Dateline: Ubud, Indonesia
A gripping mixture of unusual and memorable, Turkey is much more than a bridge connecting East and West. The country blends impact from the Mediterranean, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Today’s modern Turkey is the establishment of one man – Kemal Atatürk. He reclaimed the state from the remains of the Ottoman Empire and named it as a contemporary nation.
Since 2011, Turkey is ruled by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – backed up by traditionalist Muslims. However, Turkey has successfully mixed modernism, global capitalism and parliamentary democracy with Islam.
A large part of Turkey’s charm lies in its architectural landmarks, impressive classical cities and fortresses located on the hilltops. Additionally, it possesses elegant Islamic headstones and fascinating city bazaars among well-known chain stores and shopping malls.
With a population of 77 million people, Turkey is a popular destination for leisure and business purposes. The country’s performance over the decades has brought macroeconomic stability and increased employment and income. However, more recent political developments have weakened foreign investment and tourist arrivals.
As a result, the country needs to make changes in order address these issues. Introducing a Citizenship by Investment Program seems to be one of the country’s solutions to the problem.
For about three years now, I have been predicting that more Citizenship by Investment Programs will appear as some countries deal with recessions and internal issues. That is what’s happening in Turkey.
I also said that we are going to see prices coming at higher and higher price points at least on entry level. That’s the case in Turkey as well. It is surprising as other countries, like the Caribbean, are actually lowering their donation.
The Turkish Citizenship by Investment Program
When introducing such a program, many countries try to put their unique spin on what you have to do. Turkey, however, is not giving you a lot of options. The approach is beginning to muddy the water in terms of what buying a passport actually means. Typically, buying a passport means exchanging money to get a passport, but increasingly such programs are including other restrictions.
Turkey’s new approach is not a traditional Citizenship by Investment Program like the well-known programs in the Caribbean. So is it worth the investment?
Turkey has followed the example of other EU countries with similar programs. This means that the applicant will first receive permanent residency before they gain full citizenship after a few years’ time.
If the EU Commission gives Turkey free access to the Schengen Area, or if Turkey obtains EU Membership, the Turkish Citizenship by Investment Program will become very attractive. It should be noted that Turkey was guaranteed free access to the Schengen Area if the country dealt with its immigration issues. Unfortunately, this is not close to happening because of various political and social reasons.
How to qualify
If you are still interested in the program, there are four ways for foreign investors to gain Turkish citizenship:
- $1 million investment in the real estate market that cannot be sold for three years
- $2 million in fixed capital investment
- $3 million in a Turkish bank for a three-year term or longer
- Employ 100 Turkish citizens
Anyone considering Citizenship by Investment Program would be those doing residence permits in Turkey. The country serves as a safe haven for those who come from less moderate Muslim countries. Thus, investors from Gulf nations will enjoy the program.
Putting three million US dollars in a Turkish bank is unreasonable when you can get the same deal with less money in real estate. Moreover, you can enjoy the use of the property instead of having money frozen in the bank. Hiring 100 employees also seems irrational.
The reason behind the program might be to support the real estate market in Turkey. The sector plays a huge part of the country’s economy. There are big developer companies all over the place creating an oversupply issue. When the Turkish Lira is at the cataclysmic level and dropping like a stone, it is a gift to the real estate industry to prop up sales.
How does Turkey’s economic citizenship program compare?
My first thought when I heard about this program was that it is like Spain’s Golden Visa Program. During their housing recession, Spain and Portugal came up with programs where you get a passport when buying a house for 500,000 Euros. Portugal made this relatively reasonable; Spain made it basically a spit in the face. Even the lawyers who offered the program did not recommend it. Getting the Spanish passport via real estate investment required waiting several years.
If you are considering getting a passport via creating 100 jobs, think twice. Other countries have better offers with creating fewer jobs and getting a passport faster. If you want to buy a property, there are better countries — like Portugal or countries in the Caribbean — that will allow you to do so. All these programs give you better passports with less investment.
Holding a Turkish passport enables you to travel to 102 countries either visa-free or received upon arrival, ranking as 42nd in the world. Europe, the USA, and Canada, for instance, are excluded, but you can travel to the Western Balkans, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Mexico and Central America to name a few. There are other countries that are similar to Turkey that have better passports, better potential to be part of EU and have the ability to travel to the Schengen Area. I’d suggest you look into those if you’re considering buying a second passport.
Ultimately, if you are a western passport holder, you can safely sit this one out. There are better options available out there.