Resident Aliens

After much brouhaha and faffing about, the Turkish Government will finally introduce new visa requirements on the 1st February. Essentially, this means that foreigners entering Turkey on a tourist visa can only stay for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period. Anyone staying longer will have to apply for a residency permit.

The permit process is not particularly onerous or expensive but it is a tiresome paper chase of red tape. It can be weeks before you finally get your mitts on the precious little blue book (that looks like it’s been knocked up by a child in a shed). Patience is needed. After years of encouraging foreigners to spend their readies and buy their dream holiday home, Turkey will not allow them to enjoy the fruits of their investment for more than 3 months at a time without becoming residents of a country they don’t reside in.

There’s a more significant change that is rocketing blood pressures into orbit. Spleens are being vented all over the forums. According to an article in the Land of Lights, the Turkish Parliament has passed a law requiring all expats with a residency permit exceeding twelve months to join the Turkish National Health Scheme. The cost will be a flat fee of 212 Lira per month each. This week’s special offers are two-for-one for married couples and children under 18 get in free. Those living in sin or have done the in-sickness-and-in-health thing differently (civil partnerships, for example) needn’t apply. Also, as with all the best health insurance policies, pre-existing conditions will not be covered. So it’s just tough if you’re a bit old and slightly doddery, with a touch of arthritis and spot of hypertension. That’ll be many expats then. Best not cancel your private insurance just yet.

The article also states that, while the scheme isn’t up and running yet, everyone is required to register by the end of this month. Failure to do so will attract a hefty fine. If this is the case, how come this crept up and caught us awares? What’s our man in Bodrum (actually, our woman) been doing? Sod all as usual.

I’m a great supporter of national health care, free at point of delivery and available to all. Apparently, the fee is the same for everyone, Turk and expat alike. I find this difficult to believe as 212 lira is a lot of dosh to most Turks I know. We’re happy to do our bit and pay our dues but I’m not keen on any scheme that isn’t linked to the ability to pay. As the cost of residency for Brits dropped dramatically last year, is this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul?

As with most things the devil will be in the detail. The forums are hot with gossip and hearsay, outrage, resignation, argument and counter-argument. I’ll let the dust settle before I decide what to do. I’d still like something from the Honorary Consul, though. I won’t be holding my breath.

37 thoughts on “Resident Aliens

  1. We are watching the whole health insurance thing carefully. There seems to be much confusion. We may well take a trip to Tire to try to register before the end of the month.

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  2. Hmm. I don’t like the sound of this. We expats have to be very wary of sudden changes in bureaucracy. It seems a bit of a counter-productive move for the government though – what benefit is there to them? Hope you figure it all out…

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  3. You’re right, there’s no way most Turks can afford that monthly payment for health insurance, and I’m sure that they pay less, or take a risk and pay nothing at all. In fact we have had SSK cover on and off over the years (more off than on) when Mr A has been fortunate enough to be employed with a contract, which means his employer is obliged to pay for it. Just this past month we have registered for Bağkur, an insurance which covers self-employed or unemployed which has been Mr A’s status for some time now. Fortunately it also covers me and only costs us 36 lira a month. Maybe most Turks have this by finding a way around the system? Who knows?

    You are wise to be cautious and wait for more concrete information. With any new legistlation here, the goalposts are constantly being moved. It would seem that the British Embassy hasn’t a clue what’s happening either…which isn’t very reassuring for expats.

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    1. Complete reciprocity would be interesting. I think a lot of expats don’t know the trails a Turk has getting into the UK. I don’t pretend to know how they fare when they get to the UK. I know we cant work here in Turkey. So, if there was complete reciprocity, I wonder if the Turks in the UK would be happiest, or us here in Turkey??

      Ayak said “You are wise to be cautious and wait for more concrete information. With any new legistlation here, the goalposts are constantly being moved. It would seem that the British Embassy hasn’t a clue what’s happening either…which isn’t very reassuring for expats.”

