In order to be a legal residence in Turkey, you must apply and obtain a residence permit. This allows you to be legally in the country, as well as come and go without a visa. You cannot apply online; it requires a meeting in person at a government office where you present all of the required documents listed online. We began this process in July to get my residence permit (Mike doesn't need one since he has military orders). Here's the order of events.
Meeting Number One
Mike had been trying to make an appointment online to get my residence permit ever since we got here. Every time he checked the website, the calendar said that there were no appointments available for the next three months. We thought that sounded ridiculous, so we decided to go to the office to see if they had any openings. When we showed up, we told the person at the front desk and she referred us to a woman who spoke English (who'd we get to know VERY well). Mike explained to her that the website said that there were no appointments available for three months and she said that was not true. She said that we needed to go to a internet cafe and try. If Mike tells this story, he describes it as essentially being called a liar. Dramatic? Yes. True? Pretty much.
Meeting Number Two
After that disaster, we went home baffled. On a whim, we tried the website on my computer. We used the same browser (shoutout to all the Chrome users of the world!) and it worked! Don't ask me why. Don't ask me how. Just shake your head and say "because...Turkey." So, after we were able make an appointment, we once again gathered all of the materials listed on the website, filled out the application, and headed out. When we got there, we were greeted by the same delightful woman. When we were shown to her desk, she continued to talk to another woman and look at pictures on her phone. Great customer service, right? I was willing to overlook that, but it was obvious she was not going to be bothered with us. She took one look at our documents and said they were not right. Apparently, even though they are all same ones listed on the website, they weren't right.
Meeting Number Three
Mike was fuming and neither of us really knew what to do. Luckily, there is a lawyer who works for the Air Force base and she was willing to write a letter (in Turkish) explaining our situation. We were hopeful that this would be the key. We made the appointment and crossed our fingers. We scheduled it for the week after we got back from Oktoberfest, but thanks to Bayram, it was cancelled the week before our appointment. We still went, hopeful that since we had an appointment, we'd still be able to get in, but we were wrong. Not only was our appointment cancelled, there were no instructions on if the appointment would be rescheduled.
Meeting Number Four
Once we recovered from the frustration of that whole fiasco, we scheduled yet another appointment. There were no holidays and we had our letter, as well as all of the documents listed on the website. We met with our same friend from before, but this time, she was actually somewhat pleasant. She read the letter and began to look through the paper work. One of the required documents is a criminal background check. It was actually a lot of trouble to get this because we had to print off a form and mail it back to the US, as well as an envelope stamped and addressed for our house in Turkey. When she looked at my criminal record, she looked confused. She looked at Mike and said "Why do you have her criminal record? We need your criminal record." Ummmm....what?!?!? That makes no sense. Mike asked why he needed to provide his criminal record and her response was just that since I am here with him, they need to make sure he is not a criminal. THAT MAKES NO SENSE! Unable to do anything without this background check, we were once again turned away.
Meeting Number Five
Luckily, the NATO base here was able to do a background check for Mike, so we didn't have to worry about trying to mail things back to the US. The last time we were went to get the residence permit, the woman told us that if we brought the criminal background check, we didn't need to make an appointment, so we just went and let the front desk person that we were here. We probably should have just made an appointment because we ended up waiting like 45 minutes. Once we got in, we were surprised that we weren't meeting with our friend, but instead met with a younger woman who didn't really speak English. We presented her with all of the papers and at one point she said we didn't have the right type of pictures (biometric, like on the passport) but after Mike raised his voice a little and told her we had been to two different photo shops to get biometric photos, she let us move along. We sat there for a good ten or fifteen minutes where she asked us random questions such as my blood type and an American phone number. I thought things were going well since we had never been asked these questions and, sure enough, I was right! Twenty minutes later, we walked out with my (temporary) residence permit in our hand. I'll get the official one in the mail within the next three months, but this temporary one will do the job! Hooray! It's good for a year, but we have heard that the renewal process is a lot easier and some people said you can do it online. I won't hold my breath for that, but I don't have to worry about it for a year.
This whole process was a complete mess and so unnecessarily complicated. Luckily, Mike and I have pretty flexible schedules and are able to dedicate five afternoons to this whole process, but many people don't. If Mike or I had a nine to five job, we'd be screwed. I'm just so glad it's over and I never have to step foot in that office again....at least for a year!
Oh, and on a completely different subject, I taught my students the word "hangry." One of them was describing their favorite television show and she said the character was very angry, except the way she said it was hangry. I took that opportunity to teach them some American slang, so I just wrote "HANGRY = HUNGRY + ANGRY" on the board. They laughed and one girl goes "When I am hungry, I am mean." YES!! That's hangry! YES! YES! YES!