Turkey halts all visa services for American citizens in US

The US consulate in Istanbul and other US consulates in Turkey have ceased most of their visa services after an employee of the Istanbul consulate was arrested by Turkish authorities (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

Washington (AFP) - Turkey said Sunday it was halting all visa services for Americans at its diplomatic missions in the US in a tit-for-tat move after Washington made a similar announcement earlier in the day.

"Recent events have forced the Turkish Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of the US to the security of the Turkish Mission facilities and personnel," a statement posted on the Twitter account of the Turkish embassy in Washington DC said, closely mimicking the earlier US notification.

"In order to minimize the number of visitors to our diplomatic and consular missions in the US while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all visa services regarding the US citizens at our diplomatic and consular missions," it added.

The Turkish restrictions appeared to go further than a move by the US to suspend the processing of "non-immigrant" visas, a specific category that relates to tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.

Immigrant visa services are for those seeking to live in the US permanently.

A first version of the Turkish statement that was posted on the embassy's Twitter account on Sunday afternoon had said the measure would apply "to visas in passports."

But a later version said: "This measure will apply to sticker visas as well as e-Visas and border visas," leaving open the question of whether US travelers who already have visas would be allowed to enter Turkey.

The statement also specifically alluded to American citizens applying for visas from within the US, and was not clear whether it applied to those applying from other countries.

The US had announced its suspension following the arrest of a Turkish member of staff working at the US consulate in Istanbul.

The employee was remanded in custody by an Istanbul court late Wednesday on accusations of links to the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for last year's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the US, non-immigrant visas are issued to those travelling for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Immigrant visas apply to those seeking permanent residency or citizenship.

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