CBI: Almost There!

At the beginning of the year, our Turkish attorney sent us this list, which outlines the Turkish CBI (Citizenship By Investment) process:

When I found this list earlier today, I was thrilled to see that we are currently at #14!

It wasn’t that long ago that we were spending a long time in #4. It took us a long time to find places that fit in our budget and would make good rentals. Plus, we wanted properties that we’d want to stay in, as well.

Some of these steps were almost instantaneous, which is how we’ve stepped through them so quickly. For example, applying for the Residency Permit (#13) happened over the course of a few morning meetings. That paperwork was processed relatively quickly, and I’m happy to say that as of the end of October ’23, we are indeed Turkish residents!

At this point, our application is in “the queue”, we’re told. We’re not the only ones applying for Turkish citizenship, after all. Our attorney told us that processing time was 3-4 months. Since we applied toward the end of October, hopefully we’ll have our shiny, new passports in January or February!

Here’s looking forward to our second passports in the new year. It will be strange at first, but it will open up so many more opportunities — primarily, being able to stay in Turkiye longer-term. It has taken patience and a lot of attention to detail, but it can be done.

If you’re curious about CBI (or Golden Visa) programs, please DM me, and I’m happy to chat!


Still In The Game

I’ve been having some WordPress technical problems and haven’t been able to post. We are still in progress on our CBI!

You may recall our previous post in which I mentioned our two properties. One is located in the city of Istanbul, near the tourist-popular Galata Tower and Istiklal Street. The other is located in a coastal area, not far from Izmir.

Just our luck that the coastal property, in the town of Karaburun, was almost move-in ready! It just needed to be furnished once we purchased it. (Unfortunately, many of the furnishings have been slow going, since several were out of stock as university students needed them to furnish their apartments. Only one sofa to go!) Once that unit is entirely furnished, we will be able to rent it out.

The other one, in Istanbul, is in a fantastic location, but needed to have a different layout to make it useable as a rental. We have a team working on renovations, and we’re told they’ll be finished by Jan ’24. Then, we can rent that one out, too!

Our goal is not necessarily to make money on these. Some people start CBI as a means to invest in foreign property, that they then will earn an income from. While it would be great if we actually earned money from these rental properties, the most important feature, for us, was our means to a second passport.

We will be heading to see our properties in person very soon! I’m always up for a trip to Turkiye, but this will be a special one in two ways. First, seeing our new properties, of course. But secondly, Turkiye’s centennial is on October 29, and we want to enjoy the festivities!

The last time we were in Istanbul in ’21, it occurred to us that ’23 would mark 100 years for the country. We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to come back for that event. Not only are we coming back for that, but we will start the last phase of paperwork to apply for our Turkish passports. Hopefully by my birthday next August, I will be a citizen of two countries!

Watch this space to learn more…


The Future Of CBI

A pile of international passports
Second passports are valuable. Are they still possible?

Back when I was a kid in the 80’s, the idea of having a second (or third) passport was for the rich and famous, something that Robin Leach included in his “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” (If you understand that reference, you”re probably pulling out the Geritol every morning.)

But more recently, it has become more of an option for everyday folks like you and me. Whether you get your second passport through Citizenship by Descent, whereby some countries allow you to document recent heritage, or through a Golden Visa/CBI style program, it’s possible for us plebes to get a second passport.

However, if you stay up on the news in these circles, you may have noticed a trend: Portugal recently did away with its Golden Visa program. Some of the Caribbean islands have tightened their restrictions. Even Turkiye increased its minimum required investment in 2022 (from $250K to $400K — ah, if only we’d had more liquid assets at the time).

Why is this happening? No one has made an official statement, but a big international crisis (looking at you, Putin) has shaken things up quite a bit, creating massive population shifts.

Am I telling you to throw in the towel if this is a dream? NO! Absolutely not. But I do believe that these programs will continue to adjust in the coming years, and probably not in our favor.

What I am telling you is that if you’d like to invest in a CBI or Golden Visa program, and you have the means to do so, consider acting now rather than later. Because you never know how much longer your dream will be an option.


Properties Achieved!

By the end of May ’23, we had negotiated, settled, and purchased two properties in Turkiye. Once those were officially complete, there was quite the sigh of relief!

With the rapidly changing USD to TRY (Turkish Lira) exchange rate, it was a tight squeeze to get these properties while still hitting the $400K mark, required for CBI.

