Both the United States and Turkey have suspended all nonimmigrant visa services for travel between the two countries. The breakdown in relations was prompted by the arrest of a Turkish national employed by the U.S. consulate whom Turkish authorities charged with espionage and, essentially, treason. The Turkish crackdown on subversive nationals is a direct reaction to the failed coup in 2016, supposedly led remotely by Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the United States. This was the second arrest of a U.S. consular employee. Following the arrest, the Department of State stated: “Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of the government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission facilities and personnel.”
Because of its geographic location, Turkey is a critically important ally in the fight against terror. Its proximity to Syria, Iraq, and other key areas in and around the Fertile Crescent make it an ideal staging point for U.S. military operations in the region. Turkey has been a helpful ally in the fight against terrorism, but U.S. and Turkish goals do not always align — especially when it comes to the treatment of the Kurdish ethnic group present in the southeast portion of the country. Moreover, Turkey has estranged itself from inclusion in the European Union due to the alleged human rights abuses committed in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, and its list of Western allies is growing increasingly shorter.
The arrest of the U.S. consular employee prompted the United States to suspend all nonimmigrant visa processing for Turkish nationals. Turkey responded in like fashion, and then upped the stakes by refusing to recognize Ambassador Bass as the U.S’s representative in Ankara. At this point, we are unsure when diplomatic relations will be restored and nonimmigrant visa processing will resume. In the meantime, Turkish nationals who currently possess valid visas may continue to travel to the U.S., and U.S. consulates outside of Turkey will process visa applications.