- GENERAL INTRODUCTION ON THE CONDITIONS FOR ACQUISITION OF TURKISH CITIZENSHIP THROUGH THE PURCHASE OF REAL ESTATE
Generally, the main reason why foreigners seek to acquire citizenship status is the desire to benefit from the rights promised in the constitution of the state that has granted them this status.
The concept of citizenship is a status that is fundamentally related to public law, which is regulated by the laws of each state, and which can only be held by natural persons. Almost all states regulate the acquisition of citizenship through birth and blood ties in their laws and consider the acquisition of citizenship through these two ways as primary. However, some states may regulate exceptional acquisition situations in addition to the general ways. Persons who comply with these exceptional provisions may also become citizens of that state.
There are exceptional ways of acquisition of citizenship in the Turkish legal order. In this article, only the acquisition of Turkish citizenship by purchasing immovable property among many exceptional acquisition methods is discussed. According to the wording of the laws and the procedure developed in practice, the nature of the immovables to be purchased for the acquisition of citizenship is limited to independent sections, (workplace, residence, house) housing, land and field.
Foreigners’ law is more flexible than other areas of law and the administration has the right of discretion. Additional content may be required for each application. For this reason, the process of becoming a Turkish citizen through investment must be carried out with great sensitivity and thoroughness. For this purpose, we recommend that you work with a lawyer who can follow the procedures at every stage as your legal representative.
- LEGAL BASIS AND DEVELOPMENTS
In Turkish Law, for the first time in 2016, with the addition made to the first paragraph of Article 12 of Law No. 5901 regulating the acquisition of Turkish citizenship within the scope of exceptional circumstances by Article 27 of the International Labor Force Law No. 6735 (“Law No. 6735”), it was accepted that foreigners who obtain a residence permit pursuant to subparagraph (j) of the first paragraph of Article 31 of the Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection (“Law No. 6458”), foreigners who hold a Turquoise Card, their foreign spouse, and their foreign spouse’s minor or dependent foreign child may acquire Turkish citizenship within the scope of exceptional circumstances. With the addition made to the first paragraph of Article 12 regulating the acquisition of Turkish citizenship within the scope of exceptional circumstances, it has been accepted that foreigners who obtain a residence permit pursuant to subparagraph (j) of the first paragraph of Article 31 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No. 6458 (“Law No. 6458”), foreigners holding Turkuaz Cards and their foreign spouses, and their minor or dependent foreign children may acquire Turkish citizenship.
Subparagraph (j) of the first paragraph of Article 31 of Law No. 6458 regulates a special type of short-term residence for foreigners and is defined as foreigners who do not work in Turkey but invest in Turkey in a scope and amount to be determined by the Council of Ministers, and their foreign spouses and their minor or dependent foreign children. Therefore, although the regulations introduced in 2016 made it possible to acquire citizenship through investment in Turkey, the conditions for the investment to be made are not specified precisely.
The nature and amount of the investment required to be made in order to acquire Turkish citizenship within the scope of exceptional circumstances were determined in accordance with the additions made to Article 20 of the Regulation on the Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law (“Regulation”) by the Council of Ministers Decree dated 12.12.2016 and numbered 2016/9601, which entered into force on 12.01.2017.
With the Presidential Decree No. 106 published in the Resmi Gazete dated 19.09.2018, the monetary values previously determined for the investments to be made were lowered and applications were facilitated. Finally, with the amendment made by the Presidential Decree No. 418 published in the Resmi Gazete dated 07.12.2018, the way was paved for foreigners to acquire Turkish citizenship by purchasing real properties with a minimum amount of $250,000, as well as the way to apply for Turkish citizenship by purchasing real properties in construction projects where a condominium easement or condominium ownership has been established with a real estate sales promise contract issued before a notary public.
Finally, with the Regulation Amending the Regulation on the Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law dated 13.05.2022 and numbered 31834, the value of the real estate purchased was increased from $250,000 to $400,000. The amendment introduced by the said regulation entered into force on June 12, 2022 and continues to be implemented to date.
- PATH AND STEPS TO BE FOLLOWED
- Certificate of Conformity Application
At this stage, it is important that the purchased real estate is carefully selected. The purchased real estate must be eligible for the Certificate of Conformity. Because the certificate of conformity is very important as the first step in applying for Turkish citizenship. Because the existence of the Certificate of Conformity will ensure the right to apply for Turkish Citizenship. If the application for a Certificate of Conformity is rejected, it is possible to apply for a Certificate of Conformity again by eliminating the reason for the rejection of the application. However, it is not possible to continue Citizenship Application procedures with a rejected Certificate of Eligibility application.
