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Hashaam

Internship with a Tourist Visa

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Hi guys,

I'm a British student, studying engineering and I'm off to Istanbul for a year long, unpaid internship next month and something has come to my attention recently that has been stressing me out.

Initially, I was under the assumption that I had to apply for an internship visa in order to be allowed entry into Turkey and to be able to apply for my residency permit.

I happened to bring this up in an email with a representative from my host company and he responded by saying that an internship visa was unnecessary and that I need only apply for a tourist visa.

According to him, I don't need to apply for a work visa as the internship is unpaid and therefore I'm not officially considered employed.

He also said that an internship visa also isn't required because in order to be elligible for an education visa (an internship visa falls under this category), I have to officially enroll at an educational institution, which I won't be doing.

Essentially, what he's telling me is that I don't qualify for a work visa nor do I qualify for an education visa and therefore a tourist visa is the one that is most suitable for my situation.

He said it would be best for me to apply for a tourist visa and then apply for a residency permit (which I can do as a tourist) once the tourist visa has expired and that there should be no issues with me carrying out my internship.

The official website for the Turkish embassy in London agrees with what he says to some extent. I've posted the link below.

http://www.turkishconsulate.org.uk/en/visa.asp

I was just wondering if anyone could give me some advice on the situation with regards to whether it is legal for me for carry out an internship with a tourist visa.

A tourist visa can be purchased online whereas an internship visa requires me to travel all the way down to London from Manchester in order for me to apply for it in person. An internship visa is also considerably more expensive so if there is a chance that I can get by with a tourist visa then it would be saving me a great deal of hassle.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

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Looking at the application form on that site, I see no option for an "internship visa."

To be on the safe side, I think you should call the Turkish Embassy and ask them.

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Essentially, what he's telling me is that I don't qualify for a work visa nor do I qualify for an education visa and therefore a tourist visa is the one that is most suitable for my situation.

That makes sense, because if you wouldn't be an employee, then you wouldn't need a work visa. And true, you would need to be attending formal education to get a student visa.

I think what he is telling you is true, but I am certainly not an expert on this, nor do I work for the Turkish government, so you really should talk to someone who is.

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Hi Ken,

Thanks for replying.

Under the scope of an education visa is the option for an internship visa, it's on the 'Study and Internship' page. But after I brought this to my employer's attention, he still encouraged me to apply for the tourist visa.

Basically, the internship is a research based one for testing aluminium samples for industrial purposes. Although I won't be enrolling at a university, my company has a contract with a university that allows them to use their lab facilities. So I won't be enrolling at the university but I'll actively be on the campus site. 

The contact who is advising me to apply for the tourist visa isn't actually my employer, he's the General Coordinator at the International Relations Office for the university itself so I imagine he must have dealt with many similar cases with university students looking to enter and leave Turkey. Therefore, I'm assuming he knows what he is doing even though he isn't actually a member of my company.

At the moment, he is the one who is responsible for handling any queries and providing any documents that I need in order to come to Turkey. I don't actually have a means of contacting my official employer directly.

The embassy hasn't been very helpful. The person who answered my queries when I rang said that a tourist visa was acceptable. However, the email service that the embassy had told me to go for the internship visa.

My only concern is that having the wrong visa may mess up my internship and that's the last thing I want to happen.

Would you happen to know what the consequences are of me not having the correct visa? I can understand why the General Coordinator is urging me to get a tourist visa. I'm not getting paid so I don't think it can be considered working illegally if I'm using a tourist visa while doing my research. I'm not enrolling at the university either so I don't think I'm breaking any laws by being on the university campus for a year.

My biggest fear at the moment is that I'll be denied the right to carry out my internship and will be required to return to the UK once my tourist visa expires.

The General Coordinator specifically informed me that residency permits always take precedence over visas and that once I have my permit, the visa that I entered the country with won't be an issue.

This whole issue has come about very suddenly. Because I was initially going to apply for an internship visa, I scheduled an appointment at the embassy in London for the 27th of this month with my flight to Istanbul being on the 1st of October. I was only informed this Wednesday that I only need a tourist visa for my situation.

I've been left in a position where I have to make a huge decision with very little time to think it over and the whole scenario has left me feeling very stressed and anxious.

I apologise for such a lengthy response. This is my first time coming to Turkey, in fact, it's the first time in my life that I'm travelling alone so the whole situation has me feeling very nervous.

Any advice regarding the legality of what I'm doing as well as any guidance on whether a residency permit will be enough to allow me to stay in Turkey would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks.

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Would you happen to know what the consequences are of me not having the correct visa?

This is just my take on it. I think there would be none. You can't get a student visa, because you're not applying to be a student in an educational institution like a university. You can't get a work visa, because you won't be working.

The only thing that happens when people get in trouble for such things is when the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the local police do inspections of various places to see if anybody is working without a work permit. That always seems to involve foreigners working in a bar, restaurant, real estate agency, or teaching English at a language school.

Secondly, Turkish laws and various regulations sometimes don't cover every situation. Sometimes the law even says one thing, but everybody does something else, because the law is impractical. And sometimes the law is vague.

