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Living in Turkey: Global Residence Index Inside Guide

David Bonellie

David Bonellie

Last updated: April 13, 2023

Living in Turkey: Global Residence Index Inside Guide

Global Residence Index is an Investment Migration solutions-based company. Our company works with you to determine which second residence or passport program. Part of our services includes building guides that can make a physical move to another country more accessible. Turkey is receiving growing interest worldwide for its Citizenship by Investment program.  

We actively assist many clients worldwide to find the best possible investment that will lead to second or multiple citizenships. In this guide, we hope to provide enough information to build a holistic view of living in Turkey. There are many benefits to having Turkish citizenship and living in the country for personal and professional reasons. 

Why don’t you sign up for our free consultation if you are interested in Turkish citizenship or any of the Citizenship and Golden Visa programs?

This article hopes to teach you about the following:

  • An Overview of Living in Turkey
  • What is the process of moving to Turkey
  • What Residence and Citizenship are there for Living in Turkey
  • Turkey’s Strategic Positioning for Business
  • The Real Estate Market in Turkey
  • The Process of Banking and Paying Taxes for Life in Turkey
  • Cost of Living 
  • Who Can Benefit from Moving to Turkey

Living in Turkey Quick Notes

Turkey is a country that has long been at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, blending rich cultural heritage, diverse cuisine, and natural beauty. As an expat, living in Turkey can offer a unique and exciting experience. Living in Turkey is popular for expats, offering a cost-effective living and a high standard of living, along with a warm and welcoming culture. Moreover, the Turkish people are known for their hospitality and kindness towards foreigners, making it easy for expats to settle into their new surroundings and form meaningful relationships.

  • Turkey has a population of over 82 million people, making it the 18th most populous country in the world;
  • Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, has a population of over 15 million people, making it one of the most populous cities in the world;
  • Turkey is a relatively affordable country to live in, with a cost of living index of 40.16, compared to the United States’ index of 71.05;
  • The Turkish Lira (TRY) is the currency used in Turkey, and as of March 2023, 1 USD is equivalent to approximately 19 TRY;
  • Turkey has a diverse economy, with key industries including agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism;
  • Turkey is a top tourist destination, with over 51 million visitors in 2019;
  • The Turkish healthcare system is generally affordable and accessible; and
  • Turkey is a secular country, but the majority of the population identifies as Muslim.

Who Should Read Our Guide

The team has developed this guide for a few different reasons and aims at helping a few other groups that might be living in Turkey as expats. 

  • Foreigners who want to move to Turkey for its geographic location include remote workers, entrepreneurs, and international students;
  • Retirees that are looking for options available to them that are cost-effective and offer an abundance of activities; and
  • Investors interested in growing their real estate and business portfolio can obtain a second citizenship.

The guide covers a lot of general information about Turkey that will be useful to everyone interested in living in Turkey. 

The Process to Move to Turkey

The Republic of Türkiye stretches across the continents of Europe and Asia, with a small section located on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. It shares borders with Georgia to the northeast, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the East. Iraq is found to the southeast, and Syria and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The country also shares maritime borders with Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest and Cyprus off its southern coast.

The capital city is Ankara, although Istanbul is the largest city in the country, with a population of over fifteen million. The Turkish Lira is the official currency of Turkey, but the US dollar is available for cash transactions. Around 90% of the population speaks Turkish. English is spoken in tourist areas and metropolitan cities like Istanbul and Ankara.  

Getting to Turkey

Once again, the positioning of Turkey is an advantage concerning travel and getting to Turkey. Turkish Airlines is the national flag carrier of Turkey and one of the largest airlines in the world. With a fleet of over 360 aircraft and an extensive network of destinations. The airline connects most of the world, serving over 300 destinations in more than 120 countries. Turkish Airlines operates flights to major global hubs. New York, London, Tokyo, and Beijing and many other destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. 

Similar to Emirates and Dubai as a hub and spoke model for air travel. Istanbul is straightforward to travel to and from, connecting expats to their home countries with direct, non-stop flights. With its modern fleet, exceptional service, and competitive pricing, Turkish Airlines has become a popular choice for travelers and residents to easily explore the world.

What Are Residence or Citizenship Options There to Live in Turkey?

The Citizenship by Investment Program

The Turkish Citizenship by Investment Program is a program that allows foreign investors to obtain Turkish citizenship by making a significant investment in Turkey. The program was launched in 2017 and has been popular among foreign investors interested in obtaining Turkish citizenship.

