Real Estate Investment
Visa Free Travel
Turkey might not seem like an obvious destination for immigration investors, but the country is hoping to raise $1 billion a year through a program that offers citizenship to anyone who makes a three-year, seven-figure investment in bonds, businesses, bank deposits or real estate. Though far from cheap, even relative to other European CBI programs, the Turkish initiative, which launched in early 2017, has drawn interest from Middle Eastern investors, many of whom view Turkey as a relatively familiar culture that can serve as a gateway to Europe.
Real estate is the cheapest option, and officials credit the program with revitalizing the residential property market and spurring a new wave of construction in Istanbul and elsewhere. A residency program with no fixed minimum investment offers an additional option for investors with less capital at their disposal.
For applicants who don’t need permanent status or a Turkish passport, it is possible to obtain a two-year residency permit by documenting the applicant’s purchase of real estate in any amount, or documenting their intention to launch a new business or commercial venture in Turkey. Applicants must demonstrate that they have enough income or other assets to be self-sufficient during their time in Turkey, and must also provide invitation letters, contracts, or other documentation in support of their application.
The residency permit can be easily renewed, and after eight years of residency in Turkey, the applicant can obtain a long-term residency permit that does not need to be subsequently renewed.
In principle, the Turkish citizenship application should take only about four months to complete, but in practice the application process can be somewhat bureaucratic and time-consuming. In addition to the usual biographical documentation, applicants must secure a Turkish residency permit, which requires opening a bank account, which in turn requires obtaining a tax number. Applicants must also show that they have the minimal resources needed to support themselves — applicants should plan on depositing about $6,000 into their new bank account to prove solvency.
Each application must also include detailed reports in evidence of the investment made. An investment based on a real-estate purchase, for instance, must include a valuation report by an accredited expert, while a business investment must include details of any partnership structures, and a full report from a certified public accountant.
Turkey doesn’t shine when it comes to global mobility: a Turkish passport is ranked 50th in the world by Henley and Partners, granting visa-free access to 107 countries. Turkey’s passport is significantly weaker than those of Middle Eastern power-players such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but does offer significantly more mobility than countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.
Turkish citizens were promised free access to the Schengen Area in a deal struck between Ankara and Brussels in 2016, but the deal fell by the wayside amidst unrest in Turkey. The issue remains a key priority for Turkey, but it is unclear when visa restrictions will be eased for Turkish nationals.
Despite its new CBI program, Turkey has seen a significant net loss of high net worth individuals in recent years, with 6,000 millionaires leaving the country in 2016. That’s chiefly because of the country’s recent political and economic turmoil, which culminated in a failed coup in 2016. Since then, the government has launched an authoritarian crackdown against its political opponents and seized at least $11 billion in corporate assets. Still, Turkey has seen double-digit growth since the coup attempt, and remains the 17th largest economy in the world, with a thriving manufacturing and agricultural base.
Turkey’s CBI program offers five main routes to citizenship:
All investments must be structured in such a way that the investor cannot divest them for at least three years. There is no residency requirement in order to qualify for citizenship.
The real estate option is the most popular option: besides being the cheapest route, it is also being heavily promoted across the Middle East by Turkish developers, who are pitching it as a value-added incentive for investments in Turkey’s real estate sector. Still, the industry is weakly regulated, and experts advise retaining local counsel to ensure that developers handle the necessary paperwork, including formal property valuations, correctly.
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