After the application for the Certificate of Conformity is made to the relevant district land registry office, an annotation of inability to sell for 3 years is placed in the land registry of the real property for which the certificate of eligibility is applied. If this annotation is not placed, the request for a certificate of conformity will be rejected by the land registry.
Real estates purchased before 12.01.2017 will not be accepted as a value for the $400,000 required to be exceeded in the application for the Certificate of Conformity. In other words, the total value of real estate acquisitions after 12.01.2017 must exceed $400,000.
Whether the real property that is sold has the necessary characteristics according to the Regulation on the Implementation of Turkish Citizenship is first examined by the district land registry office to which the real property is connected. If the district land registry office sees a deficiency in the documents or application, it will notify the applicant and give the applicant time to remedy the deficiency. Upon completion of the deficiency, the application file is sent to the Regional Land Registry Office for review. If the application meets the necessary conditions, the Regional Land Registry Office will issue a Certificate of Conformity on behalf of the applicant. And with this certificate of conformity, the other necessary documents are provided and the residence permit application, which is the next stage, is made.
- Application for Temporary Residence Permit under B.31-j
The second stage in the acquisition of Turkish citizenship through investment is to obtain a short-term residence permit in accordance with Article 31/1(j) of the Law No. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection. The conditions for obtaining a short-term residence permit are regulated in Article 32 of the same law. Accordingly:
- Making a request by claiming one or more of the grounds listed in Article 31/1 and submitting information and documents related to this request
- Not to be among the foreigners who will not be allowed to enter Turkey
- To have housing conditions in accordance with general health and safety standards
- If requested, to submit a document showing his/her criminal record issued by the competent authorities of the country where he/she is a citizen or legally resides
- Providing the address where he/she will stay in Turkey
If the application for a residence permit lacks essential documents, the Provincial Directorate of Migration will reject the application at the first stage. Essential documents are the documents that are necessary for the applicant to apply, such as the applicant’s birth certificate, health insurance or certificate of conformity. If the missing documents are not essential, the Provincial Directorate of Migration gives the applicant time to complete the missing documents. The missing documents must be completed within this time limit in order for the application to proceed.
If the required documents are completed and the application is approved, the applicant is granted a residence permit for 1 year. During this residence permit, you will have the right to apply for citizenship at the Provincial Population Directorate.
- Citizenship Application
After obtaining the Certificate of Conformity and Residence Permit, we finally apply to the Provincial Population Directorate with our request to become a citizen. In addition to the documents required up to this stage, we would like to point out that the Provincial Population Directorate may request different documents for each case, if deemed necessary. For example, if the purchaser of the real property is applying for his/her spouse with whom he/she is in a marriage union and his/her child born from this marriage and who is not yet a minor, in addition to the marriage certificate that will prove the marriage in question, he/she will request an additional document taken within the last 6 months that proves that the marriage continues and that the applicant child was born in this marriage union.
The completed file is sent to the Ministry of Interior for a decision. It should be noted here that the fact that the investments have been realized and the application for Citizenship has been made to the Provincial Directorate of Population after the necessary stages have been passed does not by itself result in the acquisition of Turkish Citizenship. This is because the administration has discretionary power in the decision to naturalize the applicant. In other words, the administration has the right to reject requests that will constitute an obstacle in terms of national security and public order. The fact that an application has been made does not mean that the applicant is entitled to become a citizen. In order to acquire Turkish Citizenship through this exceptional route, a positive decision of the competent authority is required.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION
In order to realize all these stages, applications must be made to different institutions. Therefore, there are documents that each institution requires to be submitted according to their own internal rules and regulations. However, as we mentioned before, each application may require different documents from this general list of documents. In addition, in order not to provide incomplete or incorrect information about the documents to be requested, it is necessary to have the necessary meetings with the authorized institutions and complete the missing documents at each of the application stages. The basic documents required at the application stage are as follows;
- Passport or similar document showing which state citizen you are, and if you are stateless, a notarized Turkish translation of the duly certified document
- A duly certified document showing all identity information (Birth Certificate, Civil Registration Sample, etc.) as a basis for registration
- Proof of marital status (marriage certificate if married, divorce certificate if divorced, death certificate of spouse if widowed, etc.)
