This article will assist understanding Turkey’s Citizenship via Investment Program, specifically with regard to real estate. This article is not intended as specific legal advice and each investment application should be reviewed by an attorney.
Immigration Investment Programs have become very popular as a source of foreign investment in real estate in countries from Canada to Greece, Grenada to Moldova. Some programs focus on investment for residency purposes (ex. Portugal, Greece) and others for citizenship (ex. Caribbean nations, Cyprus). Turkey’s investment immigration program focuses on citizenship and will likely particularly attract those citizens from emerging economies looking for a passport that allows them to travel more easily that their current passport. As of 2018, Turkish nationals enjoy visa free or visa-on-arrival status to over 100 countries or territories including Singapore, Japan, Ukraine, Brazil, Korea, Mexico and many countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Turkey’s program is also likely to be popular with many Arab nationals who were already investing significantly in Turkish real estate over the last several years.
Turkey’s citizenship regulations as of January 2017 allow several categories of investors to pursue Turkish citizenship, including capital investments, government debt instruments, investing in a business that employs 50 Turkish nationals, venture capital investments, etc. In September 2018, the threshold amounts required were significantly lowered, and with regard to real estate, investments of $250,000 USD now qualify. Clearly, investment in real estate has captured the most interest internationally as the threshold amount is lower than the vast majority of other investment citizenship programs.
For a real estate investment of $250,000 to qualify, several restrictions apply. First, the purchase must have occurred after the change in the regulations (see specifics below). Additionally the property must not be sold by applicant for at least three years. Note the following additional restrictions for real estate investments:
- If the real estate is subject to a mortgage, the remaining part shall be taken into consideration by deducting the mortgage fee in determining the value.
- The value in the official deed cannot be lower than the amount listed in the valuation report.
- Applicant must show official receipts (by bank) showing the transfer of sales fee.
- The real estate must be registered in the name of the applicant (foreign real person, may include spouse or minor children).
- The real estate must not have been purchased by applicant prior to 12.01.2017 for either program. If prior to 09.18.2018, the old regulations and thresholds apply.
The process of citizenship-by-investment is governed by the Foreign Investor Citizenship Application Special Joint Office (aka FICO). FICO is a special new government agency under the Ministry of Interior that joins representatives from the Populations Registry Directorate, Migration Directorate and Land Registry/Cadastre Directorate. FICO is currently set up in Istanbul and Ankara and will be rolled out in other locations around Turkey soon. FICO offices are set up to have desks with representatives of each of the Directorates to facilitate processing of cases from start to finish.
Citizenship by investment is a five-step process: 1. obtaining a Valuation Report, 2. issuance of a Certificate of Compliance, 3. filing a Residence Permit application, 4. Filing address registration, and lastly 5. filing a citizenship application. Note that those foreigners who already lawfully reside in Turkey may have already completed steps 3 and 4.
STEP 1: VALUATION REPORT
Applicants must first have the real property intended to meet the citizenship application threshold be officially assessed for fair market value. This can only be done by a valuation firm authorized by the Capital Markets Board. See link for list of authorized firms http://www.spk.gov.tr/SiteApps/SirketIletisim/List/gds
The valuation report can be issued before or after the acquisition of the real estate. It is sufficient to request a report with a copy of the deed, as the original or notarized deed is not needed. The valuation firm will need the consent of the property owner in order to study the property (site review) for a valuation report.
STEP 2: CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE
Once the valuation report is complete, assuming it meets the regulatory financial thresholds, applicant must then seek a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) from the Foreign Services Department of Land Registry and Cadastre Directorate (“Foreign Cadastre”). The Valuation Report, Title Deed and proof of fund transfer to seller are presented by applicant to the Land Registry office that has jurisdiction over the location of the property purchased. The Land Registry office scans the documents in the packet to transfer them to the TAKBİS (Land Registry and Cadastre Information System) via EBYS (Electronic Document Management System). The Foreign Cadastre will then issue a CoC to applicant if all criteria are met. Processing time is approximately one week to receive approval electronically.
STEP 3: APPLIATION FOR RESIDENCE PERMIT
Once applicant is issued a CoC from the Foreign Registry, they may apply for a special Residence Permit for themselves and their legal dependents. Normally the Migration Directorate (MD) requires several steps to book appointments for filing residence permits. However FICO’s Migration Directorate desk will allow qualified applicants and his/her dependents to streamline this process. The MD desk will require most of the documents typical for a touristic residence permit, but for this special investor residence permit, additionally requires a copy of the CoC.
Qualified applicants will be issued special category residence permits valid for one year. Note that this category of residence card does not permit the applicant to work in Turkey.
STEP 4: ADDRESS REGISTRATION
Upon delivery of the residence cards, applicants will also have to complete an address registration at the Populations Registry desk at FICO. This is a procedure in which applicants officially register their place of residence in Turkey. The original of the title deed must be provided to complete the address registration process of the applicant and his/her dependents. Applicants will then be issued written confirmation of the registration of their residential address
STEP 5: APPLICATION FOR TURKISH CITIZENSHIP
Once applicant and his/her dependents have been issued residence permits and obtained their address registration documents, they may move on to the final step: filing citizenship applications. Aside from the standard citizenship application documents, investment applicants must additionally present the CoC and title deed to the property.
The Populations Registry desk at FICO will send the citizenship application file to the General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs.The Directorate will then conduct a background check and research (particularly related to national security and public order considerations). Note that an interview is not necessarily required if applicants were interviewed previously for their residence permit applications.
A commission has been established within the Ministry of the Interior to monitor the progress of investment citizenship applications. In the event that applicants clear background checks, the application is forwarded from the Ministry of Interior on to the Office of the Presidency. The citizenship application is then granted upon the decision of the President. Following a grant, the Ministry of Interior returns the approved application to the General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs, for final processing. Applicants are then invited to the Population Directorate to be issued their Turkish ID cards and apply for passports.