Under the program, foreign investors can obtain Turkish citizenship by making one of the following investments:

  • Real estate investment: A foreign investor can acquire Turkish citizenship by purchasing real estate in Turkey worth at least $400,000 and holding onto it for at least three years;
  • Capital investment: A foreign investor can obtain Turkish citizenship by making a capital investment of at least $500,000 in a Turkish company or by purchasing government bonds worth at least $500,000 and holding onto them for at least three years;
  • Bank deposit: A foreign investor can obtain Turkish citizenship by making a bank deposit of at least $500,000 in a Turkish bank and holding onto it for at least three years; and
  • Job creation: A foreign investor can obtain Turkish citizenship by creating jobs for at least 50 Turkish citizens.

After completing the investment, the foreign investor can apply for Turkish citizenship. The application process takes approximately six months. The investor must meet specific requirements, such as not having a criminal record and being able to support themselves financially in Turkey. You can use our citizenship comparison tool to compare programs here to view Turkey’s Citizenship by Investment program and others.

Short-term Residence Permits: Proof of Income Residence

Turkey does not offer a retirement or digital nomad visa. Those who wish to stay in the country for more than three months must apply for a residence permit. Applicants must show that they receive at least $500 per month. A second requirement is to show international healthcare coverage or a healthcare policy with a local provider.

To do so, you must first apply for a short-term residence permit (e-Ikamet) within one month of arriving in Turkey. Once applicants complete the online application, they must make an appointment with the nearest DGMM office to complete the process and pay the necessary fees.

Short-term residence permits are valid for two years. After living in Turkey for eight years under this permit, you may apply for long-term residence permit. However, regardless of the residence permit you are using, you must provide proof of adequate financial resources.

Some of the advantages of obtaining a residence permit in Turkey are: 

  • The renewal process is generally easy to do and uncomplicated;
  • Residents will be eligible to get a Turkish identity card;
  • Opening a bank account in a Turkish bank; and
  • Easy to convert your existing driver’s license to a Turkish one.

Real Estate Ownership 

There is a unique residence permit for expats that own real estate in Turkey that does not qualify for the citizenship by investment program. Investors who own immovable property in Turkey worth a minimum amount of $75,000 can obtain a short-term residence permit for a maximum of one year and renew it annually.  

Naturalization After Living in Turkey  

Expats who have lived in Turkey for five years can acquire Turkish citizenship through the general naturalization process. If citizenship is not top of mind, residents can apply for a long-term residence permit and obtain indefinite residence in Turkey after living there for eight years.

The naturalization process requires the applicants to be able to converse in the Turkish language. Other requirements include showing proof of income, not being a threat to the state, and being of good moral character. There are benefits of dual citizenship in Turkey, including healthcare cover and access to education. 

Turkish Passport and Schengen Area Visa Waiver 

Turkey’s passport allows visa-free travel to 111 destinations globally, providing investors with solid visa-free access to most continents worldwide in its CIP program. Unlike many Asian passports that lack reasonable access to central Asia, Africa, and South America, Turkey’s passport opens up emerging economies, providing excellent business opportunities for investors. Additionally, the passport offers access to a range of countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, among others.

The topic of visa-free access and the Schengen area has been a long-standing debate. While neighboring Eastern European countries have visa-free access to the Schengen area.

The final process for visa waiver still needs to be completed. Turkey still needs to meet five out of the seventy-two benchmarks outlined in the roadmap to visa-free access. The Turkish passport ranking will increase to the top forty worldwide if there is a visa waiver agreement. No doubt the country’s citizenship program will surge.

Istanbul a Business Stronghold: Where East Meets West

Istanbul’s unique location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia has long been a strategic advantage for businesses operating there. It is a gateway between the East and the West, making it an important hub for international trade, finance, and logistics. The city’s position at the meeting point of two continents has enabled it to build strong economic ties with Europe and Asia, allowing businesses to access a diverse range of markets and customers. 

Istanbul’s rich history and cultural heritage have also made it a center for art, fashion, and design, providing a creative and dynamic environment for entrepreneurs and startups. The city’s strategic location, vibrant business culture, and talented workforce make it an ideal destination for companies looking to expand their global reach.

Life in Istanbul

Life in Istanbul is vibrant. The bustling city seamlessly blends its rich history with modern developments. The city offers a wide range of experiences, from exploring ancient sites such as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to indulging in Turkish cuisine at local eateries and enjoying the city’s lively nightlife. You may also navigate the city’s chaotic traffic and busy streets, but you will have the convenience of a well-connected public transportation system. 

