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Why Turkey Suspended Travel Visas for Americans

The U.S. and Turkey are engaged in an escalating war of words and visa regulations, and travelers are caught in the middle.

As it stands today, American tourists without a travel visa to visit Turkey can’t get one. Aydan Karamanoglu, a spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C., told the New York Times that “right now, it is impossible for U.S. residents to come to Turkey if they need a visa and are applying for it in person.” This also applies to e-Visas, which normally allow U.S. travelers to apply online.

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Why? The U.S. recently suspended non-immigrant visa services for Turkey, effectively preventing Turkish citizens from visiting. Turkey quickly retaliated with an identical move, and here we are.

But, U.S. citizens who already have Turkish visas can still visit. If you have a trip booked but have not already applied for a visa, you should contact your travel provider as soon as possible. You may be able to get a refund or reschedule your trip for a later date. For example, Turkish Airlines waived rebooking fees for U.S./Turkey flights through October 31, and will also offer refunds on unused tickets.

Neither the U.S. nor Turkey indicated when the impasse might be resolved.

To sum up:

  • If you haven’t applied for a visa, you cannot do so as of now (in the United States) and therefore cannot visit Turkey until the situation is resolved.
  • If you already have a visa, you can visit Turkey.

What Happened?

The U.S. Embassy in Turkey issued a statement explaining the move, stating that for the second time this year, a Turkish staff member of the U.S. diplomatic mission was arrested by Turkish authorities.

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“We have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee,” the embassy said. This obviously raises diplomatic concerns, and some news reports suggest the staff member was arrested for alleged links to a failed coup that occurred in Turkey last year.

From the travel perspective, it’s unclear how long this impasse may last. The visa suspensions seem to be part of a larger diplomatic back-and-forth between the U.S. and Turkey, and represent a ratcheting up of those tensions. Basically, this is bigger than visas, but hopefully travelers won’t be caught in the middle for long.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

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