- If married, a civil registry copy or similar document proving the relationship of the spouse and children
- Biometric photo
- Health insurance
- Criminal record showing criminal record
- IMPORTANT DETAILS
For every application, there are some questions that need to be asked and some details that need to be known. These may arise from the special circumstances or requests of the applicant, or they may arise from detailed work that is not known how to be done. Below, we have tried to include the topics that are important to explain in general.
- Who is covered by a naturalization application
Pursuant to the provisions of both the Turkish Citizenship Law and the Regulation on the implementation of the law, acquired citizenship does not extend to the spouse. However, citizenship acquired through investment is an exception to this rule.
Accordingly, due to the reference to short-term residence permit in Article 12 of the Turkish Citizenship Law, the spouse and the minor child of the person who acquires citizenship through investments also acquire citizenship (the scope of which is determined by the President of the Republic of Turkey).
In other words, exceptionally, the right of citizenship acquired by the foreigner through investment is extended to the spouse and the minor child or stepchild. One of the advantages of acquiring Turkish Citizenship through investment is the feature of spillover to the spousal.
- Legal Restrictions on the Purchase of Real Estate by Foreigners
Pursuant to Article 35 of the Land Registry Law No. 2644, as amended by Law No. 6302, which entered into force on May 18, 2012, the reciprocity requirement for real persons of foreign nationality to acquire real estate in Turkey has been abolished. In this context, Turkey has allowed citizens of 183 countries to purchase real property without the requirement of reciprocity. In other words, the citizens of these 183 countries that Turkey has allowed to acquire real estate and limited real rights must comply with the following legal restrictions:
- Real persons of foreign nationality may acquire real estate and limited real rights (including mortgages) up to ten percent (10%) of the area of the district subject to private property. The Council of Ministers is authorized to double these limits if deemed necessary.
- Throughout the country, a foreign natural person may acquire real property and limited real rights in rem up to a maximum of thirty (30) hectares (30 hectares corresponds to approximately 300,000 m² or 3,223,000 sq. ft.). The Council of Ministers is authorized to double these limits if deemed necessary.
- The relevant real estate must not be located in military prohibition and security zones. This clearance is provided by the land registry offices and is a standard system.
- Number and Nature of Immovable Properties to be Acquired within the Scope of Citizenship Application
There is no limitation on the number of real properties to be acquired through sale or subject to a promise of sale. If the foreigner purchases more than one real property at the same time or at different times, the total value of these real properties must be at least USD 400,000. In other words, it is possible to meet the 400.000 USD value threshold sought by the law with more than one immovable.
Foreign natural persons may own any type of real property (residence, workplace, land, field) in terms of quality, provided that the legal limitations specified in the law are complied with. However, there are some responsibilities imposed by the law only if they have purchased unstructured real property (land, field). Foreigners who have purchased land or fields in our country are obliged to submit the project to be developed on this unstructured real estate to the approval of the relevant ministry (Municipality, Provincial Directorate of Agriculture) within two years.
It is also possible to apply for Turkish citizenship exceptionally through a contract of promise of sale. Promise of sale agreements to be issued by a notary public in accordance with Turkish Law are only possible for real properties where condominium ownership or construction servitude has been established. For the remaining types of real property, it is possible to apply for Turkish citizenship only through the sale process.
The real estate to be sold must be owned by a Turkish seller. It should be noted that it is not enough for the seller to be a Turk, but it should not belong to the spouse and children of the foreigner who will acquire it. In addition, it must have been transferred after 12.01.2017 by the foreigner, his/her spouse and children. Again, the real estate to be sold must not be registered in the title deed registry in the name of the legal entity of the company in which the foreign real person who will purchase the real estate is a partner or manager.
For the immovable purchased between 12.01.2017-18.09.2018, the value of the immovable(s) must be at least 1.000.000 USD; for the immovable/immovables to be purchased on or after 19.09.2018, the value of the immovable/immovables to be purchased must be at least 250.000 USD; for the immovable/immovables for which a sales promise agreement has been/will be issued after 07.12.2018, the value of the immovable/immovables to be issued must be 250.000 USD; for the immovable purchased after 12.06.2022, the value of the immovable/immovables must be at least 400.000 USD.
