Turkey has received over 250 applications for citizenship through investments worth nearly $100 million at of the end of 2018, according to the head of a mediation firm.
Citizenship applications to Turkey are expected to boom in 2019 as the country eased its conditions in September, said Akın Atalay, the CEO of VIPTurkishPass.
A significant amount of foreigners that come to Turkey aim to benefit from the right of citizenship by purchasing houses, he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The housing sector, which reached $4.8 billion in sales to foreigners in 2017, is expected to reach $10 billion as of the end of 2018, he underlined.
Supported by legislative amendments in the citizenship law, property sales to foreigners have hit historic highs throughout 2018 and more than doubled in November.
For the first time in history, the housing sector exceeded 35,000 units sold in the first 11 months in 2018 and is a step closer to the target of selling 40,000 houses to foreign buyers in one year. Whether the target has been reached will be known once the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announces data for December.
Atalay said people from Arab countries, Iran and the Turkic republics show the most interest in buying real estate in Turkey, and underlined that there is also in heavy demand from European countries, "contrary to popular belief."
"Tens of thousands of British, German and Russian people have houses in Turkey. Most of them decide to have dual-citizenship when they see the social opportunities in Turkey," Atalay stressed.
He also said foreigners are mostly interested in Istanbul, the Mediterranean resort city Antalya and the industrial city of Bursa.
The Turkish government, with regulations published in the country's Official Gazette on Sept. 19, reduced the limits for foreigners to acquire Turkish citizenship to encourage investment.
According to the new regulations, foreigners who own real estate in Turkey worth a minimum of $250,000, instead of a previous limit of $1 million, can now receive Turkish citizenship.
Also, the lower limit of fixed capital investments to acquire Turkish citizenship for foreigners has been reduced to $500,000 from $2 million. The regulation also covers foreigners who deposit a minimum of $3 million to Turkish banks. The deposit requirement of a minimum $3 million in Turkish banks has also been lowered to $500,000.
A similar regulation applies to foreign investors who hold government-issued bonds worth at least $500,000 that are not diversified for three years. Previously, the minimum requirement was $3 million for government bond holding foreigners.
Also, foreigners who generate jobs for a minimum of 50 people, compared to the previous requirement of 100 jobs, will also be able to apply for Turkish citizenship.
Meanwhile, the investors' families - their spouses and children who are under 18 - will also be granted the right citizenship.
The Interior Ministry responds to citizenship applications in 45 days if the documents are complete, Atalay said.
He noted that naturalized Turkish citizens will have equal rights with other Turkish citizens such as tax and insurance premium discounts as well as government support. "Several countries from all around the world have similar citizenship programs to attract people with education, investments and entrepreneurship," he highlighted, saying a qualified work-force and high capital investments were basic factors for development.
"We want to bring people from all around the world to invest in our country and be a partner of our success story," Atalay said, adding that Turkey is aiming to attract investments from foreign countries through the citizenship regulation.
He also said that foreigners should cooperate with a local expert and trusted partners as the application process is "sensitive."
Atalay said the U.S. grants citizenship with an investment of $500,000 and a five-year wait; Germany with a 250,000 euro ($287,000) investment; Canada with an investment of $400,000 or $800,000 deposit; and Greece with a house purchase worth $250,000.
Turkey's conditions are easier; foreigners can acquire citizenship instantly by investing $250,000, he added.