Thirdly, it isn't uncommon to get one answer from one government official, and another from another government official. Or you'll get different answers based on the way you ask the question. Or if they aren't sure, they don't say "I'm not sure, let me go and look it up." They give you the best answer they know off the top of their head.

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I'm not getting paid so I don't think it can be considered working illegally if I'm using a tourist visa while doing my research.

From what I've heard from a few different lawyers, if you're not getting paid, then you're not working according to the law.

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I'm not enrolling at the university either so I don't think I'm breaking any laws by being on the university campus for a year.

That's correct.

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My biggest fear at the moment is that I'll be denied the right to carry out my internship and will be required to return to the UK once my tourist visa expires.

Don't worry about that. As long as you meet the usual requirements, you should have no problem getting a residence permit.

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The General Coordinator specifically informed me that residency permits always take precedence over visas and that once I have my permit, the visa that I entered the country with won't be an issue.

That's correct. Once you have your residence permit, that will take precedence.

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This whole issue has come about very suddenly. Because I was initially going to apply for an internship visa, I scheduled an appointment at the embassy in London for the 27th of this month with my flight to Istanbul being on the 1st of October. I was only informed this Wednesday that I only need a tourist visa for my situation.

If they actually "stopped" you from going though the internship thing, it says to me that what they're telling you is correct.

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I've been left in a position where I have to make a huge decision with very little time to think it over and the whole scenario has left me feeling very stressed and anxious.

I think the worst thing that might happen, and it is very unlikely to happen, is that somebody will ask if you are working. Then the people in charge there will say no, that you're on an unpaid internship, and that will be the end of it.

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I apologise for such a lengthy response. This is my first time coming to Turkey, in fact, it's the first time in my life that I'm travelling alone so the whole situation has me feeling very nervous.

I've traveled to a lot of countries, and I know the anxiety! I always wanted as much information as I could get, and I tend to be cautious about such things as you are. I wish I could give you an absolutely definite answer, but as often is the case, I can't find anything that specifically fits your situation. But really, I think you're completely okay in this situation. I'm going to keep looking in to this though, and let you know if I find anything out or not.

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I did some searches in Turkish to see if I could find any information about visas for unpaid internships I didn't find anything that addresses this specific situation. However, it is worth knowing that the e-visa is not just for tourism. They are also for various business and other purposes other than sightseeing. Obviously the Turkish government isn't going to require every businessperson entering Turkey to go to an embassy or consulate for an appointment first. So under your circumstances, I really think you are just fine entering with an e-visa and getting a residence permit, while performing your internship. I kind of thought that from the beginning, but I wanted to at least try to find something official which answered your questions exactly.

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Sorry for the late response.

I've decided to go ahead and opt for the tourist visa then.

Thank your for all of your advice and help, it really put my mind at ease.

I'll be sure to keep the post updated on the whole situation once I arrive in Turkey.

 

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Thanks for the update, Hashaam!

By the way, today I went to a Christian organization they have here in Antalya. They have a small restaurant I sometimes go to for lunch. There was a waitress there, from Holland. I asked her if she had come to Turkey on a work visa and had gotten a work permit (I was actually interested in talking to someone about their experience in getting a work permit from overseas and coming to Turkey to get a work permit).

She said that while she was performing duties as a waitress in the restaurant, she had come as a volunteer and wasn't getting paid. She said for the volunteers who work there, the procedure is to come on an e-visa and get a regular residence permit. It seems to me that a Christian organization would be following the rules precisely, and this particular one has been in Antalya for years.

Upon hearing that, I remembered your situation, and I thought I would pass this along. Anyway, it seems to me even more that you are perfectly okay in your situation doing the same thing.

Once you get here, we'll still be here to help however we can.

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Hello Hashaam and Ken,

Any update would be helpful.

I am in the same boat Hashaam was in except for a small difference. I am coming from the US for a 2 months internship. The only difference is that my employer will provide housing for me but I will not get paid for any of my work.

Many thanks in advance!

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I haven't run into this exact question before, but nothing I've read in the work permit laws mentions housing as a form of payment. Besides, there's no way they would go through the whole work visa/work permit thing for just a two-month stint. There is a place near my house which has interns, I'll go by there tomorrow just for the heck of it and ask them anyway. :) This is a good bit of info to add to our knowledge base.

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As far as I was told as long as you aren't being paid a salary then you aren't officially considered 'employed', in which case a work visa isn't necessary. I had no problems making it through immigration with just the tourist visa so you should be ok with one as well.

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Hashaam,how are you going to prove to the Zabita that you are not being paid?. 

Even if you are doing  a friendly bar owner a favour in clearing some tables for no wages,  it will be classed as working. The only way you can 'work' without a Work Permit is for any Official Registered Charity. So for a 2nd hand clothes stall in aid of the street animals or Refugees, the organiser must  register their project as a charity with the local Belediye before anyone dare work with them.

We've had all this down here in Bodrum over the last couple of years.....


