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How to Acquire Turkish Citizenship

April 2015 - Employment. Legal Developments by Baspinar & Partners Law Firm.

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The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview on how to acquire Turkish citizenship. The principles and procedures relating to the acquisition and loss of Turkish citizenship are regulated under Law on Turkish Citizenship, numbered 5901.

Turkish legislation establishes two types of citizenship; by birth or after birth:

1. Acquiring Citizenship by Birth:

Turkish citizenship law is based primarily on the principle of ius sanguinis (by descent). Turkish descendants may be eligible to acquire citizenship regardless of the place of birth.

Article 7 of the Turkish Citizenship Law regulates the descent. As per the article, a child in any of the following cases shall acquire Turkish citizenship regardless the place of birth:

  • a child born to a Turkish mother and through a Turkish father in wedlock
  • a child born to a foreign mother and through a Turkish father in wedlock
  • a child born to a Turkish mother and through a foreign father in wedlock
  • a child born to a Turkish mother and through a foreign father out of wedlock
  • a child born to a foreign mother and through a Turkish father out of wedlock provided that the principles and procedures ensuring the establishment of descent are met. It may be by marriage, acknowledgment of the father, by a court decision according to Turkish Civil Law or in any other possible ways according to the law that is going be applied (e.g. law of the State that mother is a citizen of, law of the child's birth place, law of mother or father's residence).

Citizenship acquired by birth, shall be valid from the date of birth. There is no need to apply or notify to get a permission, consent or decision of any person or authority for the validity of acquiring the citizenship by birth. Even the acquisition conditions are met later in case a child born to a foreign mother through a Turkish father out of wedlock, the child shall acquire the Turkish citizenship from his/her birthday, not for example on the date of the Court's decision, establishing the descent with the father.

Although, if the mother and/or father living abroad have not made registration regarding the birth of a child until he/she becomes eighteen, the Ministry of Interiors shall make an investigation and decide whether the child had acquired Turkish citizenship through his/her parents.

The automatic acquisition or retention of a foreign citizenship (i.e. foreign mother or father's citizenship) does not affect Turkish citizenship and there is not any provision in Turkish law that prohibits multiple citizenship. It is not therefore necessary for the child who obtains Turkish citizenship to relinquish his/her other citizenship at any age.

Even though the main principle is acquiring the citizenship by descent, there are certain limited provisions for the acquisition of Turkish citizenship based on the principle of jus soli (by soil). In accordance with the principle to avoid statelessness, article 8 of Turkish Citizenship Law regulates acquisition of citizenship by place of birth. A child born in Turkey, who does not acquire any other citizenship through his/her mother or father by birth, shall acquire Turkish citizenship. This may be the case whether the child is of stateless mother and father or he/she cannot follow the citizenship of his/her parents under the law of the state which the parents belong. Foundlings found in Turkey would be deemed to be born in Turkey and would acquire Turkish citizenship unless otherwise is proved.

2. Acquiring Citizenship After Birth:

A foreigner or stateless person can acquire Turkish citizenship after birth. Acquisition may be possible by a decision of the competent authority, by adoption or by exercising the right of choice.

A. Acquisition by Decision of Competent Authority

Turkish Citizenship Law has adopted provisions that allow the acquisition of citizenship by the decision of the competent authority. There are four types of acquisition:

a. general acquisition

b. exceptional acquisition

c. re-acquisition

d. acquisition by marriage

a. General Acquisition

A foreigner may acquire Turkish citizenship provided that:

1. be in the age of majority and has the capacity to act either according to his/her own national law or, if he/she is stateless, according to Turkish law

2. has been legally and duly resident in Turkey without interruption for 5 years preceding the date of his/her application. The applicant may stay abroad without exceeding six months within 5 years.

3. verify his/her determination to settle down in Turkey with his/her manners (e.g. to buy properties, to make investments in Turkey)

4. has no disease constituting an obstacle in respect of public health

5. be of good moral character

6. be able to speak a sufficient level of Turkish 

7. has income or profession to provide for maintenance for himself/herself and his/her dependents in Turkey

8. has no situation posing an obstacle in respect of national security and public order

Foreigners who wish to acquire Turkish citizenship may be required, in addition to the conditions aforementioned, to relinquish their previous citizenship. Although it is allowed in Turkish law to have multiple citizenship, The Council of Ministers shall be competent to determine the principles regarding the exercise of this discretion, when a foreigner to be required to relinquish his/her citizenship, especially the citizens of States that do not accept dual citizenship.

