Cheyenne Toss*

13 June 2024

As an Erasmus student from Germany, I wanted to share my experience regarding the residence permit process in Turkey and highlight the challenges that foreigners face.

I would like to point out in advance that the requirements change depending on which nationality an applicant belongs to. In my example, with German citizenship and therefore also European citizenship, I had a very privileged starting point. The German passport ranks second globally, which enables me to enter 177 countries, of which 137 are visa-free ( Turkey is one of these visa-free countries. To describe my status in Turkey, I should first explain the circumstances under which I came to the country.

I am studying Social Sciences, Migration, and Integration in Mainz, Germany. Part of this degree program is to develop a certain intercultural competence, which is to be achieved through a compulsory year abroad. I chose Turkey, and the plan was to spend the first semester at the university and then find an internship where I could complete my second semester abroad. There was an international office at the university that helped me with the whole process. The process consisted of a list of documents that had to be collected and then handed in on a certain date. At the same time, fingerprints and a photo had to be taken.

Not surprisingly, the list of documents also included health insurance. What was confusing was that the health insurance I had received in advance in Germany, specifically for use in Turkey, was not valid once I arrived here. I had to pay again to get another Turkish health insurance. My Erasmus student friends had the same problem. Apart from that, the other documents were not a big challenge, but only because of the support that I received from my home and host universities. The visa application was made in Turkish. Apart from that, there were a few other basic documents, such as a passport, passport photos, and a certificate of enrollment. the proof of finances also gave me cause for concern at the beginning, as I was not sure whether the Erasmus funding would be sufficient as proof of self-reliance, but thankfully it was the case. Proof of accommodation was also a part of the process. This document is not cause for concern if one lives in student dorms, which was also the case for me in my first semester. Once you hand in the documents to the migration office (Presidency of Migration) on the agreed date, it takes a relatively long time to get your ID two to three months. Thus, it was relatively easy to get over this first hurdle of my year abroad.

As a part of my degree requirements, the second semester I had to do an internship. This process was very challenging. At the beginning, I tried to apply for a work permit. However, this required documents confirming that I was actually working there and getting paid. As an intern, my status was different, because I was not going to be paid by the institution where I was interning – the Erasmus Programme was founding me. This made me realise that I would not be able to get a residence permit through my internship. There were two options: to apply for a short-term tourist visa or to extend my stay at the university as an exchange student. I decided in favor of the second option. This made it possible for me to obtain a student residence permit. However, extending my stay was not as easy as I had imagined. The regulations had changed again at the time. Because I was not living in the dorms anymore, I had to have proof of accommodation confirmed by a notary. I also had to present a bill in my name from the flat I rented and submit certain documents from the main tenant or the landlord. I was also warned that the visit to the notary could be very expensive. In the end, I was lucky, the fee at the notary was around 500 liras, and my flatmate was also helpful. I must emphasise that if I did not have all this support, it would have been very difficult for me to extend my residence permit.

These experiences made me realise that a foreigner should always stay informed as early as possible in the mobility process and learn as much detail as possible about the system. Yet, you can also be well informed enough, as the system changes swiftly. That’s why the network matters! You must make contacts who can help with such matters.

However, this experience made me start to question, especially because I know that the process in Germany is no easier than here, perhaps even more difficult. One of these questions is, how can it be that although we live in such modern times, in such a regularized setting of mobility like Erasmus, the process can be so complicated? And above all, if people of privileged status, such as in my case, already have problems with it, how difficult must it be for people who are not speaking English, who do not have formal support, who do not have a network, or who want to apply for a residence permit due to completely different circumstances? Shouldn't it be a matter of simplifying and uncomplicating such processes?

My conclusion after these experiences is that my situation is uncomplicated compared to other starting points. Many people encounter considerable barriers when it comes to crossing the border alone, be it for professional, personal or educational reasons.

Imagine a person who cannot simply apply for a residence permit and wants to come to Turkey without the privilege of a strong passport. My point is that the complex network of visa regulations and immigration policies can be very daunting and impossible for many of those affected. By those affected, I am mainly referring to people from marginalised communities, people from countries with restricted mobility arrangements and also refugees. Reflecting on my experiences, I realise that it is important to advocate for more inclusive, equitable immigration policies, not only in Turkey but globally. I realised that it is involuntary and therefore unfair what opportunities different people have based on where they were born. My stay here made me realise once again how privileged I am and motivated me to use this tool to amplify the voices of those whose stories often go unheard and, as a result, advocate for policies that promote inclusivity and equal opportunities.


*Cheyenne Toss is a student at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences Mainz, Germany, specializing in Social Sciences: Migration and Integration. Currently, as an Erasmus student at the Department of International Relations, Özyeğin University, Istanbul, and interning at GAR as part of her Erasmus program, her main motivation is to acquire new knowledge, diverse working methods, and, above all, a different perspective on the complex topic of migration.


**The ideas and opinions expressed in GAR Blog publications are those of the authors; they do not reflect those of the Association for Migration Research.

***The image is taken from istock photo: