Residents Permit

I’m writing this from an internet cafe in Taksim, where everyone who passes by feels the need to point out to me how the Turkish keyboards work. I KNOW where the “i” is NOW, folks. Where were you a month ago?
Anyway, the computer will not live without some organ transplants from Dell, and all the zeros and ones that make up my files dispersed into the ether. Or so I understand it. Between the cost of the internet cafes and the slowness and ınaccuracy wıth whıch I type on these ınfernal foeign keyboards, (who knew moving a few keys would cause my typing brain to completely melt down?) it’ll be a bit until I’m updating frequently.
But it ain’t all bad.

This week was get Sarah’s resident’s permit week.
To get a resıdent’s permit in Turkey, all you have to do is make an appointment months in advance to buy the permit, (138TL) pay a fee for every month you plan on staying, and prove that you have $300 in cash for every month the permit covers. That last bit is the trickiest bit. Some jobs will provide the requisite paperwork, but I hadn’t gotten around to asking at DILKO, so we went wıth plan A, not entirely certain it work.
We’d discussed it the night before. I have very lıttle money right now and payday is very far away. We looked to see if my appointment could be moved, but the next available slot was days after my Tourist Visa expired.
“Yeah. They’ll deport you,” someone observed.
So L. looked at her funds and we decided that if we just got 2 months, I wouldn’t have to worry about renewing it until well after payday.
L. and I left the house on a cold grey day and walked down into Kadiköy. She went to the bank machine that gives out dollars and took out $600 American. That’s $300/month for two months. We took it to a bank, but at that branch they wouldn’t change my money unless I had an account- or something. The woman looked at us like we were kind of crazy, (it wouldn’t be the last time that day someone looked at us like that) and toldus to go to one of the many currency exchagne bureaus that litter the streets down by the water.
Except they don’t gıve receıpts, and we needed a receıpt wıth my name on it.
We ran across the street to another branch, but it was closed. (Most banks in Istanbul close for an hour or two for lunch every day.)
We hopped on a ferry, and then a tram and then a metro and then there we were at the Bıg Polis Station(-cum government beaurocratic nıghtmare.) We scrambled around for a bank andeventually found one that changed Leyla’s money and issued a receipt that had the amount in dollars, the exchange rate, the amount in Lira, the date, and a ghostly carbon of my signature.
“It doesn’t have your name on it,” L. said, frustrated. “I don,t know if it’s going to work.”
Then we went into the Big Polis Station (-cum government beaurocratıc nıghtmare) and sat. And sat. And sat in a room. The most unnerving thing about it for me was that it wasn’t clear what was going on. We were just in a room sitting and waiting while mınutes ticked us further and further away from my appointment time. There weren’t helpful signs that said anything like, “This is wehre you sit and wait if you’re trying to get a resident’s permit!” There wasn’t anyone official sitting in there with us. There was no one to ask. Just a bunch of chairs and some people nervously looking around whispering among themselves in French or heavily accented English. If L. hadn’t continually reassured me that we were right where we were supposed to be, thus making it impossible for me to show that I didn’t fully belıeve her without hurting her feelings, I would have taken to the halls, rattling my papers around and shrieking “English?! English?! Can anybody tell me where I’m supposed to be?!!!”
But then a fella in a uniform came in and gathered our papers and told us which lines to stand in. Then we stood. And stood. And stood in a line. People who had come in after us left before us.
“I always get the slowest line,” I said at one point. “When I finally got through my visa line, coming here, my bags were the last on the rack and a woman was ın the process of taking them off to put with the unclaimed luggage.”
But then it was our turn! The exhausted looking man took my passport and papers and looked over them. He was handsome. I might cast him as “Irish thug” in a movie. He looked up at us and explained, in broken English, that did we know we were applying for a permit that would expire a week after my Visa, which I had already paid for?
We nodded gravely. He sighed and stood up then and bent over the papers with us, clearly and reasonably assuming we hadn’t understood him.
He wrote a date.
“Visa expires here.”
We nodded.
He wrote another date, for a week after the first date.
“Resident’s permit, 250 Lira, expires here.”
Again we nodded.
“Why?” he asked, clearly exasperated. “Why do you want this permit?!”
L. tried to explain about how we planned on renewing it before then but the language gap was too great and he waved his hand at her to stop.
Fınally he finagled something so that the RP would begin to cover me when the Visa expired, which is not typical, but which means I won’t have to worry about anything until April.
The sun was setting then, and the offices where you pay your fees had long closed, (because why would they be open at the same time as the offices that go through your paperwork?) so we left and spent the trip home marvelling that the receipt from the bank had worked, and that I would be covered until April.

Today I went back by myself to pay the fees. I only got a little bit lost on the way there. I got lost inside teh building, but as ı was spinning around looking for someone to ask, not quite panicking yet but close, there appeared my Irish Thug walking down the hall with a mug of tea, looking far less happy to see me than I was to see him.
He poınted out the counter where I was to pay, and when I was done I found him again, he stamped everything and gave me an appointment to come back to pick up my booklet.

All in all I thought that would be a lot harder.


1 Comment

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One response to “Residents Permit

  1. GGiselle

    Hi Sarah,
    This is quite a story! I always wondered how it’d be to get a residents permit in Istanbul.
    After reading something on mymerhaba and planning to get one, I never really did. I went to Istanbul to stay for 3 months but ended up coming back after 2.. . I understand very well what you’re going through! I miss Istanbul though!!
    I enjoy reading your blog!
    Take care… by the way, I stayed in Harbiye which is almost Sisli, right?

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