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BLOG Where Do Foreigners Live in Turkey? Official Stats and Comparisons

21 May 2017 / Lifestyle

Living in Turkey

Over the last twenty years, Turkey has become a popular tourist destination, ideal expat haven, an international investment and business hub as well as a relocation. It is basically an all-rounder and each sector has attracted global interest, for a particular reason.

Low property prices have attracted a majority of expats living in Turkey, along with healthy interest rates on monthly savings accounts that average 10%. In places like the UK, diligent money savers can only dream of this massive return on investment.

For international businesses, the government offers lucrative incentives and jobs such as English teachers and holiday reps are openly available to foreigners. Other nationalities also come here for study reasons and Syrians have entered over the small section of border that they share with Turkey in the east of the country.

All of these examples present an intensely diverse portfolio of global nationalities residing in the country. We wanted to investigate this further by finding out exactly…


* How many foreigners live in Turkey?

* What is their reason for doing so?

* Where in the country do they live?

So, we searched for official government statistics of foreigners who have been approved for an Ikamet that is a residency permit. The latest stats published on 11.05.2017 by the Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management show that 560,613 foreigners are living in Turkey on a residency permit.

They broke down residency permit approvals into the 81 official provinces to show where foreigners live in Turkey.


The top five destinations are…

Istanbul: 241,348 - Turkey’s largest city issued the most amounts of residency permits, but it is the most populated area and a major hub for tourism, business, finance, politics, expats, immigrants, and education, so this result isn’t a surprise.

Ankara: 63,214 - As the capital and second largest city of Turkey, Ankara is another metropolis that never sleeps. As well as being a business and political hub, it has excellent nightlife, and shopping scenes. Recent modernization projects to the housing industry have caught the eyes of buyers, and it’s university education is highly respected.

Antalya: 48,293 - For many years, Antalya has followed Istanbul in second place as the most popular destination for tourism and house sales to foreigners. Consisting of the main city centre and smaller coastal resorts, it is the typical Mediterranean postcard destination.

Bursa: 32,797 - Although a late starter to the tourism and property investment industries, Bursa has especially grown in popularity over the last three years. Including the main city centre and surrounding districts, it is an incredibly green and picturesque place. The housing industry of Bursa is experiencing an overhaul and particularly attracting foreign investors from Middle East countries.  

Izmir:  16,173 - Consisting of the third largest city in Turkey and smaller coastal resorts, foreign nationalities do go to Izmir, but it has always been a popular destination for domestic tourism and Turks that own summer homes there. Naturally, it is also major hub of business and university education.

Also interesting is that the number of foreign residency permits has increased over the years, despite an intense and time-consuming overhaul in procedures and paperwork. (Note, these are official registered residents and figures do not include illegal immigrants or those obtaining refugee statuses.)


It was also possible to drill the data down further into the type of residency permits approved.


Stats also show the nationalities of foreigners. For example, for education purposes, it shows an overwhelming interest from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan citizens in particular.


In 2016, out of all the nationalities approved for short-term residency permits residency status, Iraqis came out at the top.


Meanwhile for people staying in Turkey for work reasons, Georgians were top of the list.


Is there a direct link between house sales to foreigners and approved residency permits?

Yes and no. We compared the top five nationalities of foreign residency permits in 2016 to official home sales to foreigners for the same year. Iraq came out top on both lists, but there were some direct contrasts.


1: Syrians appear as second on the list for residency permits, but don’t appear on the house purchases list. Looking at the stats, unusual high amounts of foreigners are living in Gaziantep. We assume they are Syrians who have relocated because of the proximity of the region to their home country.

2: The same applies to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan nationalities but stats have already showed they are the top nationalities for study and education.

3: Iraq, Russia, and Afghanistan appear on both lists.

4:  The most interesting data is that Saudis and people from Kuwait who are second and third for nationalities buying properties do not appear anywhere in the top ten nationalities of foreign residency permits. For this reason, we assume, their interest in the country is an investment, as buy-to-let with lucrative ROI, or they have future plans for living in Turkey.

Stats Versus Eyes on the Ground: Where do Expats Live in Turkey?

The data is fascinating, but doesn’t accurately reflect the social demographics of expat communities in Turkey.

For the purpose of this article, we are defining an expat, as someone who has purchased property in Turkey, is financially independent and not in further education.

As well as the major cities, expats tend to set up home on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Excluding the already discussed Antalya area, the two other major regions for expats are Aydin and Mugla, which collectively, approved 16,186 residency permits. Regions within these provinces include Kusadasi, Altinkum, Bodrum, Marmaris, and Fethiye.

On the Aegean coast, the small holiday resort of Altinkum has a reputation for particularly attracting British expats. Hence its nickname “little Britain.” Its neighbour Kusadasi has always been a favourite of Irish holidaymakers and tourists.

Expats rarely venture past the central Anatolian region into the east to relocate because it does not have beaches and the lifestyle is considerably more conservative than the west of Turkey. Likewise, small, rural communities of the Black Sea are traditionally tight-knit, and some locals are hesitant to sell to foreigners with no background or cultural interest in the area.

For this reason, if you are looking to buy property in Turkey, as either an investment or permanent retirement home, rather than looking at facts and data of where foreigners live in Turkey, you should visit each potential destination to see life on the ground with your own eyes.

More information:  Contact us here if you would like to arrange a viewing trip, receive further information from our area guides or a portfolio of property for sale in Turkey.

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