Brits in Bodrum got together again on Wednesday for the biannual Consulate Information meeting. Proceedings were opened by our Honorary British Consul in Bodrum, Neşe Coşkunsu who handed over to Timothy Fisher, Consul and Director of Consular Services in Turkey, who gave us an update on travel advice issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There has been no change in the Mediterranean and Aegean areas, but there is a warning against all but essential travel to the Turkish provinces bordering Syria. This is a significant change as previously the warning was just to avoid the border, now the whole provinces are included. To keep up to date, I suggest you visit the Gov.UK/Turkey page and sign up to their email service so that you can be sent the latest news. If you are a Facebook user you can also keep in touch on the UK in Turkey Facebook page.
Consular Network Co-ordinator, Joanne Pietsch, gave us the latest passport news:
From 1st January 2015, the Turkish Government will require passports to be valid for 60 days after the end of a residents or visitors visa. As the new on-line travel visa lasts for 6 months, this means that your passport needs have 8 months validity from your first day of travel. I foresee this catching out many a visitor. If you are in Turkey and worried about renewing your passport, this summer's big delay seems to be easing but the Passport Office is still suggesting you allow 6 weeks for the return of your passport. If your passport ran out less than 6 months ago, or has less than 7 months to run, you have until the end of December this year to take advantage of the passport extension scheme, but this does involve making an appointment and travel to either Istanbul or Ankara.
Joanne then moved on to the Residency permit question: On this she was extremely honest and said that there was little if anything to report since the last meeting. Those of us living in Turkey know that communication between government departments is a pipe dream, and this lack of dialogue must be incredibly frustrating for those working in foreign consulates. A new head has been appointed to the fledgling Turkish government department looking after foreigners in Turkey and Joanne has an appointment to hopefully get answers to a long list of questions, namely: When will the much heralded Migration Offices open and where will they be?; How will Article 33 work - if someone on a 1 year residency permit stays out of Turkey for more that 120 days, will the permit be cancelled and will they be allowed to reapply? What are the criteria for applying for a permanent residency permit? On this latter note, one long-term residency has been issued in Izmir with an expiry days of 2099. The issuing office reported that they would only discuss the application with each applying individual so we are none the wiser, except that the recipient is married to a Turkish National. Keep your eyes on the above websites for news as it comes in.
Finally Tim told us about some changes to the Bodrum office. From the beginning of 2015, the Bodrum office will be closed, but all services will continue. Telephone numbers are expected to stay the same and Aslı Erbektaş will continue her roll looking after the British community and visitors on a mobile basis. Sadly, Pro Consul Deniz Korkmaz will be leaving the consulate after 18 years of sterling service. I felt as if we should have all broken into a British "For she's a jolly good fellow" instead of the round of applause we gave her.