It Just Got a Lot Harder For Citizens of the U.S. and Turkey to Visit Each Other

October 9, 2017, 9:02 AM UTC
Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Donald Trump meeting in New York
NEW YORK, USA - SEPTEMBER 21: US President Donald Trump is seen during his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (not seen), at Lotte Hotel in New York, United States on September 21, 2017.
Anadolu Agency Getty Images

If you want to go to Turkey, you may be out of luck. The U.S. and Turkey have stopped processing non-settlement visas for visits in both directions after the arrest of a Turkish citizen who works at the U.S. embassy in Ankara.

The move represents a swift deterioration of a long-simmering diplomatic conflict between the two countries. Turkey suspects the U.S. of having helped to plan the failed coup of President Erdogan in 2016 and claims it is now protecting Turks who were involved; The U.S. says Turkey has flouted due process in its arrest of the embassy worker and that there is no evidence of U.S. involvement in the coup. To make matters worse, Erdogan has now all but admitted that he is holding Americans hostage in Turkey as bargaining chips for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish spiritual leader living in self-imposed exile in the U.S.

The announcement was all the more surprising as it came on the heels of a reportedly productive meeting between President Trump and Erdogan during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. After the meeting, which took place only two weeks ago, Trump sung the praises of Erdogan and indicated that the two were becoming “friends”.

Until further notice no visas for travel, business, temporary work, study, or medical purposes will be processed by either embassy. That will mean a huge reduction in the number of visas issued between the countries. According to the State Department, American outfits in Turkey issued 113,240 non-settlement visas issued in fiscal year 2016 and only 4,834 settlement visas. U.S. tourism in Turkey has fallen off in recent years. More than 88,000 Americans visited Turkey in 2015, but that number plummeted to just over 37,000 in 2016.

Turkey’s international relationships are in hot water closer to home as well. In recent weeks, the European Parliament has advised a freeze on discussions about whether to allow Turkey into the EU. The Turkish lira fell more than six percent against the U.S. dollar after the visa announcement.