A person who has fulfilled the above conditions does not automatically acquire the Turkish citizenship. The commissions to be established in provinces shall make examination of whether or not the applicant is eligible to acquire the citizenship and the folder of those who fulfill the required conditions is sent to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and after an examination carried out by the Ministry a decision shall be made on granting the citizenship.

b. Exceptional Acquisition

Turkish Citizenship Law regulates under article 12 that the Council of Ministers may reward foreign persons with citizenship in the event of exceptional states, following an offer made by the relevant Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This may take various forms, including investment or other economic benefit brought to Turkey, scientific, technological or artistic achievements etc. States usually have special provisions for the naturalization of persons with extraordinary achievements in sports, arts, science and technology. Generally residence and other requested preconditions are waived for such applicants. Article 12 of the Law may especially applicable to entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, sportsmen and recognized immigrants:

a. Persons who have brought industrial plants into Turkey or have rendered or are believed to render an outstanding service in the social or economic arena or in the fields of technology, sports, culture or arts and regarding whom a reasoned offer has been made by the relevant ministries

b. Persons whose naturalization have been considered necessary

c. Persons who have been recognized as migrants

The only condition that is required to be met in exceptional acquisition of citizenship is not to be in a situation constituting an obstacle in respect of national security and public order.

c. Re-acquisition of Turkish Citizenship

Turkish Citizenship Law gives right to persons, who have lost their citizenship, to apply for re-acquisition. Articles 13 and 14 regulate the re-acquisition of citizenship. Applicants may re-acquire Turkish citizenship provided that they have no situation constituting an obstacle with respect to Turkish national security.

  • Persons who had lost Turkish citizenship by obtaining a renunciation permit shall re-acquire Turkish citizenship by the affirmative decision of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, irrespective of their residence period.
  • Persons who had lost Turkish citizenship because of their parents and have not acquired the citizenship by using the right of choice within 3 years from the majority age, shall re-acquire citizenship by the affirmative decision of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, irrespective of their residence period.
  • Persons who had lost Turkish citizenship by the Council of Ministers' decision on the grounds mentioned in article 29 of the Law (i.e. rendering services for a foreign state which are incompatible with the interests of the Republic of Turkey, rendering military services for a foreign state without obtaining permission) shall re-acquire Turkish citizenship by the decision of the Council of Ministers, provided that they have been legally and duly resident in Turkey for 3 years.
  • Persons who had lost Turkish citizenship by exercising their right of choice, regulated in article 34 of the Law (children who renounced their Turkish citizenship at their majority age in order to hold or acquire another state's citizenship), shall re-acquire Turkish citizenship by the decision of the Ministry of Interiors, provided that they have been legally and duly resident in Turkey for 3 years.

Another re-acquisition option is regulated in Article 43 of the Law for the person whose citizenship has been revoked per the provisions of the former Citizenship Law, numbered 403. They may have an opportunity to acquire Turkish citizenship provided that they do not have a situation that constitutes an obstacle with respect to the national security, upon the Council of Ministers' decision, irrespective of their residence period.

d. Acquisition by Marriage:

A foreigner, who is a spouse of a Turkish citizen may be able to obtain Turkish citizenship, if he/she meets certain conditions. In other words marriage with a Turkish citizen does not automatically grant Turkish citizenship to the foreigner. Person who has been married to a Turkish citizen for at least 3 years and whose marriage continues, may apply for acquisition of Turkish citizenship. Applicants shall be required to:

  • live together as a family
  • refrain from any activity incompatible with being a family
  • not to be in a situation that poses an obstacle with respect to national security and public order

If the spouse that possess the Turkish citizenship, dies during the application, the condition of living together as a family shall not be required.

