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Thousands of Turks apply for UK work visa before Brexit deadline

Turkish citizens have accelerated their applications ahead of the Ankara Agreement's expiration when Britain leaves the EU
UK border signage is pictured at the passport control in arrivals in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London (AFP)
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Ankara

A record-breaking 20,000 Turkish citizens made applications this year for a special UK businessperson visa that would eventually grant them British residency, according to data released to BBC Turkish. 

The rush comes as the 1963 Ankara Agreement, which granted Turkish citizens a path to emigrate to the UK for business purposes, is set to expire on 31 December along with the Brexit transition period.

For years, Turkish citizens have used the agreeement to stay in the UK as an investor or entrepreneur.

'Overall the Turkish citizens who made the applications had an urge to open a new page in their lives by moving to London, by getting into a new career path'

- Hakan Camuz, lawyer

Once obtained, Turkish citizens need to renew their visa annually. However, after three years they are eligible to apply for permanent residence and eventually British citizenship.

The UK is set to leave the agreement, which was signed by Turkey and the EU's predecessor the European Economic Community, as it is departing from the union.

However, Home Office statistics released by BBC Turkish indicate that the divorce has encouraged thousands of Turkish citizens to file for the visa before the British train leaves the station.

More than 10,000 people living in Turkey filed applications for the visa in the first nine months of 2020, more than the combined numbers of filings in the last 10 years.

The total number of applications both from within and outside the UK neared 20,000, another record. Last year, the total reached 14,000, which was also a record, again encouraged by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

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New applications for the visa have been steadily increasing for the past 10 years, but it showed a big uptick in 2018 when Turkey faced a currency crisis.

Many Turkish citizens with business experience told Middle East Eye that they decided to move to the UK because they had lost hope in their country amid increasing repression of personal freedoms in Turkey.

However, Hakan Camuz, head of international law at London-based legal firm Stoke White, who has been helping his clients to get the visa since 2007, said the bulk of applicants in recent years have been white-collar professionals from IT, finance and trade.

“I have occasionally had people who owned shoe-shining companies, but overall the Turkish citizens who made the applications had an urge to open a new page in their lives by moving to London, by getting into a new career path," he told MEE.