      Yes it is actually annoying/upsetting/confusing. I think most expats living in your country actually do want to abide by the rules, and this sort of confusion is unsettling. We have had instances of being told we HAVE to do something (which costs money) then it turns out to not have been necessary. A lot of us expats have a limited budget and cant afford to throw money away on the whim of an official in one office who is interpreting the rules their way (There seems to be a mentality in some Turks of ‘It doesn’t matter about the money ALL Yabancis are rich’, which is SO not true in a lot of cases). It is natural that we are now being cautious and trying to make sure the rule is set and how it works BEFORE we pay out more money.

      I also know that Turks have a hard time being messed around by
      bureaucracy here in Turkey. It’s life here.

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      1. yes l agree two wrongs doest make a right necessarily. Besides l know it is really hard for a European to understand what it felt like for us people here for long years. You guys were always free to come in with 10 pound visa and get a residence permit too easy comparing to a Turkish citizen, trying it in any European country. Sorry but Europe wanted this country to change and have some rules and regulations. On the other hand, there should be reciprocity principle. If UK or any European country is doing this to Turkish citizens, Turkey must do something in responce. Now they feel strong enough to do that. Although l do not agree most of policies of the existing goverment l am afraid l will support this one. More than that they should ask all the papers like, bank account details, title deeds, salary receipts, credit card extres etc. and give visa after an interview to all European and hand search (asking them to take all the clothes off) USA citizens at the airport. Than maybe other governments will start thinking…

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      2. Ahmet. I agree that all people should be treated with respect by all Governments. I am not a great supporter of some things the British Government does. There is no excuse for making anyone feel like a criminal. The point of my post is that the Turkish government actively encouraged foreigners to invest then changed the rules. That’s all. I’m sure we agree more than we disagree!

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  4. I think a counter argument may be
    The tourist visa is for genuine tourists
    The RP procedure is easy to complete in a single morning and the permit is ready for you to collect within 7 days
    With a RP you have unlimited entries to Turkey at no cost
    You do not have to wait everytime you enter Turkey for your tourist visa
    With a RP you can have your own landline
    With a RP you can buy and sell a car or motorcycle.

    As for SGK
    Turks pay the same as expats.
    We should be greatful to be allowed to join the health service of a country we are only guests in
    I have had SGK for the past 6 years but under the Bagkur scheme where i get a pension after 15 years.
    My wife and i have had treatment under the scheme including heart treatment.
    The system is well run but crowded I even get drugs at a lower cost.
    Local clinics are wonderful and well equipped Waiting times are zero i went to the local hospital Saw a consultant within 1 hour had xrays blood tests etc within 2 hours and was sent to a private hospital the next day for an angiogram

    i hope you of all people do not fall into the xpat trap

    I think these comments deserves airing on your main blog

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    1. Hi Richard. When we took out Bagkur a year ago, we weren’t sure if we’d get the pension or not. We didn’t care, we just wanted the healthcare. But, recently I have heard that now the authorities know we will get a pension from the UK, we wont be getting the pension from Bagkur. Watch this space…..

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    2. Hi Richard
      I know the resident permit process well. We’ve been residents from day one. As for the health system, we currently have private insurance but I’m more than happy to join the scheme and pay my dues (as stated in my post). I just question the process, the lack of transparency, the flat rate cost and the assertion that this is the same for everyone, Turk and expat alike. I sincerely hope that I’m wrong.

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      1. I think the process for RP is a lot easier now than when we got ours in 2007. I hope the renewal isn’t a coronary-job.

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  5. Looks like we’re all in the same boat then – sitting and waiting. The first I heard of it was a couple of weeks ago and that was bar gossip. Since then, it’s been forum and more bar gossip. And that’s what’s really annoyed me the most. No official info for anyone and the British Embassy have been more than conspicuous in their silence at a time when we all have a deadline coming up that’s filled with confusion. Not even a holding page from the embassy to say ‘info coming soon.’ Poor. We’ve got a few concerned Turkish friends, too.

