.
To pay for the 55TL fee for the residence permit card, you can go to any Ziraat Bankasi or vergi dairesi (tax office). After you pay, you will get a receipt that you need to show on your appointment date. The day of the appointment, you will have to pay another fee that varies depending on your home country. I remember I paid around 150TL.
7. Get 4 pictures
You will need four hard copies of your photos. Go to any photo studio and tell them you need a passport photo for your ikamet.
8. Prepare other documents
Some officials may ask you for additional documents such as a Turkish police record for the time you have been in Turkey or a document proving you haven’t received social aid. These are new requirements and it is unclear whether or not they are mandatory for everyone. Get them before your appointment if you want to play it safe.
In my case, they did not ask me for these documents but they asked me to bring a copy of the touristic e-visa and the page in my passport showing the most recent entry stamp.
9. Go to your appointment.
When the day comes, go to your appointment in the İSTANBUL İL GÖÇ İDARESİ MÜDÜRLÜĞÜ with your passport, your printed application form and all the documents requested. The address is Vatan Caddesi No:64 in Fatih (Istanbul). To go there, you can take the M1 metro line to Emniyet stop. Be prepared for lines and confusion as most staff at the Migration Department do not speak English.
In the event any of your documents are missing, don’t panic! You will be given one additional month to bring them. There is no need to make a new appointment for this, simply return to the same office and same official as you had met with for the first time.
10. Wait for your ikamet.
Around two weeks after your appointment date, once your residence permit is ready, you will be notified by phone call or text message and your ikamet will be shipped to the address you provided in the application form.
I hope all the annoying process is worthy and you enjoy life in this fantastic city as much as I do!
Disclaimer: Please know that this article is strictly informational and should not be taken as legal advice. If you have further questions or concerns, I advise you to direct them to the Communication Center For Foreigners or to the Directorate General of the Migration Management located on Vatan Caddesi No.64 in Istanbul. If you have a unique situation, it’s best to consult a lawyer. Thanks!