As Turks complain of hurdles in obtaining visas from European Union countries and the United States, the Foreign Ministry is preparing to take new steps on the issue. Ankara will respond if Turkish citizens continue to face difficulties in acquiring visas, the country's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Haber Global news broadcaster in the capital Ankara, Çavuşoğlu said Turkish citizens are waiting for months to get an appointment date from the U.S. and some European countries. "It is planned and deliberate," he said, citing appointment dates sometimes were scheduled one year after applying.
Giving excuses like COVID-19 and others are "not realistic," Çavuşoğlu said there were solutions to such excuses and Türkiye already provided those solutions to the relevant countries. "They can increase the number of locally hired staff or recruit more personnel from companies they work for visa affairs. It is easy," he said. "It is understandable when applications without proper paperwork or applications which do not meet the requirements are rejected but we are seeing even the applications fulfilling all the criteria are rejected," he said.
He added: "Necessary warnings will be made to the ambassadors of these countries at the beginning of September. If there is no improvement, then we will take countermeasures." He said he last spoke about the issue during a meeting in Istanbul with his German counterpart and earlier, talked about it with the U.S. secretary of state.
"We consider this something imposed as a challenge for the government ahead of elections," he said. On countermeasures, the minister said they would be "restrictive."
Many Turkish citizens face visa problems such as an increased scrutiny of visa applications and months in waiting to obtain an appointment date.
Previously, the U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that difficulties such as the extension of waiting periods up to one year are not only in Türkiye, but that this is due to COVID-19 restrictions. Julie Eadeh, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Türkiye was quoted by Demirören News Agency (DHA) that the backlog stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting travel demand in recent months had prolonged the waiting times for visa appointments "more than desired." Eadeh has said that the U.S. was open to visitors from Türkiye and they were working hard to meet the demand for visas. Eadeh has also said that the embassy would soon move to a new building and would resume non-immigrant visa appointments.
The Schengen visa issue was previously brought to the spotlight by a Turkish lawmaker. Ziya Altunyaldız from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has raised the issue in a report presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The report, titled "Misuse of the Schengen Information System as a Politically Driven Sanction by Member States of the Council of Europe" highlights the "unnecessary and large amount of paperwork" required for visas, as well as high fees and the requirement that applications be submitted in person.
The report adopted at the PACE Legal Affairs and Human Rights Commission meeting in the last week of June recommended that the Schengen Information System be revised immediately. Altunyaldız stressed that the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees freedom of movement. "Use of data in the system should not violate human rights, privacy and freedom of travel," it added. However, the number of Schengen visa application refusals increased rapidly from 4% in 2014 to 12.7% in 2020, he told the PACE, adding that the misuse of the Schengen Information System could be one of the factors behind this. He pointed out that Türkiye is the country with the highest number of Schengen visa applications, but on the other hand, Turkish businesspeople face difficulties when they apply for Schengen visas. Altunyaldız stated in his presentation that Turkish nationals, particularly those seeking to engage in business operations, have difficulties in visa application processes despite presenting required documentation such as itinerary and accommodations. Problems such as requesting unnecessary and excessive documents, high fees, issuing single-entry and short-term visas, issuing the visa after the purpose of the visit has passed and the obligation to apply face-to-face were listed in the report.
Controls should be made more effective in terms of the accuracy and legality of the data entered into the Schengen Information System, the report suggested. The misuse of the system that hinders the establishment of business activities and more effective investment cooperation should be avoided, it added. The legislation of the relevant countries should be updated to ensure that administrative decisions on the refusal to issue Schengen visas for political or other reasons are subject to judicial review. Altunyaldız urged PACE and the EU member states to finalize the revision of the Schengen evaluation mechanism immediately and examine how to avoid inadequacies in the functioning of the Schengen Information System.