 

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Perhaps my situation is different then. I was informed prior to coming to Istanbul that a tourist visa would be sufficient for my internship. All the paperwork I signed for my work placement specifically stated I wouldn't be paid so I assumed that would be enough evidence should any issues arise with the local police. Maybe my case is a one off though. I don't know the laws of Turkey very well, this is all from personal experience.

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Really I don't think this will be a problem, and I think you have nothing to worry about. What kind of organization will you be doing your internship with? Normally organizations which are authorized to offer internships do it in the way you describe.

It is only in an abundance of caution that I will actually go and ask the local organization I mentioned about your situation. But that's just me. I don't want to provide you and information I'm not completely sure about.

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I talked to the organization I mentioned. They often have people coming over on internships for a few months. But they don't provide housing, normally another organization in the intern's country gives them money to pay for a place to live and a stipend to live on.

In any case, if the organization you're going to be an intern for normally does this, they probably have already worked out the details, so I wouldn't worry about it. Enjoy your internship. :)

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Thanks a lot guys!

Really helpful feedback. It looks like I am gonna be ok.

I will arrive in Istanbul on the 17th, and I will make sure to give you guys an update on my situation.

Till then, wish you all the best and thanks again to all who contributed to the discussion.

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The best of luck to you, Aimukbil! An update would be great! Not just about the discussed situation, but how you're doing. If you need any help, we're always here. :)

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Hey there,

First of all I just want to say thank you Ken for providing such a valuable resource.

I'm just wondering if there's been any update about this situation? I'm heading to Turkey on Thursday with a tourist visa, and plan on doing an internship for three months, but will be in Turkey for a total of 4 months (so I'll need to get a residency permit). It's unpaid, so from what I gather from this thread I'm correct in not applying for a work or study visa.

Cheers

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Hi Nathaniel,

I think you've been in contact with me via my blog. If you are the same person I know you will be coming to Istanbul. In that case, it is highly unlikely you can apply for and be granted a residence permit within the 4 months you are in Turkey. If you don't get it within the 4 months you will be considered to have overstayed your tourist visa, and possibly fined when you exit the country. Also, give the new rules of getting a residence permit in Istanbul (introduced a few months ago), unless you have a formal work contract, own immovable property or have a Turkish spouse, you are likely not to be granted one. You might want to rethink how long you plan to stay in Istanbul.

Lisa

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but if he successfully applies for a residence permit during the visa period and the visa expires, he will have his appointment paper. Then after the appointment he will have his temporary residence permit, so he can stay legally even if he is in Turkey for more that four months as long as he is covered by his appointment paper, and then his temporary residence permit... correct?

I have heard about the new more stringent rules for Istanbul, but what I am wondering is if the system would at least give an appointment date even if all of these prerequisites aren't met.

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Thanks for your reply Ken and Lisa.

Hypothetically, can someone holding dual-nationality enter Turkey on one e-visa, leave, then return on their second passport with a new e-visa for another 90 days?

Cheers,
Nathaniel

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1 hour ago, Ken Grubb said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if he successfully applies for a residence permit during the visa period and the visa expires, he will have his appointment paper. Then after the appointment he will have his temporary residence permit, so he can stay legally even if he is in Turkey for more that four months as long as he is covered by his appointment paper, and then his temporary residence permit... correct?

I have heard about the new more stringent rules for Istanbul, but what I am wondering is if the system would at least give an appointment date even if all of these prerequisites aren't met.

Hi Ken,

In Istanbul now you don't get an appointment at the time you apply online. You get told the appointment date a few weeks later (or longer). As has always been the case, the appointment can be anywhere from 2 months to 6 months later. The problem for Nathaniel is that although having the appointment paper makes you legal to stay in Turkey after your e-visa expires, if you leave before actually completing the appointment (and requested and received permission to leave Turkey for 15 days - this paper is no longer given automatically and now takes a few days to get), you are considered to have overstayed. Just getting an appointment for an ikamet makes your stay legal but not your exit, if you leave Turkey after your e-visa has expired but before your ikamet appointment.

Lisa

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17 minutes ago, Nathaniel said:

Thanks for your reply Ken and Lisa.;'t

Hypothetically, can someone holding dual-nationality enter Turkey on one e-visa, leave, then return on their second passport with a new e-visa for another 90 days?

Cheers,
Nathaniel

Hi Nathaniel,

I know people have done this in the past, but I have no idea if it is legal. I suspect that it isn't. Turkey has a pretty sophisticated immigration entry/exit record keeping system and keeps track of individuals' coming and goings.

Lisa

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I don't know the answer to your last question. At the moment it appears the Turkish government is responding to the influx of Syrians and other immigrants & refugees into Istanbul by applying stricter, more limited grounds under which you can get a residence permit in order to ensure everyone there is entitled to be there. I think you should ask the uni (?) where you'll be doing the internship about your particular situation. As they are in Turkey they can call 157, the number for the department that deals with residence & work permit questions. The problem as I see it is timing. Even if you meet the criteria for a residence permit, you mightn't get an appointment until after your planned date to leave the country, which will make your final month in Turkey (assuming you stay only 4 months), illegal.

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