(And we’re still not 100% certain that we’re at $400K, even today in mid-July. More on that complication later. Fingers crossed that these two purchases hit our goal!)

One of our two spots is in Istanbul, close to touristic areas:

This property is an apartment in an historical building, and it’s located where the heart is (underneath the bold KABATAS). It’s a few minutes away from the famous Istiklal Street, famous for its great shopping and eating. In just a few minutes on public transport, you can reach the historic district, featuring the Grand Bazaar and Aya Sofia.

This neighborhood, while not our absolute favorite, is also one that we really enjoy. We’re hoping to use the apartment ourselves sometimes, while also earning some rental income through AirBnb when we’re not there.

NOTE: We are not pursing this as a second income source. If it makes enough money to generate a second income, that will be fantastic! Our main goal is to make back some, or all, of our investment. It’s in a popular area, so hopefully others will also want to stay there!

Our second location is near the town of Karaburun, less than an hour’s drive from Izmir on the Aegean Coast. It’s a small getaway cottage in an up-and-coming area. In fact, Alacati (look south of Karaburun) is quite a popular weekend destination! While the two of us are more city folk, we expect this location to be popular for those who want to escape the city.

The Karaburun location is in the process of being furnished, and it will be ready to rent. The Istanbul property is taking a bit more work, needing some minor renovations. It’s great to have the variety between the two of them!

In the coming weeks, I will keep you updated on the process of getting these properties rental ready. Check back soon!


How To Find A Property

Home in Bodrum
Properties in Turkiye range from old to new, small to large. (Image credit: Daily Sabah)

So, you want to buy property in Turkiye. How do you get started?

We started by watching a few YouTube channels focused on foreign property, including Wandering Investor. Through the Wandering Investor channel, we learned about an Istanbul-based real estate agent who is experienced in working with foreigners. (He’s from Canada, so he’s fluent in English, too.) We found his contact information in the comments section of the video, and simply reached out.

Keith enthusiastically responded and connected me to his local network, including a few WhatsApp groups with other current and prospective investors. Others in the group were also eager to provide backchannel chats with advice, which I found particularly helpful from those already in the late stages of the CBI process.

One of the WhatsApp groups is basically a repository for real estate listings, including photos. So, as our money became available, I was paying more attention to these. Keith and his team also worked relentlessly, often until late in the night for them, to find the right combination of properties for us.

Our properties? I’ll write about them in the next post…

But for now, know that there are a variety of property types available if you’re wanting to invest. There’s a lot of newer construction, which is more expensive, of course. Older properties are also available, but you need to ensure that they are earthquake-safe. And you can choose an urban location (such as Istanbul), a coastal beach location (such as Bodrum, shown in the photo above), or something rural elsewhere in the country.

Once you have the appropriate connections, it’s pretty straightforward to find a Turkish property that works for you! We certainly did.


Property Search

(Note: this post was originally written in early May 2023. Spoiler alert — we have since found properties in Turkiye. But this post outlines the process for finding properties.)

This cool map was on the wall at one of the properties where we stayed in Istanbul.

Our money is deposited into our Turkish bank account, and it’s time to look for a place! The only thing – the clock is ticking, since with the country’s presidential election looming (this post written during the first week of May), it’s unclear if the CBI program will be maintained. There is zero likelihood that they would choose to terminate it the day after the May 14th election, but if such a decision were made, we may only have until June 1 or June 15 to finalize our property purchases. If only our money had been available earlier – this last-minute stress would not have been such an issue!

I didn’t know that the property purchase would be as stressful as waiting for the money to come in. Many properties for sale are under $400K, meaning we’re trying to get two. (Better to diversify our investments, anyway.) But with a hard upper limit to our budget, it’s become a game of Tetris to come up with two properties that fit the criteria, but don’t exceed $450K.

What are these criteria, you ask? The most basic one is that the property is suitable to be used for the CBI program. Properties which have been used for CBI in the past, and subsequently sold, are not eligible to be used for the program. Also, in light of the recent Hatay Province earthquake, we want a solid building. But aside from that, we don’t have too many other qualifications. Ideally, it would be in an area where we could rent the apartment and get a reasonable return – basically, the apartment paying for itself in the end.  We’re not sure how much we’ll be staying in our properties when we visit Istanbul, since AirBnBs in our favorite neighborhood are affordable enough.

The friendly faces of Istanbul and Besiktas!

