Iranians turning to Turkey as ‘plan B’ - Reuters

Iranians are buying Turkish property in increasing numbers in an effort to sidestep U.S. sanctions on Iran and protect their savings via Turkish citizenship, Reuters reported on Tuesday. 

After last year’s currency crisis pushed Turkey’s economy into recession, the government made it easier for foreign nationals to gain citizenship, offering Turkish passports to foreigners willing to spend $250,000 on property, down from $1 million.

At the same time, U.S. sanctions meant to cripple Iran’s economy have severely limited the legal financial transfer mechanisms for Iranians and prompted Tehran to limit the foreign currency citizens can hold outside banks, according to Reuters. 

Seeking to elude Iran’s money-transfer restrictions, Iranians bought nearly twice as many properties in Turkey in the first eight months of 2019 as they had over the same period last year, according to official data. 

An Iranian former electrician said he had been receiving a commission for helping his countrymen transfer money out of Iran. “There is no way to do it legally, so we help them transfer the money,” he told Reuters under condition of anonymity.

Iranians are now Turkey’s second-largest foreign property buyers, behind only Iraqis. Of the 981 foreigners who have become Turkish citizens in the past year, 250 of them were Iranians, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Fatih Cayabatmaz, manager of a consultancy that helps foreigners apply for Turkish citizenship through investment, said U.S. policies seen as anti-immigration and rising xenophobia in Europe had convinced Iranians to look closer to home.

He said it helped that Turkey easily grants foreigners tax ID numbers, with which they can buy properties and establish companies. “Turkey’s bureaucratic processes are almost zero when it comes to foreigners,” said Cayabatmaz. 

Iranians told Reuters they were attracted to Turkey because of the similar Muslim-majority culture and the ease of registering businesses in a country that does not recognize U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who have bought houses in Istanbul and Izmir. People are thinking about buying houses as a plan B,” Ali Asgarzade, an Iranian lawyer who plans to move his family from Tabriz to Istanbul, told Reuters.