On October 8, 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, announced that it has suspended all nonimmigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey. “Recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel,” the embassy said. Several hours later, in a similar statement, Turkey’s embassy in Washington, D.C., announced that visas for U.S. citizens in all of its missions in the United States have been suspended.
The suspension of all nonimmigrant visa services will affect thousands of U.S. nonimmigrant visa applicants. The U.S. has only two diplomatic facilities in Turkey that process nonimmigrant visa applications: the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul. In 2016, these facilities issued 113,240 nonimmigrant visas. Most foreign nationals, in particular Turkish citizens, are required to obtain a nonimmigrant visa before entering the United States for a temporary stay. The nonimmigrant visa exclusion includes all employment-based visas issued to employees coming to work in the United States.
The recent suspension is expected to affect H-1B and L-1 visas for skilled workers and intracompany transferees. The visa application process usually requires payment of a visa application fee and an interview at a U.S. consulate, which is scheduled weeks in advance. Applicants with scheduled appointments to interview for U.S. nonimmigrant visas can expect their appointments to be cancelled. These appointments will likely need to be rescheduled at another country consulate accepting jurisdiction over Turkish nationals. Employers may want to keep in mind that although the nonimmigrant visa processing fees are valid for a year from the date of payment, they are also nonrefundable.
Similarly, U.S. applicants for nonimmigrant visas to Turkey are not able to apply for these visas. If a U.S. applicant tries to apply for a visa with a Turkish diplomatic facility, the Turkish embassy’s electronic visa system will generate the following message: “Sorry. Unfortunately, nationals of the country that you selected are not eligible for e-Visa.”
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor and report on developments on this issue as additional information becomes available.