In the sale or sale promise transaction, it is possible to sell together with the existing mortgage or with a lien. In case the immovable is acquired through a sale-mortgage transaction, the amount remaining after deducting the loan amount from the sale price in determining the value sought must be at least the amount sought in the Regulation.
- Realization of Payments in Citizenship Application through the Bank
With the Circular dated 15.10.2018 and numbered 2018/12 (1791) (abrogated), the submission of a bank receipt was made mandatory for the first time in transactions. Therefore, submission of a bank receipt is a mandatory element. After 15.10.2018, the transfer/payment of the price transfer/payment of the sale or sale promise agreement realized after 15.10.2018 must be realized through the bank. In this context, it is necessary to certify that the price is deposited by the buyer or the relevant persons to the account of the seller or the relevant persons with a bank receipt (wire transfer, EFT or blocked check receipt) approved by the banks. For transfers to be made from abroad, the receipt of the account to which the price is sent must also be submitted.
There are two separate regulations for the sale transaction and the sales promise transaction. The date of the receipt may be after the date of sale in a sale transaction. However, the date of the receipt for the promise of sale must be before the notarization of the contract or at the latest on the day of the contract. The payment receipt made after the date of issuance of the contract of promise of sale at the notary will not be taken into consideration as it will not be considered as an “advance” payment.
- Determination of the exchange rate of a foreign currency
There are 3 currencies to be taken into consideration when calculating the value of the immovable property, these are as follows;
Bank Receipt Rate: In the event that the price of the immovable is paid in TL, the effective selling rate published by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (“TCMB”) on the last business day before each payment day is taken as basis in finding the equivalent of the bank receipt value in US Dollars.
Official Promissory Note (sale) Value or Sales Promise Agreement Rate: In order to find the USD equivalent of the official deed (sale) value or the TL value stated in the sales contract, the effective selling rate of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (“TCMB”) on the last business day prior to the day of the application for the sale transaction or the last business day prior to the execution of the sales promise agreement at the notary public shall be taken as basis. However, if more than one receipt with different dates is submitted, there may be an exchange rate difference problem in finding the USD equivalent of the official deed (sale) value or the (TL) value determined in the sales promise agreement. In this case, the USD equivalent of the official promissory note (sale) value or the (TL) value determined in the sales promise agreement is calculated based on the TCMB effective selling rate of the last business day before each payment date. The value(s) obtained must be higher than the receipt totals that meet the value of USD 1.000.000, USD 000 or USD 400.000 required on the dates specified in the Regulation.
Immovable Valuation Exchange Rate Report: In the valuation report, the effective selling rate of the TCMB on the last business day before the date of the report is taken as basis in finding the USD equivalent of the TL value of the real estate. In the event that the immovable valuation report is issued after the sale transaction; the effective selling rate of the TCMB of the last business day before the day of the application for the sale transaction is taken as basis in finding the equivalent of the report (TL) value in USD.
- Valuation of the Purchased Immovable(s)
When determining the value of the purchased immovable, the sum of the sales price(s) declared in the official deed and/or the sum of the value(s) determined in the sales promise, the sum of the value(s) in the appraisal report and the sum of the payments showing the price transfers in the bank receipt must meet the current value of 400,000 USD as amended by the regulation. Each of these values above USD 400,000 separately will fulfill the value price requirement for the Certificate of Conformity.
Prior to the acquisition of the real property, a real property valuation report indicating the market value of the immovable must be prepared by experts with a valuation expertise license who have been appointed by real estate valuation institutions authorized by the Capital Markets Board (“SPK”) and the Banking Supervisory Board (“BDDK”). The issue date of the valuation report submitted during the acquisition application must be no more than three months prior to the application date. The said valuation report will be considered valid until the transaction is completed.
If an immovable valuation report was not obtained before the acquisition of the immovable, an immovable valuation report issued based on the date of acquisition of the immovable(s) is required.
In the previous regulation, it was regulated that the sale price in the official deed cannot be lower than the price in the valuation report. Now, it is required that the sales price in the official deed and the sales price in the valuation report each separately meet the value of USD 1,000,000 or USD 250,000 required on the dates specified in the Regulation, while the price in the official deed is not required to be higher than the valuation report.
In the case of purchasing real property from buildings that have not yet been completed, the value of the independent section must be calculated and shown in this valuation report.
