Politicians call on the Home Office to reverse policy change affecting Turkish nationals seeking permanent residence in the UK

A cross-party group of more than 20 politicians including the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, and former Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, have called on the Home Office to reverse new restrictions on Turkish citizens seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK after setting up their own businesses.

The high profile figures from six political parties have warned that the sudden changes risk jeopardising the livelihoods of thousands of Turkish citizens, as well as damaging the country’s reputation as a fair and stable business environment.

Urging the Home Office to hold existing applicants exempt from the stricter new requirements, the politicians said:

“If the UK is to remain open to the world, we must continue to be a country where those who embody the values of entrepreneurship can succeed, not one that arbitrarily shifts the goalposts.”

Esra Candan Saginc, an interior architect from London who was impacted by the sudden policy change, said:

“Having new requirements imposed on me overnight has left me feeling that there’s nothing stopping the Home Office from making further changes. They could even go as far as to cancel the scheme altogether and deny me and my family indefinite leave to remain. I have simply lost trust in the immigration system, which makes me worry for our future here.”

The open letter has been coordinated by the Alliance of Turkish Businesspeople (AOTB), a grassroots network of those impacted by the changes, and the Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS), which acts as the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Turks and Kurds.

Leni Candan, founder of the AOTB, said: “We took major risks and made huge life changes to come and set up businesses in the UK, only to have the rules changed on us without warning. This has impacted our businesses and our families. The Home Office must address this situation now, to end the anxiety, distress and uncertainty the changes are causing for the 12,500 people affected.”

CEFTUS Director Ibrahim Dogus said: “Giving Turkish citizens who set up a business the opportunity to seek indefinite leave to remain has provided the basis for a diverse and flourishing community that continues to contribute to all aspects of British life. This is a success story we should be celebrating, not impeding.”

The open letter was signed by Sir David Amess of the Conservatives; Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Shadow Immigration Minister Afzal Khan, Catherine West, Kate Osamor, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Alex Sobel, Kate Green, Bambos Charalambous, Virendra Sharma, Siobhain McDonagh, Sandy Martin and Rachael Maskell of the Labour Party; Sir Vince Cable, Tom Brake, Layla Moran, Baroness Angela Harris and Baroness Julie Smith of the Liberal Democrats; Caroline Lucas of the Green Party; Stuart McDonald and Alison Thewliss of the Scottish National Party and Joan Ryan of Change UK – The Independent Group.

Notes to editors

  • In 1963, Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC) entered into a European Community Association Agreement (ECAA), commonly known as the Ankara Agreement. When the UK joined the EEC in 1973 it became a party to this agreement. The agreement gives Turkish nationals the right to establish their own business in the UK. It also allows them to attain residency rights.
  • Until 16 March 2018, Turkish nationals who set up businesses in the UK under the Ankara Agreement were able to apply for ILR after four years, without paying an application fee. Following an overnight policy change, more onerous requirements for ILR have been introduced including five years of residence, an application fee of £2,389 per person including children, as well as passing language and culture tests. The new rules apply retrospectively to 12,500 Turkish nationals who have already set up businesses in the UK and are currently within the four-year route.
  • The full text of the letter can be found here.

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Leni Candan -


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