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What is the Impact of Brexit Likely to be for Turkish Nationals Benefiting from the Ankara Agreement?

The Ankara Agreement enables Turkish nationals to enjoy a number of advantages in terms of emigration to EU countries. 


The ‘Ankara Agreement’, as it is commonly referred to, was signed in 1963 between the Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC). The Agreement was designed to encourage Turkey to become a Member State of the EEC by promoting economic relations.

Various “incentives” were included to help ease the entry of Turkish nationals to move to Member States to carry out economic activities. Although the Ankara Agreement was signed in 1963, it applied to the then Member States, and subsequently to new Member States who joined the EEC. The Ankara Agreement was therefore applicable to the UK, when the UK became a Member State in 1973.

What are the Effects of the Agreement and what are some of the Benefits?

The Ankara Agreement and subsequent agreements contain “standstill clauses.” This means that the then 1973 and 1980 UK rules, continued to apply to ‘Turkish Businesspersons’ and ‘Turkish Workers’ respectively.

  • The UK immigration authorities are not therefore able to apply stricter rules to Turkish nationals than those which were in existence in 1973 and 1980, under the then existing visa categories.

However, if a Turkish national made a UK visa application, outside the scope of the Ankara Agreement, they would then be subject to the same UK visa rules which apply to nationals of other countries such as; Australia, China, and the USA, which have been and are subject to fairly regular change.


Turkish nationals could have applied for the former Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa but would have needed up to £200,000 initial capital; whereas a visa application under the ‘Turkish Businessperson’ category only requires “sufficient funds”.

Alternatively, Turkish nationals can apply for a visa under the new Start-up/Innovator visa categories (introduced on 29 March 2019), but would require ‘support’ from an endorsing body – there is, again, no such requirement for this in the 1973 rules, which continue to apply today to the Turkish Businessperson visa category. 

Clarification by the Courts 

Although stricter rules cannot be introduced by the UK immigration authorities, certain aspects of the Ankara Agreement have been clarified, by the courts, over the years.

These include the ability for Turkish nationals, who have lived in the UK under the ‘Turkish Businessperson’ or ‘Turkish Worker’ visa categories, being able to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK, once they have lived in the UK for 5 years. This is as long as they meet all of the other requirements such as demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the English language and about life in the UK.

Will there be an Impact on the Ankara Agreement due to Brexit?

Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, a transition period is currently in place until at least 31 December 2020. During this period, most EU laws and agreements continue to apply to the UK including the Ankara Agreement.

Once the transition period ends, and the Ankara Agreement no longer applies to the UK:

  • Turkish nationals already in the UK will likely see little difference
  • there will be implications for Turkish nationals seeking to move to the UK

The exact arrangements will depend on future UK policy and negotiations reached between the UK and Turkey (if any). In a “no-deal” Brexit scenario, the UK government’s policy was that it “will seek to replicate the effect of the ECAA arrangements for the resident Turkish population”. It is not clear whether this will still be the case once the transition period ends.

In other words, Turkish nationals already living in the UK, with an appropriate visa under the Ankara Agreement, are likely see little difference once the Ankara Agreement no longer applies to the UK; Turkish nationals wishing to come to the UK after the transition period ends however, are likely to need to apply for appropriate immigration permissions such as under the UK Start-up/Innovator/ Tier 2 (General) work visa categories.

Additional Information 

Dixcart Legal can assist with UK business and personal immigration. If you have any questions about this article or require immigration assistance, please feel free to contact Vincent Chung:

This Information Note was first published in September 2019 and updated in March 2020.

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