With a mix of traditional and modern neighborhoods, you’ll be able to find an area that suits your lifestyle and budget. Living in Istanbul as an expat can be challenging and rewarding, offering a unique cultural experience and the opportunity to build a new life in a vibrant and dynamic city.

Business Opportunities

Turkey’s dynamic and diverse economy provides numerous opportunities for foreign investors and entrepreneurs. There is a range of industries such as automotive, tourism, and energy showing strong growth. Istanbul, in particular, has emerged as a center of commerce, attracting multinational corporations and startups alike with its well-developed infrastructure, skilled workforce, and vibrant business environment.

Turkey’s membership in the Customs Union with the EU and free trade agreements with various countries allow for easy access to markets across Europe and beyond. The well-educated, multilingual, and tech-savvy population makes it an attractive destination for companies looking to expand their operations or establish regional headquarters.

The country’s strategic location, diverse economy, and business-friendly environment make it an excellent place for expats looking to conduct business locally, regionally, and globally. Whether you are an investor, entrepreneur, or corporate executive, Turkey offers numerous opportunities to achieve your business goals and thrive in a dynamic and growing market.

Global Business Agreements 

Ankara Agreement 

The Ankara Agreement is an agreement between Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Union’s predecessor, signed on September 12, 1963, in Ankara, Turkey. The agreement aimed to create a framework for economic cooperation between Turkey and the EEC, with the ultimate goal of Turkey’s eventual integration into the European Economic Community.

In addition to economic cooperation, the Ankara Agreement also provided for the free movement of Turkish nationals to work and reside in EEC member states. This provision is commonly called the “Turkish ECAA (European Community Association) Agreement,” which provides a path for Turkish nationals to start a business or work in the UK.

USA – E2 Investor Residence 

Turkey is a treaty country with the United States, and Turkish citizens can apply for the E-2 Treaty Investor visa. The E-2 visa allows Turkish nationals who invest in a US business to reside and work in the US. The EB-5 is available to non-US Treaty countries, with a minimum investment of nearly $1 million. The E-2 investor visa significantly reduces the investment required compared to the EB-5 investor visa. The E-2 investment requirement is $150,000 to $250,000. 

Before 2023, investors could obtain Turkish citizenship by investing in the US under the E-2 visa. The route significantly reduces the total investment, even with a $400,000 real estate purchase in Turkey. The US now requires applicants to be domiciled in the country of their application for at least three years if they obtained their citizenship by investment. 

Real Estate Market for Living in Turkey  

Due to various factors, Turkey’s real estate market has been booming for the last few years. Firstly, there has been a growing demand for property in Turkey from domestic buyers and foreign investors. Several factors have driven the demand, including a growing population, a strong economy, and government incentives such as the Citizenship by Investment program. 

Additionally, the Turkish government has made it easier for foreigners to purchase property in the country and has introduced a range of tax incentives and other measures to encourage investment in the real estate sector. The citizenship by investment program is another reason for good yields in Turkey’s key areas that drive tourism. Annual yields have consistently been around 20% year on year. The Global Residence Team ensure you receive information from a registered and approved agent on the ground in Turkey. Our goal is to ensure you maximise your return on investment while obtaining a second citizenship. 

What Regions to Look at?

Expats, including Americans living in Turkey, are often first pointed to Istanbul as the most popular destination for expats. The cities large population, business opportunities, and cultural attractions are a few draw cards. Antalya, on the southern coast of Turkey, is also a popular destination for expats due to its warm climate, beaches, and tourist industry. Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is home to many expats working for the government, diplomatic missions, and international organizations. Bodrum, a growing tourist location, is growing its digital nomad presence, and real estate investors are looking for significant long-term growth opportunities. 

The Turkish Lira is a depreciating currency against major forex indices like the US dollar, Euro, and Pound. The rise in real estate prices in Lira is partially due to the consistent decline of the local currency against the US dollar. Real estate is an asset that holds its value in dollar terms in global markets like Istanbul, Antalya, Ankara, and Bodrum. The actual return is, however, positive even in US dollar terms, thus attracting foreign real estate investors to Turkey.

Cost of Buying Real Estate in Turkey  

The cost of purchasing real estate in Turkey will vary from city to city and vastly differ within each town. As discussed earlier, the prices of the Turkish Lira are consistently increasing due to the currency’s depreciation. In US dollar terms, there are steady increases in prices in major cities. Buying is only for some, and renting can be cost-effective for expats, including Americans living in Turkey.

A two-bedroom apartment can cost anywhere from 3,000 to 12,000 TRY ($155 to $680) per month depending on which of the following in four locations:

  • Istanbul: 6,500 to 13,000 TRY ($340 to $680);
  • Ankara: 3,600  to 7,200 TRY ($190 to $380);
  • Antalya: 3,000 to 6,000 TRY ($155 to $310); and
  • Bodrum: 4,900 to 12,000 TRY ($260 to $630). 

