Travel Alert: Turkey and the United States Suspend Visa Services to Citizens of Each Country

If you are American and have plans to travel to Turkey in the near future — or if you are Turkish and have plans to travel to the United States in the near future — you are most likely out of luck and will be forced to indefinitely postpone your travel plans.

Travel Alert: Turkey and the United States Suspend Visa Services to Citizens of Each Country

The arrest of Metin Topuz — a liaison officer of the United States Consulate General who was accused of charges of attempting to disrupt constitutional order; espionage; and attempting to eradicate the Turkish government by allegedly assisting followers of Fethullah Gülen to escape Turkey — by officials of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan triggered the significant escalation of the disintegrating relations between Turkey and the United States when a statement from the Embassy of the United States declared that visa applications from Turkey were halted for an indefinite period as a result.

In what appears to be a retaliatory response, the government of Turkey almost immediately announced similar suspensions of issuing visa applications from the United States; and is still attempting to extradite Fethullah Gülen from his home in Pennsylvania.

Gülen — who is currently legally based in the United States — is accused by the Turkish government of being a key player in the failed attempt of a coup d’état on Friday, July 15, 2016 when members of the Turkish military forces closed two bridges over the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul as fighter jet airplanes were seen flying over Istanbul and Ankara.

Flights were diverted to destinations such as Sofia and Beirut because Istanbul Atatürk Airport was temporarily closed due to the violence which resulted from the attempt by military forces to overthrow the government and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the current president of Turkey. All airline carriers — regardless of country of registry — were temporarily prohibited from flying between the United States and Turkey either directly or via a third country as part of the fallout. Roads were also closed to traffic.

The prohibition was not lifted by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States until Tuesday, July 19, 2016 — but the damage had already been done, as some people expressed hesitation about flying as passengers between the two countries.

At least 300 fatalities were confirmed — greater than 100 were involved in the plotting of the coup d’état — as well as greater than 2,100 people were reported injured.

Official Statement From Turkish Airlines

The following official statement was released from Turkish Airlines on Monday, October 9, 2016 pertaining to ticket changes and refunds as a result of this situation:

Announcement regarding the ticket changes and refunds for Turkey-USA and USA-Turkey flights

Dear Passengers,

Due to the recent developments some changes have been made on Turkey-USA and USA-Turkey visa application processes. These changes do not affect passengers transferring to connecting flights in Istanbul.

Excluding passengers transferring to connecting flights in Istanbul; for all passengers holding Turkish passports flying to the USA and all passengers holding American passports flying to Turkey on Turkish Airlines and AnadoluJet Turkey-USA and USA-Turkey flights between October 9th, 2017 and October 31st, 2017, with tickets issued on or before October 9th, 2017, the following procedure can be carried out till October 31st, 2017:

For Turkish passport holder passengers:

  1. Reservation changes can be made free of charge.
  2. Refund requests:
    1. Refunds can be issued for tickets which have not been used.
    2. On tickets which have been partially used, a refund for the unused portion of the ticket can be issued.
  3. Extension of ticket validity: The validity of tickets can be extended to October 31st, 2017 (inclusive) without paying any price difference or penalty.
  4. These implementations are applied to only Turkish Airlines and AnadoluJetflights.

For American passport holder passengers;

  1. Reservation and route changes can be made free of charge.
  2. Refund requests:
    1. Refunds can be issued for tickets which have not been used.
    2. On tickets which have been partially used, a refund for the unused portion of the ticket can be issued.
  3. Extension of ticket validity: The validity of tickets can be extended to October 31st, 2017 (inclusive) without paying any price difference or penalty.
  4. These implementations are applied to only Turkish Airlines and AnadoluJetflights.

Regards,

Turkish Airlines

Summary

At the time this article was written, if you already have an approved visa issued to you to visit either the United States or Turkey, you are currently unaffected by the diplomatic crisis between the two countries — but that is not to say that those visas would not eventually be canceled in the near future if the situation worsens; so ensure that you are updated with the latest information prior to travel.

I attempted to obtain a visa to Turkey via the Electronic Visa Application System of the Republic of Turkey; and this is the response I received:

As for when diplomatic relations will once again be restored between the two countries is unknown at this time — but suffice it to say that travel is currently not possible between the two countries by their citizens.

Imagery ©2016 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2016 courtesy of Google Maps.

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