CNN: “United States and Turkey mutually suspend visa services”

by Joseph McKeown

UPDATE NOVEMBER 7, 2017: In a statement released Monday, the US Embassy in Turkey says that they "believe the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services in Turkey.” Consequently, the US Mission in Turkey has resumed processing non-immigrant visas on a limited basis. The US Embassy says that applicants whose appointments were cancelled can now reschedule appointments in Turkey. Limited appointment availability, however, could result in longer than normal wait times. Expedited appointments may be available in some cases. The US Embassy says that Turkish citizens with valid visas may continue to travel to the United States and that Turkish citizens are also "welcome to apply for a nonimmigrant visa outside of Turkey whether or not they maintain a residence in that country.”  The US Embassy has a helpful Q&A. In response to this announcement, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, also says it is resuming processing visa applications for US nationals "on a limited basis.”

The United States has suspended nonimmigrant visa services in Turkey, after last week’s arrest of a US embassy employee in Istanbul. In return, Turkey announced they were also suspending nonimmigrant visa services for American nationals. The US mission in Ankara said in a statement on October 8, 2017 announcing the suspension: “Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of US mission and personnel."

The move effectively blocks Turks from temporary travel to the United States. Ambassador John Bass notes in a statement that this nonimmigrant visa suspension is “not a visa ban” and only applies to new visa applications. Turkish nationals with valid visas can still travel to the US and nationals can also apply for visas at other US Embassies or Consulates outside of Turkey.  The Turkish embassy said their measure, which affects US nationals, would "apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border.”  

The US said it was "disturbed" by the arrest of their embassy employee, named as Metin Topuz, who is the second US government employee in Turkey to be arrested this year. Topuz was charged over alleged links to Pennsylvania-based opposition cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames Gulen for last summer's failed coup—a charge Gulen denies—and Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. At a news briefing during a visit to Kiev, Ukraine, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey says about the visa suspension: “This decision is very sad before anything else. It is regrettable that the US ambassador in Ankara took such a decision.”

Ambassador John Bass issued his statement hours later: “This was not a decision we took lightly and it’s a decision we took with great sadness. We realize that the suspension of visa services will inconvenience people. We hope it will not last long, but at this time we can’t predict how long it will take to resolve this matter. The duration will be a function of ongoing discussions between our two governments about the reasons for the detention of our local staff members and the Turkish Government’s commitment to protecting our facilities and our personnel here in Turkey.”