    As we live in sin, no 2-for-1 for us, either. 😉 The only thing that’s making me smile with this is that everyone we know is saying they’re going to wait till the last minute to see if anything changes. There’s going to be one hell of a queue along the main road in Fethiye at the end of the month! 🙂

    Julia

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    1. Hey Julia, there was a small amount of info on the consulate site on 17th Jan, saying it wasn’t going to be made compulsory till December 2012. That disappeared double-quick (during that afternoon) and I think there’s no info now. Though I confess I haven’t looked today. Poor show. Disgusting.

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  6. Jack, I’ve done a bit more digging and will be hearing from the SGK office in Bodrum on Monday, when they find out all the details, as of Friday they still had no confirmation from the government. All they could confirm was that the rate for Turks had increased from 30 Lira to 35 Lira per month.

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  7. Jack, would you know if there is a choice whether you join the turkish health system or can you take out private health care? maybe you can let me know tomorrow. x

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  8. Reckon that’s why the residency permits became as cheap as chips. They now know where we live and are coming after us for compulsory health insurance! So many rumours and speculations surrounding this and not a British commissioner anywhere in sight to enlighten us. May have accepted this more in the summer but with the freezing conditions at the moment it irritates me even more. Would like to know why there is no reciprication – I’m almost sure that a Turkish person resident in the UK is entitled to free health care? Someone please correct me if I am mistaken. x

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    1. Yes, they will be as long as they are legally resident. I would like the Embassy and/or consulates to give us some information but, I suspect, this will remain just a hope.

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  9. Sorry to hear of these changes guys. Went through a variety of rumoured change such as this when living in Malta. Makes it harder to relax in the sun when you have no idea what is going on.
    Odd thing is that they are more or less bringing regulations in line with EU rules. When I lived both in Germany and France these rules applied i.e. 90 days then residency as well as compulsory insurance. Although a non national resident could opt out so long as you had private cover. Also we had to prove a minimum income in France to be allowed to stay beyond 90 days. Just to be clever there are no guidelines on minimum income required and no appeal. Consequently many on low income do not declare their presence and keep their heads down.
    Thankfully for us the French authorities were keener on hunting down other nationals and Balkan Gypsies.
    Malta linked it’s residency to minimum expenditure on property or rent as well as charging non nationals at least double for everything despite this being illegal under EU regs. Their approach is do this and face a fine from the EU but not pay them as they are too poor. To date Malta has been fined almost as much as it has been donated in grants!
    Good luck and hope things work out for you soon and the changes aren’t too restrictive.

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  10. Richard’s measured response is right in line with my experience of SGK. Pre-existing conditions are covered, by the way, we are cases in point! UK’s lead on this is from the consulate in Izmir and they are dealing with the ministry in Ankara. J and I are card-carrying members of the SGK system and have total health cover, near free prescriptions and could have everything done free at any state hospital/clinic. Most of the time we elect to use a private hospital and pay a minimal premium but are dealt with instantly. As users of the system we have no complaints and people should calm down, stay away from chat rooms/forums and wait whilst the inevitable wrinkles are ironed out.

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      1. Just a quick up date my partner has just found a number of a government social call centre that gives info on many matters. He has just called and spoke with one of the staff who has said it doesnt matter if you have private medical cover or not you still have to have the SGK if you have lived here for more than a year and hold a RP. If we find out more i will let you know, oh the number he rang was 170 calling from a landline phone.

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    1. Yes, we are happy with our Bagkur. I HAD heard that people joining now will not have preexisting conditions covered. If that’s the case, we are lucky to have done ours a year ago.

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  11. My partner who is Turkish has just read that this started on the 1-1-2012 and all are given until the end of this month to comply. But also read that everyone… turks and expats should all recieve a letter first about this! and from the date of that letter you are given one month to take it out, So as all have said its all a bit confusing….i hope that when someone knows for sure that Jack might update us on his blog if he would be so kind to do that.

