Americans are ignorant of it, but the process of trying to get to the U.S. isn't short and easy. I don't mean the long haul flight, or the extra, extra, extra security checks and interviews. No, what I'm talking about is the arduous application process and the heaps of documents you need to submit just to be eligible for the visa.
On top of that, you are required to pay at least $160, which is almost equivalent to a half thousand Turkish lira, a considerable sum. Let's say you did that — finished filling out your papers, sent all your mail and paid your dues — naturally you would get an interview appointment, usually in two weeks, and then travel to the nearest U.S. consulate. Being stuck in a waiting room with dozens of people for a couple of hours can be very tiresome — especially without your "electronic devices."
If you are an American and haven't been through this experiment, I have news for you. These days, Americans who would like to visit Turkey can also experience the same ordeal. The Turkish government completely suspended e-visa and banderol visa practices in November for American citizens. They can only be granted Turkish visas through Turkish consulates in the U.S. or outside the country.
Of course this was all started by the Trump administration. They first suspended U.S. visa services in Turkey in response to the arrest of two Turkish staff members of U.S. consulates in October. Now, services have returned on a limited basis, but Turks have decided to reciprocate.
What does this mean exactly?
This means that you can't obtain an entry visas for Turkey electronically by paying $40, and you can't get a visa upon entry to the country. You have to make an appointment with the consulate at least one month prior to your planned visit to Turkey.
"$200 for a multi-entry tourist visa!" said one of my frustrated friends in Washington who was planning to visit Istanbul last month. "In the past, it took three minutes to get an e-visa and cost me $10. I have to provide proof that I can sustain myself financially while I'm there."
I told him that the U.S. government has been charging a similar amount for Turks, and everything was reciprocal. He said that this opened his eyes; that he feels bad for those who have to go through this process.
Well, Americans are still luckier than Turks. This week, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced that their waiting time for a tourist visa is more than a year, as the next appointment date is in January 2019. This is of course ridiculous. Turkish consulates provide up to 100 appointments in the U.S. for applicants, but so far, the waiting time hasn't been this burdensome for anyone.
Some believe the U.S. government made a very bad policy decision when it decided to punish the Turkish government by punishing regular Turkish citizens. Others think the U.S. State Department was able to convince President Trump because this is some sort of a Muslim ban since it has taken towards a Muslim-majority nation.
Sources in Washington told me that even before the visa crisis, the Trump administration had already considerably reduced the number of approvals for visa applications.
Ankara believes it has done everything to re-assure Washington about the safety of U.S. diplomatic missions and personnel. Turkish officials refuse to take more steps in the Metin Topuz case, the arrested DEA liaison based in Istanbul. Until the court decides to release him, it seems both Turkish and American citizens will continue to be unhappy about their planned trips.
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