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Is the Ankara Agreement Visa at Death’s door?

It looks like Turkish nationals should not rely on the Ankara Agreement visa route in the future.

The Ankara Agreement – formally known as the European Community Association Agreement because its existence is thanks to an EU Treaty with Turkey – entitles Turkish nationals to come and work in the UK. It has given Turkish nationals an additional work visa route into the UK. There are 2 types of visa, one for the self employed and one for the employed. The self employed visa (“Turkish ECAA business visa”) has also given Turkish nationals the opportunity to a right to residence and to settle in the UK. It should be noted that the employed visa route (“Turkish ECAA Worker visa”) gives no right to settlement through that category. With Brexit, it seems likely (in our view) that both visa routes for employed and self employed will cease to exist. The UK government should decide by March 2019.

This note discusses the current effectiveness of the self employed visa route for Turkish nationals wanting to come and work in the UK on a self employed basis.

The requirements for this visa are more generous than those offered to other non-EU citizens wanting UK work permits because:
• There is no minimum capital requirement and no job creation requirement
• There is no English language requirement
• The application is free
• This category is exempt from the health surcharge of £200 per year per person

After 4 years, a Turkish national visa holder has been able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and settlement in the UK. Under UK visa rules, a visa holder must reside lawfully in the UK for 5 years before being able to apply for ILR and 6 years for settlement.

But this route to ILR and settlement is currently suspended due to 2 court judgements from earlier in 2017. These are the cases of Aydogdu and Alagoz, Turkish nationals. These cases decided that for technical reasons nothing to do with Brexit there is no route to settlement via the Turkish ECAA business category for either main applicants or their dependents.

The UK government website still says that after 4 years, a visa holder can apply for ILR - 
https://www.gov.uk/turkish-business-person/extend-your-visa  
https://www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk/y/you-have-a-work-visa/turkish-businessperson-visa

Obviously if the UK government position has changed based on the court decisions, the guidance and relevant application forms should be amended.

The maximum wait for an ILR decision is stated to be 6 months. Passports have to be yielded up for that duration. However, applications submitted before and after the 2 court cases appear to be taking longer.

There is clearly at the very least uncertainty at the moment about the right to ILR from the Turkish ECAA business visa. Our strong recommendation to any Turkish national looking to come and work in the UK and wanting to preserve the option to apply for ILR is to use the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route and not to rely on the Turkish ECAA business visa.

Tom Redfern