The cost to buy a two-bedroom apartment in the metropolitan areas of Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, and Bodrum can vary depending on the location, quality, and other factors. Here are some approximate price ranges:

  • Istanbul: 1,600,000 to 8,000,000 TRY ($95,000 to $470,000);
  • Ankara: From around 600,000 to 3,00,000 TRY ($35,000 to $180,000);
  • Antalya: 400,000 to 2,000,000 TRY ($24,000 to $120,000); and
  • Bodrum: From 800,000 to 4,000,000 TRY ($48,000 to $240,000).

Getting Setup Financially and Banking While Living in Turkey

Setting up financially in Turkey as an expat can be straightforward, but it depends on your circumstances and the specific financial services you need.

Banking 

To open a bank account in Turkey, you must typically provide your passport and proof of residency, such as a residence permit. Some banks may also require additional documentation, such as a tax identification number or a work permit.

  • İşbank is the largest bank in Turkey;
  • Garanti BBVA is known for its excellent customer service and offers a range of banking services, including online banking in English;
  • Akbank is another popular choice for expats and offers a range of banking services, including online banking in English;
  • HSBC is an international bank that operates in many countries around the world;
  • Citibank Turkey is another international bank that operates and offers a range of banking services for expats; and 
  • DenizBank has excellent online banking services and offers a range of banking services.

Tax Planning

Turkey has a waterfall tax schedule for income taxes for its tax residents. Tax residency requires someone to live in Turkey for more than six months annually. Income taxes range from 0 to 35%, and individuals can use deductions and allowances to reduce their taxable income. Non-tax residents will not pay taxes on their global income. 

After meeting specific conditions, foreign employees living in Turkey for up to two years may be exempt from income tax on their salaries. One of the conditions is that a foreign employer must pay their wages.

Corporate taxes sit at 20% for profits earned within a tax year. However, Turkey has eight economic free zones. Companies set up in these jurisdictions are tax-exempt from profits, stamp duty, property taxes, and VAT on logistics.  

Retired foreign individuals may benefit from reduced income tax rates if their retirement income comes from abroad and is not subject to taxation in Turkey. Under this incentive, foreign retirees may benefit from a flat income tax rate of 15% on their foreign-source income. The allowance applies to any retirement income, including pensions, annuities, and other retirement benefits.

Cost of Living in Turkey 

The monthly budget for a single person in any Turkish city, like Antalya, is estimated to be around $1000. Compared to other European cities, the living costs are relatively similar or even lower. If you move to Turkey from a mid-priced town in the United States, you can expect your monthly living costs to be about 60% lower. This significant difference may be one reason why many Americans live in Turkey and why retirees of other nationalities consider Turkey a retirement destination.

Accommodation

The cost of rent varies greatly depending on the apartment’s location, size, and condition. In a decent neighborhood, a two-bedroom apartment can range from 3,000 to 12,000 TRY ($155 to $680).

Groceries

Basic groceries for a single person can cost around 2,280 to 4,560 Turkish Lira per month (approximately $120 to $240). Eating out in a mid-range restaurant can cost approximately 50 to 100 Turkish Lira per meal (roughly $6 to $12).

Transportation

 The cost of public transportation in Istanbul is relatively low. A single metro, tram, or bus trip costs 10 Turkish Lira (approximately $0.55). Monthly passes are also available for around 475 Turkish Lira (about $25).

Entertainment

The cost of entertainment can vary widely depending on personal preferences. Movie tickets cost around 55 to 75 TRY (approximately $3 to $4). A gym membership can range from 475 to 950 TRY per month (roughly $25 to $50).

Healthcare Cost and Quality of Care

Turkey’s national healthcare system is ranked 70th out of 191 by the World Health Organization. Healthcare quality in Turkey can vary by region, with limited access in rural areas despite the lower costs compared to some European countries. Major urban centers like Istanbul generally offer higher-quality care and English-speaking healthcare providers. For this reason, many expats choose to use private medical facilities instead of public ones. The monthly cover is cost-effective, coming in between $50 and $100 (950 to 1,900 TRY).

All residents under sixty-five must have either public or private health insurance. After residing in Turkey for over a year with a residence permit, expats can apply for public health insurance through the state-run Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK). However, many expats prefer to supplement public insurance with private insurance or opt for private insurance alone to cover additional fees at private facilities.

