There’s lots of information on the web about how foreigners can get or renew their residence permits, and most of it is incomplete at best and just wrong at worst. It’s also the kind of non-info that isn’t terribly helpful for people like me, naturally anxious people for whom official documents carry all the symbolic weight of a loaded gun in the first scene, people for whom the thought of spending a day in a government building carrying forms from one desk to another brings on heart palpitations and sleepless nights and visions of themselves being led off for unclear reasons in handcuffs.
So this is for you, my unreasonably nervous brethren: for all of you who chronically mistake, out of the corner of your eye, your own bathrobe thrown by yourself over your own chair for a murderer and then don’t turn your head to see for sure because you don’t want the murderer to know you see him; for all of you whose hearts race with unreasonable fear when the phone rings or when you have to make a phone call; for all of you who realize with shame that you’re acting so ridiculously innocent around the cops that you probably actually look very guilty; oh my fellows with probably undiagnosed generalized anxiety disorder, this step by step guide to how to renew your residence permit in Turkey is for you.
The first thing to do when you realized you have the date wrong for your official appointment, and that the next available appointment isn’t for a full month after your current permit expires is not to panic. It’s just like that time when you opened the envelope on a snowy Sunday night to review what supplies you needed to to bring to your practical exam after beauty school and realized you had the date of the test wrong and that the test was first thing the next morning. Remember that? How you drove through snow and ice to get to Sally’s Beauty Supply, and got there five minutes after they closed, but the ladies inside took pity on you and even gave you the professional discount even though you didn’t have your license yet? Remember how you found your live model at a party two counties over and brought her back to the house to practice, how she fell asleep on the couch while you tried to cram everything you’d forgotten since school back into your head? Remember getting up at six the next morning to drive to Dundalk, making it just in time? You passed with flying colors, lady. Things work out. Your wonderful boss will help you gather all the documents you need and you will be ready for your appointment that is sixteen hours from now.
Now, when you realize that you’ve lost the VERY IMPORTANT reference number which you need to print out your VERY IMPORTANT appointment papers, you may panic a little. You can spend an hour (or two) trying to search for your appointment on the website using every other reference you can think of- passport number, current residence permit number- but they’ve changed the computer system since the last time you did this, bud, and this might be a problem.
Nevertheless, get up in the morning with hope in your heart. Go to work to get one last important document, and then get your four mandatory passport photos taken. Check that you have: A copy of your passport
Four passport photos
A copy of your resident’s permit, pages 1-8
Your actual passport
Your actual residence permit
The address of the Kadiköy police station
and a note, written in Turkish by your wonderful boss who hasn’t once rolled his eyes at you, explaining that you’re an idiot who lost her reference number, please help.
Cross the Bosporus for the second time that day, back to Kadiköy. Make sure you bring a good book, because you will read half of it before you get back to work.
From the ferry dock, get a cab. In this case the expense is justified. Don’t be alarmed when the cab driver pulls over to ask a construction worker directions to the police station, which will turn out to be next to the pier, which will seem odd to you. It looked way further on Google maps. But roll with it. Maybe this will be easier than you think.
You should smile ingratiatingly when you hand the perplexed officials the note. They will disappear with it and your passport for a few minutes. This is not a cause for alarm. Three of them will come back and hover around you while their spokesman speaks to you in French. Since you haven’t taken a French lesson since 1996, this will tax all your mental powers, but you will understand the words “Istanbul Enmiyet” and “aujourd’hui.” Don’t think about how long it takes to get to the Istanbul Enmiyet, it’s too depressing. Just get back on the ferry and cross the Bosporus for the third time. Then take a tram, then a metro. Aren’t you glad you brought the book? It helps you pretend you aren’t crammed into a stranger’s armpit on an overcrowded train.
After two hours of travel, you will spend ten minutes in the Istanbul Enmiyet. The men in the office you will be directed to will not trouble to hide that they’re laughing at you, and after a few quick key strokes they’ll hand you a post-it with the reference number on it. You’ll ask if your papers can be processed there, but they’ll point to your appointment paper, to where it says “Kadiköy.” You’ll look longingly at the printers that dot the office, and wonder why they can’t just print out your appointment papers right then and there, and then you’ll retrace your (very fresh) tracks out of the building. Before you go through the turnstiles into the metro you’ll dart into an internet cafe across the street and print out the goddammned VERY IMPORTANT appointment numbers. Then metro, tram, ferry and two hours later you’ll be back where you started. The man with the big gun by the guard post will wave you through with a friendly “I know you!” smile. The man who spoke French will recognize you in the lobby and wave you to an office on the second floor. You’ll arrive somewhat breathless and hand the handsome man behind the first desk your bundle of papers and he’ll look through them, then look at you, then look through them again. He’ll ask you something in Turkish and you’ll look up at him helplessly, smiling, willing him to like you. He’ll get on the phone and have a low, murmured conversation with someone, and then hand you the phone.
“Hello,” a woman’s voice will say. “You are in the wrong police station. Do you understand me? You are in the wrong police station. You need to go to the big police station. Do you understand me? It is closed now, it closes at 5. You need to go there tomorrow morning. They will write the address for you. Do you understand me?”
It is five o’clock. You missed the chance to get this done today by four minutes and one building.
And now might actually be a good time to panic because you are going to be late for work.