Updated: Jan 02, 2018
Earlier this year, in a significant item of ESTA and USA immigration news, the Trump Administration suspended all of its non-immigrant visa services for Turkish citizens. This was in response to the arrest of a US citizen in Turkey. This USA visa news item broke in October 2017 and now, in the final week of 2017, the USA has announced that it will be resuming full visa services in Turkey once more. In essence, USA immigration will return to the state that it was in before this suspension took place in October 2017.
In October 2017, the USA reacted to the arrest of an employee of the US consul by the Turkish authorities. The arrest had occurred during the failed coup of 2016. The Turkish authorities made this arrest due, they states, to their belief that this consulate employee was linked to a radical Turkish cleric. The US's suspension of non-immigrant visas thus included the suspension of visas for business and diplomacy. Turkey is not a party to the ESTA visa waiver scheme, so this was not part of the negotiations. The USA's decision to impose these restrictions was clearly designed as a sanction of sorts against Turkey with the aim of pressuring the Turkish authorities to release their arrested citizen and to dissuade them from arresting further citizens. The USA also demanded that Turkey provided it with certain 'high level assurances' if it wanted to receive full USA immigration services once again. The key assurance was that no further US citizens who were employed on consular missions would be arrested in a similar way. Within the next two months, Turkey had acceded to these requests and provided these reassurances. As a result, though 11 US citizens remain under arrest in Turkey, the US is apparently satisfied that their missions in Turkey can continue as before without the threat of arrest.
When the US retaliated to Turkey's actions by suspending non immigrant USA visa services for all Turkish citizens, Turkey responded in turn. Turkey's response was to suspend immigration services for all non immigrant visas for US citizens. As such, the US was also hit hard in terms of those wishing to travel to Turkey for diplomatic or business reasons (to give just two examples). Once the USA was satisfied with Turkey's assurances as described in the previous paragraph and thus removed its sanctions, Turkey responded to this by lifting its own sanctions. In sum, what we see at the end of 2017 is a bilateral lifting of sanctions by both Turkey and the US.
In July 2016, amid tensions between state forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party, also called the PKK, the Turkish armed forces attempted to launch a violent coup and seize power in Turkey. The coup was not a success, mainly because the ordinary Turkish citizens did not support it and in many cases opposed the tanks that threatened strategic sites across the nation. After the failed coup was completely quelled, the Turkish president, President Erdogan, declared a state of emergency that lasted for three months. Not only were there tensions within Turkey at this time: there were also tensions between Turkey and Europe and Turkey and the US. In terms of Europe, for instance, in early 2016, Turkey and the EU reached a long and strenuously discussed deal to stop what is known as 'irregular migration' from Turkey into the EU member states. This did not completely resolve tensions between Turkey and the EU bloc, however. This is because of many reasons. For example, the EU as a bloc has been very critical of the human rights abuses that have been perpetrated by Turkey both within Turkey itself and within territories abroad such as Syria. In May 2017, President Erdogan of Turkey visited Washington, and there were complaints then about the US's 'heavy handed' treatment of some of the Kurdish officials accompanying him. This contributed to the tensions between the two nations. It remains to be seen whether President Trump's statement that the US and Turkey are 'closer than ever' bears any relation to reality.
We will keep you updated on the situation in Turkey, and also on any other news items that relate to US immigration across the world. Keep an eye out for our press releases to stay up to date with the newest developments.