Cross-Border Consternation

THINGS WERE ALIEN enough already in those heady virgin “yabancı” (foreigner) days. With next to nothing in my Turkish vocabulary, and being led like a lamb to the slaughter through the maze of Turkish bureaucracy by my fearless native-born wife, the holy grail of the little blue book known as the “ikamet” — or, to you and me, the residence permit — remained as elusive ever.

That said, we were pretty uninformed when we touched down on the tarmac at Atatürk Airport in April 2005, clutching our British marriage certificate and deluded enough to think that the infamous “visa run” was not for me; after all, I’d married a Turk. I was “enişte” (brother-in-law).They couldn’t possibly do such a thing to one of their own. Or could they?

In short, yes, if you don’t read the small print properly. And that small print happens to be on your country of origin’s Turkish Consulate Web site on the “FAQs” (frequently asked questions) page. Admittedly, we’d forgotten to ask any questions, let alone work out what the relevant one might be. When you’re leaving your job, your family, your country, and packing your bags in a hurry and finding homes for all the junk acquired over a lifetime (which you’ll probably never see again) the question “Is there anything I should do vis-à-vis the legality of our marriage before I hop on the plane?” hardly has time to surface. Not that this question is on their Web site, either; in fact there are no questions on the FAQs page. But there is wealth of useful info ignored at your peril, the most important being: Register the marriage at the Turkish Consulate before you leave!

Furthermore, once on Turkish soil, no amount of getting the marriage certificate translated into Turkish by a state-approved translator, and then correcting his misspellings and paying a considerable sum for the pleasure, and then getting it approved and stamped by the “noter,” who also wants paying for the translation which they so obviously did not do (and picking your wife up from the floor as she spits blood at paying for this non-event), and then spending hours queuing in the long, hot corridor at the Istanbul Emniyet Müdürlüğü alongside all the other hot and frustrated foreigners — the majority of whom appear to be tall, tightly-clad women of eastern-European extraction — and screaming at all those who have yet to grasp the concept of queuing, none of this will alter the fact that your partner is officially designated single here in Turkey. And so are you. Officially unmarried and a designated tourist until you fly back to the Turkish Consulate based wherever it is you came from and own up to the said act. Continue reading “Cross-Border Consternation”