Starting with January 1, 2023, the tariff for registering a foreign phone in Turkey has been increased to 6,091 lira ($325) – quite a considerable amount. Yet another increase of the tax makes many expats wonder if it is possible to somehow get around this rule. The short answer is “yes”: any rule can be bypassed. However, it is important to realize that it will cost you extra time and hassle. If you value those, it’s better to stick to the laws in a foreign country, because avoiding registration of an imported foreign phone in Turkey may lead to it being permanently blocked.
In this article we will help you figure out, in which cases it makes sense to spend money on the tax and register a mobile phone imported into Turkey, and how to perform this procedure most effectively. The key here is to consider your goals, priorities and future plans.
Why do I need to register my phone?
Turkish legislation is designed in such a way that the government performs strict control of mobile phones, tablets, and smart watches, in order to fight against illegal migrants and “gray” import of equipment. In addition, due to the regulations on registering mobile phones, the country collects extra taxes, which is good for the development of the national economy.
How does it work? Any foreigner arriving in Turkey for long stays (over 3 months) must a) legalize their presence in the country by requesting a residence permit, and b) register their mobile phone. There are two ways of doing that:
1. To buy a new phone right away from local stores. In that case, you don’t need to do anything else: all import duties will have already been paid for this phone, which also means that the price of the gadget in Turkey will be 30-100% higher than in other European countries (depending on the model); or
2. Register your mobile phone (IMEI number) on the website of the Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR) and pay a one-time tax.
How is a Foreign Phone Registered in the CEIR in Turkey?
To begin with, customs officers will make sure that a foreigner entering Turkey has no more than one phone with him. This rule also applies to tourists.
After the phone that is imported from abroad is hooked up with Turkish mobile networks, a countdown of 120 days begins. During that period the subscriber regularly receives SMS warnings about the need to register their device. As a foreign visitor, you are required to leave some time to register IMEI in advance if you want to stay in touch, because after 4 months the phone will stop catching the network, and it will be impossible to receive messages from government agencies in order to complete the registration. Importantly, a foreigner must take some steps in preparation for phone registration before that time:
- Obtain a temporary residence permit for staying in Turkey;
- Open an account at the local bank;
- Register on the Turkish e-government portal E-devlet – a separate action that requires a personal visit to the post office;
- Make sure that the SIM card purchased in Turkey is registered in your name;
- Obtain an Alien Tax Identification Number.
In fact, only three out of these five steps are obligatory:
- a temporary residence permit;
- a sim-card in your name;
- the Alien Tax ID.
The other two conditions simplify the process of phone registration. If you have a bank card, you can pay the tax online, which means you won’t have to deal with paper receipts for cash. Getting an account on E-devlet means that you can independently complete the procedure for unlocking your phone without visiting the tax office.
If you are interested in making investments in real estate abroad, our portal has some great offers for you in Turkey. Here are some of the most attractive projects from the most reliable Turkish developers, ranging from luxury apartments and villas to plots of land and estates with orchards:
REAL ESTATE FOR SALE IN TURKEY: CONSIDER OUR OFFERS
After successfully completing the phone registration in Turkey, you can contact the selected mobile operator and replace your tourist SIM card with a regular local card with a more favorable tariff plan. The next phone registration is allowed only 3 years later. Before that, you won’t be able to change the SIM card either – everything works strictly in conjunction.
Registering a phone in Turkey to avoid blocking is not only expensive, but also quite a big hassle. So, when does it make sense to go ahead and do it anyway?
- If you came to Turkey for a long time, not just to live for a year or two and see how it goes.
- If you have brought a premium-class phone with you. For example, you want to buy the latest model of the iPhone in Europe or the States for about $ 1000, which costs twice as much in Turkey – it’s a much better deal to pay $325 in tax and live on carefree.
However, if you only came to Turkey for a year or two, or your phone is old and inexpensive, then think carefully – how cost-effective and convenient is it to get that phone registered? Many immigrants give up this idea: they work out and share some tricks about getting around the phone registration rule in relatively legal, albeit short-lived ways. Such tricks may include the following:
- Avoiding connection to Turkish mobile operators and using the special tourist sim-cards for international communication – they are generally cheaper than roaming;
- For certain phone models, it’s possible to use the slots in the phone one by one. When the first slot is blocked, move the Turkish SIM card to the second one and extend the validity period for another 120 days. When the device runs out of the physical slots, the owner would use the virtual ones through E-sim.