Marriage must be valid according to either the parties' permanent residency law or Turkish law. Applicant needs to present documentation showing the validity of the current marriage, which would include documentation showing the validity of any previous divorce. (i.e. if one of the spouses has already been married with another person, or is mentally ill or not capable of understanding, the marriage is deemed to be null according to Turkish law)

Nullity of the marriage shall not result in loosing the Turkish citizenship, provided that the foreign spouse was in good faith when they entered into marriage. Otherwise he/she shall loose Turkish citizenship at the date of the decision of nullity.

A person who has fulfilled the above conditions does not automatically acquire the Turkish citizenship. The commissions to be established in provinces shall make an examination on whether or not the applicant is eligible to acquire the citizenship, including examination on the validity of the marriage and interview with the spouses whether the marriage is real, valid or not, and the folder of those who fulfill the required conditions is sent to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and after an examination carried out by the Ministry, a decision shall be made on granting the citizenship.

B. Acquisition by Adoption

Article 17 of Turkish Citizenship Law states that a minor child adopted by a Turkish citizen can acquire Turkish citizenship from the date of adoption provided that he/she has no situation that poses an obstacle with respect to national security and public order. It shall be assessed according to the adopted person's own national law, whether he/she is minor or not. If the adopted person is stateless or has multi nationality, Turkish law shall be applied. It is questionable how a minor can harm national security or public order.

Although there is not any provision referring to article 18 of the Law regarding the application procedure, the application should be examined by the commissions to be established and be sent to the Ministry of Interior Affairs for the decision. Even though the wording of article 17 may be understood as the minor shall acquire the citizenship on the date of Ministry's decision, it is argued that the citizenship shall be acquired on the date of Court's decision regarding adoption.

C. Acquisition by Right of Choice

Children who lost their citizenship because of their parents, who had renunciation permission according to article 27, may acquire Turkish citizenship within three years from majority, by exercising their right of choice. Citizenship shall be obtained by the Ministry of Interior's decision and the acquisition shall be valid from the date of the Ministry's decision.

Article 20 of Citizenship Law, which regulates the consequences of acquiring Turkish citizenship through a competent authority decision shall be applied to the children and spouse of a person who has acquired Turkish citizenship by exercising the right of choice.

The Consequences of Acquiring Turkish Citizenship through Competent Authority's Decision:

  • Acquisition of citizenship shall apply as of the date of the competent authority's decision.
  • Acquiring Turkish citizenship does not influence person's spouse automatically. Change of citizenship, acquiring or loosing by one of the spouses during marriage, shall not automatically affect the citizenship of the other spouse.
  • Children, whose guardianship belongs to a mother or father that had acquired Turkish citizenship, can acquire Turkish citizenship on the date of parent's acquisition, provided that the other spouse gives consent.
  • Acquisition of citizenship through the competent authority's decision only has effect on children who are minor, who are in care.
  • Children of parents who have simultaneously acquired Turkish citizenship are granted Turkish citizenship depending on their parents.
  • In case there is no consent of the other spouse, action shall be taken upon the decision of the Judge in the country where the mother or father has habitual residence. This provision may be criticized as the discretion on granting its citizenship has to belong to exclusively the Turkish State, not a foreign state's judge.
  • In case parent dies, consent condition shall not be required, and the child shall be granted Turkish citizenship depending on the parent who has acquired Turkish citizenship.
  • Children who were born out of the wedlock by a mother who has acquired Turkish citizenship shall also be granted Turkish citizenship depending on the mother, without requiring consent from the father.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Citizens:

Citizens of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus shall acquire Turkish citizenship automatically, if they declare their will in writing. Turkish authorities shall only check if the applicant is a citizen of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However persons who have acquired Northern Cyprus citizenship not by birth but after birth may not enjoy this privilege. They may apply for Turkish citizenship under the procedure of general acquisition regulated in article 11, which is subject to the competent authority's decision.

Performance of or Exemption from Military Service in case of Multiple Citizenship:

Turkey has signed special agreements with some countries, which have been concluded on exemption from military obligations in case of multiple citizenship. In principle, persons possessing citizenship of more than one state shall be required to fulfill their military obligations in relation to one of those states. A Turkish citizen, who has fulfilled his military obligation in accordance with the law of another state of which he is also a citizen, shall be deemed to have fulfilled his military obligation in Turkey.