The long-term plan is hopefully to buy a property in our favorite neighborhood after our initial CBI holding period is over. Once we buy our first property, we are allowed to sell it after three years and still maintain citizenship. If we hold the property five years before selling, we will avoid long-term gain taxes. We’d love to use the proceeds from these sales to buy our ideal property in 2028. This, of course, is dependent on availability, world economy, and the status of Turkiye at the time.

Besiktas — our favorite neighborhood! (So far.)

Meanwhile, we feel like we’re close to moving on a pair of properties, but the ten-hour time difference is nervewracking! I don’t expect the agents to stay up all night to help me; as it is, they’ve been more than generous, texting me until 12pm PDT/10pm Istanbul time. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I spend the entire rest of the afternoon with property anxiety…


The Basics Of Turkish CBI

As the name states, at the fundamental level, CBI requires an investment of money prior to obtaining citizenship. In Turkiye, the investment goes toward property, meaning that you will also be a local property owner once the process is complete.

Since we are American citizens, we do not have to give up our primary citizenship. When our CBI is complete, we will be dual citizens of the US and Turkiye. Note that this is not true for all countries; some countries do not allow dual citizenship, and those residents would have to give up their primary citizenship when pursuing Turkish CBI. This is great, since it not only gives us the freedom to move back and forth, but we will be able to use our Turkish passports to travel visa-free to certain countries.

If you’re wondering if a lot of paperwork is involved, you’d be right. But the overall process involves selecting and buying property equivalent to $400,000 (which often involves more than one property), and you and your family will have passports within about four months. Yes – if you purchase the property, you, your spouse, and any dependents under the age of 18 will also be included in the deal. There are many hoops to jump through, and I would recommend using a reputable attorney to help you through the process so that you don’t miss anything, but it’s one of the fastest CBI programs around.

Moreover, if you are not staying in your property, it can generate rental income (after any renovations are completed, of course). And, if you aren’t satisfied in the end, the program only asks that you hold your property for three years – then you can sell it.

Interestingly, all of this paperwork – including choosing and purchasing the property – can be done remotely. I have heard of many people who receive their Turkish passports never having set foot in the country. That sounds crazy to me, since I want to spend as much time as possible there; but even we have had to do some of the work through our local Embassy, as it hasn’t been practical to travel back and forth to Turkiye.


The Journey Begins

Unfortunately, going to Istanbul every time we need to complete paperwork is not an option from where we live in Seattle, much though we would love it.

To complete the first step of our CBI journey, we needed to give our Turkish attorney power (power of attorney) to open Turkish bank accounts for us and deal with some of the paperwork. We are represented by the Los Angeles embassy, so we went down there in mid-March. As a former Southern California resident, I was not upset by this, since I was able to drive around and reminisce as well as getting work done.

Off we go!
Tacos. Siempre. When in LA…

Was this as much of a food adventure as a CBI/work journey? Maybe…

Indeed… this was one of my favorite places in Newport when I went to UCI a gazillion years ago, and they’re still going strong. Bagels not quite NY-level, but far better than what you can get here in Seattle.

This says it all. What numbskull decides to start construction on a major road on a Monday morning? We thought we were so prepared, even driving the route to the Embassy the night before to get a sense of the gotchas along the local roads. But the very next day — yep, they’d torn up the road, which made traffic ten times worse.

Luckily, we’d more than doubled Google Maps’ estimate to get there, and only ran 10 minutes late. For such an important appointment, we weren’t taking chances.

This was a Turkish government facility, so I didn’t take any pictures inside. But I just had to sneak one picture before going in to document this historic event. Note the Turkish flag on the door — we knew we were in the right place!

While inside, we spent a lot of time talking to an interpreter, walking back and forth between the seating area and the officials, and just waiting until we were needed for questions. (We should’ve taken a picture of the interpreter, who was wonderful. She was originally from Istanbul, and told us that she thought LA was slow-paced. )

In the end, we officially signed over POA to our attorney in Istanbul successfully. But we were lucky — our interpreter was told that we were the last foreigners allowed to have an appointment before the May Turkish elections. Since it was mid-March when we set this up, that delay likely would’ve killed our CBI process. Glad that we squeezed through all of the traffic!

Once that was taken care of, we spent some time at the breezy, but still beautiful, Manhattan Beach pier.

Step one complete! Now, on to putting money in the account, and selecting our properties…