- Getting a cable internet connection and using Wi-Fi within your home. Unlike mobile operators, fixed Internet providers in Turkey do not put forward a long list of requirements to subscribers in order to sign a service contract;
- Buying a 4G modem in Turkish stores. These devices have a pre-registered IMEI, and all taxes have been paid, but they are still cheaper than smartphones;
- Bringing a spare two-slot mobile phone into Turkey. This is prohibited, but in reality, customs checks and searches of foreigners are rare and selective;
- Buying a used phone on the secondary market. The main thing is to check that the gadget was originally purchased in Turkey, the taxes have been paid, and there is no need to get the registration;
- Waiting for the so-called “telephone amnesty”, when every January 1 the blocking is removed from all foreign phones, and a new countdown of 120 days begins. But there is no guarantee that this action will be repeated next year.
Many foreigners, especially those who come to Turkey for a short temporary stay, use such tricks and life hacks. However, you need to realize that it is still a lottery and a risk.
If you are considering the prospect of living and working in Turkey, getting citizenship by investment, starting a company there or relocating your business, please contact us today. Our experts will be happy to help you explore all the existing options and make all the steps as hassle-free as possible, from choosing the location for temporary or permanent residence, opening an account or getting other bank services, as well as finding the perfect investment property to your maximum benefits.
Q&A about Phone Registration in Turkey
Must I register my phone exactly within 120 days of my stay in Turkey? I have heard about 365 days.
Indeed, a couple of years ago Turkey introduced some COVID19 concessions for foreigners – they could use the phones they brought into the country for a whole year without any obligations to get it registered. But in 2023, the benefits for immigrants were withdrawn, and the previous IMEI registration rules were reinstalled – registration must be performed within 4 months. Also, a period of 365 days is the deadline for paying the tax on a foreign phone, after which nothing can be done. When a foreigner enters Turkey, the Turkish SIM card slot is blocked after 120 days. Perhaps, this person is quite comfortable living with a locked phone, or maybe they have found other solutions for staying in touch, didn’t have enough time to register or had some problems with getting a residence permit, but they still have the whole year to pay the tax. However, if a foreigner stays in Turkey for 365 days, and only decides to register their phone in CEIR on the second year running, the government will refuse to accept the tax payment.
Do I really have to pay 6091 TL in tax for unblocking my phone in Turkey? I have heard about free registration.
This information is also outdated. Indeed, until the fall of 2022, foreigners could legalize their phones for free through the e-Devlet portal, but this option was also related to pandemic relief efforts. The information in this article is current and dates to the beginning of 2023.
What do you mean when you say that the next phone registration is possible only in 3 years? Does it mean that a foreigner in Turkey must pay the mobile phone unlocking tax every three years?
No, what it means is a right, not an obligation. This means that you can bring one new phone into Turkey from abroad once every three years, but not more often than that. The next tax for registering a foreign gadget will be accepted only after three years. So, if the owner wants to change the phone – for example, sell the old one and import the next device too, they can only do it once every three years. If you have no such plans, you will never have to pay for unlocking your slots again. The Turkish government uses this regulation to try and encourage foreigners to buy equipment in the local stores and as a measure to reduce the influx of imported phones into the country.
I have two physical sim cards installed in two slots in my phone, and I am also using an E-sim function. Does this mean that I have to pay registration tax three times for three different IMEIs?
No, one holder of one passport pays one tax on one telephone, irrespective of the number of slots for sim-cards in the device. You can register as many as 3 IMEIs from one phone on e-Devlet website, but experienced immigrants advise limiting yourself to registering one physical IMEI for a Turkish sim-card, and leave the other slots for foreign sims, which you need to change more often than once in every three years. We would like to remind you that a registered foreign telephone will work only with a Turkish sim-card, which was purchased by the foreigner and registered with their foreign passport, and the owner is not allowed to change anything in that setting for the period of three years. For most phone owners this is inconvenient, so they try to keep at least one sim-slot free.
As you can see, Turkey has very unusual and specific laws for foreign phone owners. Each immigrant decides which options to choose in order to stay connected abroad. If you have not yet chosen a suitable path, please contact the consultants of the International Wealth portal. We will be happy to help you figure out the best way to handle your mobile devices in Turkey based on your situation and preferences.