Governments in both Turkey and the United States abruptly suspended visitor visas between the two countries on Sunday. The actions were the latest in increasing tensions between Turkey and the United States, which stem from the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the criticism from the United States and its Western allies over his increasingly authoritarian methods.
The tensions boiled over on Sunday, when Turkey arrested a local employee of the American consulate in Istanbul, accusing the employee of being a follower of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of the president who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
What exactly do these visa suspensions mean for travelers from the United States who may be interested in visiting Turkey or if they already have a trip planned to the country?
Here, answers to questions about travel to turkey.
If I live in the United States, can I still visit Turkey?
It depends, said Aydan Karamanoglu, a spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C. “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 because it is not possible to apply for a visa in person,” he said.
Those who already have Turkish visas, however, can still visit Turkey, he said.
Turkey also grants e-Visas, which allows travelers to obtain visas by applying online through evisa.gov.tr, but only citizens of some countries are eligible to apply for these e-Visas. U.S. citizens are not eligible, and therefore, citizens who live in the United States are currently unable to visit Turkey.
Citizens of countries such as Norway, Australia and India, on the other hand, are eligible to apply for e-Visas to visit Turkey (evisa.gov.tr has a list of all eligible countries) and can do so if they live in the United States.
Can I visit Turkey if I am a citizen of the United States and live abroad?
It’s possible but not guaranteed. You will need to apply for a visa and can do so by visiting your local Turkish embassy or consulate, Mr. Karamanoglu said.
I have a trip to Turkey booked, and now I’m ineligible to apply for the Turkish visa I need to take that trip. What should I do?
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You may be able to get a refund.
Misty Belles, the director of global public relations for Virtuoso, a luxury travel network, said that travelers who have booked their trip with one of the network’s more than 16,000 advisers should be assured that this adviser will be their advocate in trying to obtain a refund. “In unforeseen circumstances, such as this one, it’s an adviser’s job to liaise with your hotels, airline and ground tour operators to help you get your money back, but a refund isn’t a guarantee,” she said.
The tour operator Intrepid Travel runs 16 trips a year to Turkey, and according to Michael Sadowski, a spokesman for the company, any American travelers booked on coming trips who are affected by the visa suspension will be issued full refunds or can use their deposit toward another tour.
On Monday, Turkish Airlines announced a refund policy for ticketholders who are affected by the visa suspension. Passengers holding Turkish passports flying to the United States, and passengers holding United States passports flying to Turkey on Turkish Airlines and AnadoluJet between Oct. 9 and Oct. 31, with tickets issued on or before Oct. 9, can make reservation changes free of charge or get refunds on unused tickets; the airline will carry out these changes and refunds until Oct. 31.
Why did the United States and Turkey suddenly suspend visitor visas between the two countries?
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, announced that it was suspending nonimmigrant visa services in Turkey. The move meant that Turkish citizens would no longer be allowed to apply for a visa in Turkey to visit the United States. However, they can still apply for one at a United States embassy or consulate in another country.
Later that day, Turkey suspended its nonimmigrant visa services in the United States. “We have applied this measure because we have been subject to the same measure from the U.S.,” Mr. Karamanoglu said.
On Monday, the United States Ambassador in Turkey, John Bass, issued a statement saying that the arrest of a Turkish staff member by Turkish authorities was the primary reason the embassy suspended its nonimmigrant visa services. It was the second such arrest this year, Mr. Bass said. “Despite our best efforts to learn the reasons for this arrest, we have been unable to determine why it occurred or what, if any, evidence exists against the employee,” he said.
How long are the visa suspensions expected to last?
In his statement, Mr. Bass said that he hopes that the visa suspension won’t last long. “The duration will be a function of ongoing discussions between our two governments about the reasons for the detention of our local staff members and the Turkish Government’s commitment to protecting our facilities and our personnel here in Turkey,” he said.
Mr. Karamanoglu said that the duration of Turkey’s visa suspension depends on the United States. “If the U.S. government revokes its measure, we will revoke ours,” he said.
Is it safe to visit Turkey?
The U.S. Department of State has a warning on its site, which was updated on Sept. 28, about visiting Turkey because of the continuing threat of terrorism in the country. “We recommend U.S. citizens carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and avoid travel to southeast Turkey,” the warning says. This warning was initially issued following the string of terrorist attacks in the country over the last two years, including one last June at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, which killed dozens of people and wounded more than 200. In fact, the number of visitors from the United States to Turkey has dropped in the last year: according to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in New York City, around 459,500 people from the United States traveled to Turkey in 2016; in 2015, however, that number was around 798,800 travelers.
But although Turkey does have a continued threat of terrorism, it shouldn’t be an off-limits destination, said Jim Duck, a senior intelligence analyst for iJet International, a travel intelligence firm based in Annapolis, Md. “If you already have a visa or are otherwise eligible to visit Turkey, the country is largely safe and poses no greater risk than travel to many other parts of the world,” he said. However, Mr. Duck added that Turkey’s southeastern provinces, especially those along the Turkey-Syria border, should be avoided because of significant security concerns.