What Age Groups Can Live in Turkey 

Turkey offers a unique experience for expats seeking adventure, affordability, and a high quality of life. With its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and welcoming people, it is no wonder that many people choose to make Turkey their home away from home.

Retirees

A large growing group of expats retire to Turkey each year. There are many opportunities to enjoy your retirement years while living in Turkey. Turkey’s cost of living is relatively low, making it easier for retirees to live on a fixed income. Retirees can enjoy various activities like hiking, sightseeing, and socializing with other expats. Many retirees also find they can volunteer or work part-time to stay active. 

Business Entrepreneurs and Digital Nomads

Entrepreneurs and digital nomads can find many opportunities while living in Turkey. Turkey has a growing startup scene, with many incubators and accelerators supporting new businesses. Turkey also has a young and tech-savvy population. Thus a good talent pool for digital nomads looking to build a remote team. Many digital nomads can also work from co-working spaces and cafes, which offer high-speed internet and a supportive community.

Students

Turkey’s rich history and culture provide a unique learning experience. Many universities in Turkey offer courses in English, making it easier for international students to adapt to their new environment. Turkey is more affordable for international students to study abroad. 

  • Bilkent University: Bilkent University is a private university in Ankara known for its excellent academic programs and research facilities. Bilkent University is among the top 500 universities in the world. It has a highly international student body, with over 3,000 students from seventy-five different countries;
  • Middle East Technical University (METU): METU is a public research university in Ankara, Turkey. It was founded in 1956 and is known for its strong academic programs in engineering, natural sciences, and social sciences;
  • Boğaziçi University Istanbul: Boğaziçi University is a public research university located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was founded in 1863 and is one of the oldest universities in Turkey. There are over 2,000 students from more than ninety different countries;
  • Sabancı University: Sabancı University is a private university and one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities. It has a highly international student body, with over 1,500 students from over seventy countries. 

Closing Thoughts on Living in Turkey

Turkey is an interesting country for many reasons. For those considering the citizenship by investment program, it’s essential to choose a reliable and experienced service provider to ensure a smooth and successful process. It’s also important to research and understand the investment options and requirements before making any commitments.

For retirees moving to Turkey, it’s worth considering the country’s retirement-friendly policies and low cost of living. Turkey offers retirement visas that allow expats to stay in the country for extended periods, and the healthcare system is relatively affordable and accessible.

Regardless of your reason for moving to Turkey, it’s important to respect the local culture and laws and make an effort to learn the language. Connecting with the expat community can also be helpful in making the transition smoother.

If you are interested in any of the programs, why don’t you sign up for our free consultation?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any restrictions on the types of investments that can be made for Turkish citizenship?

Yes, there are restrictions on the types of investments that can be made for Turkish citizenship. Only certain types of investments, such as real estate and fixed capital investments, are eligible for the program.

How long does it take to obtain Turkish citizenship through the investment program?

It takes approximately three to four months to obtain Turkish citizenship through the investment program, once the qualifying investment has been made.

Can I apply for Turkish citizenship by investment if I am not a resident of Turkey?

Yes, you can apply for Turkish citizenship by investment even if you are not a resident of Turkey.

Will I be able to retire in Turkey with $1,500 per month?

Yes. Although cities like Istanbul and Ankara are generally more expensive,  smaller cities and towns may be more affordable. Rent, groceries and transport are relatively cheap compared to most European and American cities.

What are the benefits of holding a Turkish passport as a citizen?

Benefits of holding a Turkish passport as a citizen include visa-free travel to over 110 countries and access to the Turkish healthcare and education systems.

Can I apply for Turkish citizenship through investment if I have a criminal record?

No, it is not possible to apply for Turkish citizenship through investment if you have a criminal record.

Need help?

Navigating through golden visa & citizenship by investment programs can be complex and overwhelming, regardless of the country or program you’re interested in. If you’re struggling to find clear, accurate information, you’re not alone. Our team is here to offer you clarity and reliable advice across a wide range of immigration programs.

By scheduling a consultation, you’ll receive personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation. We’re dedicated to helping you understand the details of various immigration programs, making them more straightforward so you can proceed with confidence.

GET PERSONALIZED GUIDANCE

During our call, we will:

Here is what to expect from a call with our advisory team:

1

We’ll answer your questions about the program and the application process, providing you with the clarity you need.

2

We’ll break down each stage of the immigration process, ensuring you know exactly what to expect.

3

We’ll help you determine if the chosen program is the right fit for you or suggest alternatives that may better align with your goals.

4

Gain access to our network of recommended local lawyers, as well as providers of eligible investment options.