- Acquisition of Turkish Citizenship through a Contract of Promise of Sale of Real Property
Prior to the amendments made by the Presidential Decree No. 418 published in the Resmi Gazete (Official Newspaper) dated 07.12.2018, foreigners could only purchase completed immovable properties with condominium ownership. However, with the amendments introduced, it has become possible for foreigners to apply for Turkish citizenship for immovable properties in ongoing construction projects, provided that they meet certain conditions. These conditions are;
- Condominium ownership or condominium easement must be established on the immovable,
- At least USD 400,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency or Turkish Lira must be deposited in advance.
- A notarized sales promise agreement must be made regarding the immovable property
- This agreement must be annotated to the land registry with a commitment that it cannot be transferred to a third party or canceled from the land registry for three years.
- Acquisition of a New Turkish Name and Surname by Those Who Acquired Turkish Citizenship through Investment
Persons who acquire Turkish citizenship through investment can adopt a new Turkish name and surname if they prefer. In this case, the person’s Turkish identity and/or passport will be issued according to the preferred name and surname.
Although the process of acquiring citizenship through investment has made the process easier, any mistake in the application process will cause the application to be rejected or the application process to be prolonged. For this reason, it is important to seek legal assistance from an expert lawyer in the field in order to ensure that the process is carried out correctly and completely. Please do not hesitate to contact us for your questions and legal requests.
- The Procedures Required for Acquiring Turkish Citizenship through Investment Do Not Have to Be Performed Personally by the Applicant
The procedures of obtaining a certificate of eligibility, applying for a short-term residence permit and submitting the information and documents required for citizenship application can be concluded remotely with a special power of attorney issued in a way to give the necessary authorizations. Our law firm in Antalya follows the citizenship acquisition process from start to finish if a power of attorney is issued with the qualifications to allow the continuation of the citizenship procedures. However, in the first stage of the application, which is the registration of the real property in the land registry where the real property is registered, the title deed of the real property “should not be sold for 3 years.” The applicant’s personal signature or special power of attorney is required for the annotation of “not for sale for 3 years” on the title deed, and in the final stage of the application, the applicant and the 1st degree relatives (spouse and children under the age of 18) on whose behalf the application is made, must be personally fingerprinted at the nearest civil registry office and be present to receive their Turkish citizen ID and/or passport.
- REVIEW OF THE CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION BY THE ADMINISTRATION AND THE PROCEDURE TO BE FOLLOWED AGAINST THE DECISION OF THE ADMINISTRATION
Following the successful execution of this process for the Exceptional Acquisition of Turkish Citizenship, a commission is formed by the relevant ministry for whichever type of investment is in question. This commission is tasked with preparing an assessment of the applicant’s naturalization and submitting it to the discretion of the President of the Republic.
During this evaluation process, law enforcement agencies invite the applicant for fingerprint identification and an interview. The President of the Republic makes the final decision of acceptance or rejection.
In some cases, the administration may decide to reject applications on various grounds. The grounds for rejection may be failure to meet the conditions set out in the legislation, application with incomplete or incorrect documents, as well as the discretionary power of the administration. In the event that the decision or legal action of the ministry or another public institution is unlawful in any of the steps followed during the application process for Turkish Citizenship, it is possible to file an annulment lawsuit against this unlawful action before the administrative courts.
In order for the unlawful act to be subject to an annulment lawsuit, the lawsuit must be filed within 60 days, unless a separate period of time is regulated by special laws related to the concrete event. In other words, the annulment of the administrative action can be requested up to 60 days after the relevant action. Before filing an annulment lawsuit, an administrative application can be made within 60 days with the request to remove the rejection decision. If this application is not responded to within 30 days, the request is deemed rejected. It is also possible to file an annulment action in case the application is rejected. The period of appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the Administrative Court is 30 days. This 30-day period starts with the notification of the decision of the Court of First Instance to the person concerned.
Unlike the annulment of unlawful administrative actions during the process of the citizenship application, the final decision on the granting of citizenship at the end of this process is made by the President of the Republic. If there is an objection against the final decision of the President, this objection is directed to the Council of State. The Council of State is authorized to hear the annulment case subject to the appeal as a court of first instance.
The time limits for filing an appeal to the Council of State are the same as for filing an appeal to the administrative court. In other words, the period of application to the Council of State is 60 days, and the period of appeal against the decision of the Council of State is 30 days from the notification. It should be emphasized that these 60- and 30-day periods are important in order to prevent any loss of rights.
Stj. Av. Simay KISAÇAM
Avukat Lider TANRIKULU