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Restrictions on opening a bank account for certain nationalities

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Dona Timani

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It turns out Turkish banks/Turkish government won't open bank accounts for Lebanese, Ukrainian, Georgian, or Iranian nationals. I assume the list of banned nationalities is longer, but these are the countries I remember. 

I tried with 4 different banks, Yapi Kredi, Garanti, Ziraat and HSBC, and I made sure to tell them I'm planning to make regular transfers and actively use the Turkish account, not just transfer/withdraw and disappear, and I offered whatever guarantees they may need. The first three just rejected me on the grounds of nationality, one bank checked with "a government department" first, and then told me I've been rejected by the govt. HSBC staff were more lenient at first, but they eventually still rejected me, especially when they found out that I plan to make regular transfers from my Lebanese account (which is in USD) to the Turkish account. Also, no one could give me the exact reason, at least to satisfy my curiosity -- Is it because of the US sanctions on Iran,  other sanctions, some blacklist related to money laundering.. etc.? I even called the Lebanese embassy and my local bank and they assured me there are no international restrictions on Lebanon they know of.

I think there is a workaround -- like asking the US company I work for to transfer my salary directly from US to a Turkish bank, but I'm not comfortable with that just yet. Another solution that one bank suggested: If my husband, a US citizen, opens a bank account, then I can freely transfer money from Lebanon to his account. (so the issue is not the money transfer from Lebanon anymore??)

I'm now trying to see about Transfer Wise, but from what I read on their website, they don't offer TW debit card for use in Turkey just yet. 

Eventually it's not a big deal - I can survive without a Turkish account, but it's just very inconvenient, ATM machines charge me a lot every time I withdraw money and some local websites only accept local debit/credit cards to make online purchases.

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  • 1 month later...

You should try other branches!  Yes branches work differently. Go to the banks which have other Iranian or those nationalities clients more than enough ! 

Ziraat ?!  Of course it should open. Try other branches 

Update us

I also have plan to open in vakifbank

Don't tell them you want to transfer. Many banks close the swift for international transfers of those nationalities. But, ziraat I don' think so

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An acquaintance of mine is a Lebanese national who has a Turkish residence permit but lives and works in the UAE. He recently opened a bank account at Turkiye Is Bankasi, but then any transfer he makes is from his Emirati bank account. I also know that Lebanese or other nationals who legally work here won't have any issue, so it's not strictly about nationality. 
As for not telling the banks that i want to make transfers, that's not easy to do. Some banks specifically asked how I plan to use it, and I'd have no use of a bank account here if I can't transfer from my bank account in Lebanon. 
I was also advised to try Odea Bank, which is a Lebanese bank network (Bank Audi), but I got too lazy since that time. I'll try next week and update you.

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I lived here for a long time just using bank machines. At least with my US account, I could pull out 4,000 TL at a time (in two transactions) per day. Of course there's the bank machine fee, and any international fees, but at least it's doable even if you can't open a Turkish bank account. I was reading in the law that banks are allowed to operate as private businesses in that they are able to decide for themselves who they open accounts for and who they don't. 

I hope you get it sorted out, if you find a solution, it will probably help somebody else as well.

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  • 5 months later...

Yes, I should have given an update here a while ago. I did finally open an account at Yapi Kredi but only on the basis of having my salary transferred here from the US, which is something I wanted to avoid doing the first time becos I was worried about income tax liability. However, after capital controls were imposed back home, I had no other option but to transfer my salary. 

I'm assuming Turkish govt knew that Lebanese banks were on the verge of collapse and rejected me on that basis, and can't blame them.


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Thanks for letting us know how things turned out! One thing I'd suggest is that you search with google for "turkey lebanon tax treaty" and read the tax treaty between the two countries. Your "tax home" may be decided by how long you're living in Turkey, not where you keep your money or where it comes from. And there may also be exceptions you should know about.

For example, even though I'm a US citizen, I'm liable for taxes on worldwide income and have to pay taxes in Turkey because I'm spending more than 183 days in Turkey in each 12-month period. Income that comes from a US pension, and real estate rental income for rental properties in the USA is taxed only in the USA. There are usually other provisions in the tax treaties which prevent someone from being taxed in both countries for the same income. That is, various types of income are taxed by one country, or the other, but not by both.

Turkey and Lebanon do have a tax treaty, so you should find it and read it to understand your personal tax liability and learn which country's government you'll need to pay taxes to. 

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