Istanbul is the most popular destination for foreigners seeking a new life in Turkey. For that reason, the Directorate General of Migration Management offices there have the highest number of residence permit applications, many of which contain false information or fake documents submitted by foreigners who intend to work illegally.
So the Istanbul offices are stricter on issuing residence permits, and will usually ask for documentation in addition to the usual documents required to apply for a residence permit. For first-time applications, if the reason for the stay is "tourism," the Istanbul offices may only give up to five months of residence to citizens of certain countries.
That doesn't mean you'll be rejected or given a shorter time of stay since the immigration specialists look at each foreigner as an individual. What they ask for, and whether a residence permit is approved or not, will vary from person to person depending on their circumstances.
Apply for Your Residence Permit as Early as You Can
You can apply for a residence permit any time within 60 days of the expiration date of your current residence permit or visa, or the last day your visa allows you to be in Turkey. Because of additional documentation that may be required (possibly including documents from your home country), you should apply for your residence permit as early as possible.
Residence permit applications are made using an online system at https://e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr/.
Your Appointment Date
Near the end of your online application, you may be given a single date and time for your interview, with no other options available. You may not have the option of selecting an appointment date and time at all—instead, the immigration office will send your appointment date and time by e-mail or SMS, depending on the communications preference you chose.
It might could take up to three weeks (depending on their workload) for them to send you that message, Keep an eye on your e-mails and your SMS messages until you receive your appointment information.
When you've completed your online application, the system will give you a link you can use to download your completed İkamet İzni Kayıt Formu (Residence Permit Registration Form). If the system gives you an appointment date and time, you'll see it printed at the bottom of the first page, along with the address of the immigration office where you need to go.
Important! Until you go to your appointment, keep a copy of the first page of your printed Residence Permit Registration Form and your passport with you whenever you go out. That first page of the application form will keep you in Turkey legally until your appointment day, even if your current residence permit or visa expires or you exceed the number of days your visa allows you to be in Turkey.
Additional Documents the Immigration Office May Ask For
Depending on the communication preference you selected when you apply for a residence permit, you may receive an e-mail or an SMS message, in Turkish, which will tell you to bring certain additional documents to your interview.
Insider Tip: It's highly unlikely that the immigration office is going to ask for all these documents. Typically they only need one to three of them. The following is a list of additional documents they may ask for.
A Letter Stating Your Reason for Living in Turkey
This letter is your personal explanation about why you want to live here. They usually ask everybody this question during the interview. But in this case, they want you to put it in writing and sign it. Make sure your letter is well-written, and that it clearly explains your reasons for wanting to live in Turkey. Then, have it translated into Turkish by a native-speaking Turk.
Your Birth Certificate
To learn how to get a copy of your birth certificate from your home country, see How to Get a Copy of a Foreign Birth Certificate from Turkey.
Your Criminal Record from Turkey
Your Criminal Record from Your Home Country
They usually take fingerprints during the residence permit appointment. Sometimes they do them separately. So you'll have to go to the local immigration office and have this done before your appointment.
A Utility Bill with Your Name and Address on it
According to some immigration specialists I've spoken to, a utility bill is the best proof of address. So bring whatever utility bills you have to your appointment, even if you don't get a message telling you to do so.
A Copy of the Tapu (Property Tile Deed) from Your Landlord
The immigration specialist may want this to prove that the person signing your kira sözleşmesi (rental contract) is the true owner of the place where you're staying. If the title deed is more than two years old, it'll also need a Tapu Kayıt Örneği (Title Deed Registration Document) from the Tapu ve Kadastro Müdürlüğü (Title Deed and Land Registry Office) to prove the deed is still valid.
A Numarataj Belgesi (Address Numbering Document)
The immigration office will only ask for this if you're the owner of your residence. The numerataj belgesi proves the building or apartment you own is legally registered.
A Sağlık Kurlu Raporu or Heyet Raporu (Health Report)
This is a health checkup you can get at any state hospital.
Additional Proof You Have Enough Money to Live in Turkey
Normally, the immigration specialist wants to see a printout of the last six months of your banking activity. But sometimes they'll want more, such as a stamped and signed letter, with bank letterhead, from the financial institution. Whatever they need, they'll tell you in the message they send.
Legalizing Foreign Documents for Use in Turkey
All documents from foreign countries must be internationally legalized, then translated by a sworn translator before the Turkish government can accept them. Legalization involves a separate document called an apostille, which certifies that the source of the document is genuine.
You'll need to send the foreign document to a government office in your home country and have them attach an apostille to it. The legalization requirement only applies to foreign government-issued documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and criminal record checks. It doesn't apply to privately issued documents such as bank account records or educational certificates.
While internationally legalizing a document sounds very complex, it's just a short series of simple processes. Once you learn how it works, it won't sound so scary.
Notarization of Rental Contracts in Istanbul
If you're a renter, you'll need to include a notarized copy of your rental contract with your residence permit application package. That applies to everybody, not just foreigners in Istanbul.