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    1. David, I am replying here because I cant reply where you commented. Re SGK and private healthcare. We know that some Turks have SGK AND Private care. So,it seems the info from the call centre is correct.

      Re, the letter about Bagkur, I am not holding my breath. It will be interesting to see when (and IF) anyone gets one.

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  12. State health insurance – what a farce!
    I am retired by age, my husband by disability. We moved here 2 years ago. Both of our res permits say emekli. For us, with the increasing onset of health problems, the state scheme seems a good idea. We have friends in our village with exactly the same circumstances, they gave up a good private UK scheme to join the SGK scheme and went to Aydin (from Didim) for it. They pay regularly and have had a few minor benefits. So we thought to copy them. Ha!
    Hoop 1: Aydin says Didim people must use Soke office. So we drive to Soke with a guide/interpreter/friend. Nobody in the Soke office knows anything about the rules for yabanci. So they must phone Aydin (which can but won’t do it) for instant training. There we discover that Didim tax office advised us incorrectly that Vergi Kimlik no. is the same as Yabanci Kimlik no. We return home to find the correct number online, although the Soke office says it’s not there.
    Hoop 2: Return next day, wait in long queue (system down) to be told we don’t have address on system. Tell them our address but no, it must be on system. Return to Didim nufus office, which puts address on system. Trot down to muhtar’s office with slip of paper.
    Hoop 3: Return for another queue with triple copies of everything that could conceivably go on paper. Get to official who says see manager upstairs. Struggle upstairs, manager says retired yabanci can’t join. We say retired yabanci already have joined, he threatens to find out who and stop them, tells us to leave.
    Three trips, three loads of diesel, three payments to interpreter, three jumps through the hoops, all for nothing. I worked for DSS in the UK and thought we did a terrible job, but these people are awesomely bad. Not awesome as in a foot-long sausage, but awesome as in the stars of the universe. Why did they start to process us without knowing what they could or couldn’t do, or how to do it?
    And what happens now? Do we have to jump the same hoops again?

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    1. What a bleedin’ palavar. In my experience most Turkish red tape is pointless in its Byzantine complexity. Like you, this is me speaking as a former public sector bean counter so I should know. I’ve stopped worrying too much as it’s only my blood pressure that is affected. I don’t know the answer to your question. I’m hoping it’ll all come out in the wash.

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  13. We used to joke about the retirement office being on the top floor or the SSK office in Mugla. To get your retirement payment, you had to go up 4 flights of stairs, then down to get a stamp, then up to get a signature then down to get another stamp and so on. Not everyone made it. Kept costs down.

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  14. We are not presently based in Turkey – but will be watching with bated breath on this one. I am encouraged by Alan’s positive review of the SGK, discouraged by Annie’s stairs story (insane example of “street-level bureaucracy” in which front-lines bean counters like the former Jack use discretion to implement policy – sorry the policy wonk professor in me is pushing her way into this comment!). Strikes me that it may be time to get our marriage (and note, we are lucky that we have the right to this) recognized by the Turkish government to simplify things…the major reason we are legally married is to avoid crap like this in Turkey once we are there full time as citizens and residents! M. says Turkish bureaucracy is one of the things that drove him out of the states in the first place…

    More posts on this, please Jack!

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  15. It’s true that there are many grey areas as far as the SGK is concerned which, as anyone who’s lived here for some time will tell you, is to be expected and only time will tell exactly who needs what. As far as residency is concerned however, this has actually been an unenforced ‘rule’ for a long time. If you are going to spend more than 6 months (or 180 days) in a country, you are classed as a resident. Similarly, if one spends less than 6 months in the UK, you are no longer classed as a UK resident either. As for where all the money’s going…

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    1. We know people who spend two to three months here in the spring and then again in the Autumn. They avoid the height of summer. They occasionally pop over during the winter. They will now have to apply for residency even through they clearly aren’t residents. I know it’s a technical point.

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