E-Visa Application System
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Turkey was the world’s sixth most popular tourism destination in 2013. Over 35 million foreigners visited Turkey in 2013. Before Electronic Visa Application System was introduced, visas basically could only be obtained by either visiting Turkish Embassies/ Consulates General or (if one is eligible) at the borders upon arrival. These two types of visa practice proved to be problematic on some major accounts. First, foreigners obliged to obtain visas, had to line up in front of visa counters at the airports in Turkey to secure their entrance into the country. People, including vulnerable persons (pregnant, kids, disabled etc.) had to spend up couple of hours in rush times standing in visa lines after long and exhausting travels. For instance, daily 50,000-60,000 tourists had to wait in front of visa counters at Atatürk Airport, which is the busiest border gate in Turkey. The waiting time changed depending on the type of the passport and currency. People who had (or preferred) to receive their visas before their travels used to spend considerable time and efforts for collecting documents needed for visa application. After they collected necessary documents, they might have needed to travel a long distance to reach Turkish missions and had to wait in the lines there. On the other hand, Turkish missions were so much overwhelmed with handling visa applications that they did not have enough time for the other services. Foreigners who were not eligible for visa on arrival and who did not have any Turkish mission in the vicinity were deprived of the opportunity to travel to Turkey. Besides, in accordance with Turkish-EU harmonization process, the issuance of sticker visas at borders will be gradually abolished, as no such practice exists under the Schengen system. Consequently, these people, who are normally eligible for the issuance of sticker visas at borders, will have to be directed to Turkish Embassies and Consulate Generals. As a matter of fact, the burden on the Turkish missions would grow increasingly and the long queues would spring up. As you will acknowledge, long queues mean more waste of time and lack of security. E-visa system will take most of the burden. As described above, many visitors were faced with these and unprecedented requirements and problems to obtain visas. The dramatic increase in the number of total visitors was a deteriorating factor.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
According to Turkish legislation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of visa issuance. As a requirement of this responsibility, the respective authorities of the Ministry, Visa Department and Information Technology Department have become together to form strategy draft for the solution of the problem. The priority point in the first strategy paper prepared by these two departments was to create a web-based system which provides an easy and safe usage for all the applicants including different cultures of different countries. As a requirement of the legislation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has come together with the Ministries of Interior and Finance to agree on the details of the strategy within the framework of the determined priorities of the system. After the respective parties mentioned above came together and discussed about the solution types, they agreed upon that the solution should focus on the fastest, simplest and most effortless methods. While the simplicity and fastness were the advantages of the visa application process at the border, the lack of security aspect was its disadvantage. Therefore it was decided that, the new system which would replace the visa application process at the border, had to include these advantages and besides, it had to solve the security problem that was the missing side of the system. Since people are usually not willing to perform complicated procedures while applying for visas, the new system had to encourage visitors to Turkey. So that, there was a consensus on the approach for the problem. Cognizant of tourism’s vital role as a driving force for socio-economic development, Turkey’s medium and long term strategies to consolidate its sustained growth include, inter alia, facilitation of international visits to Turkey. It was evident that it would not be easy to create a visa application process system which would join simplicity and fastness with security. Although increasing security features would make the visa application more effortful, neither simplicity nor the fastness could be sacrificed. First, an analysis team was formed, bringing the personnel of the respective departments together. The function of the team was to survey the visa issue processes of the other countries. In the end of the survey, they noticed that the security of the visa application processes of the other countries has generally been kept in the highest level. Besides, the application processes have been conducted manually and they were cumbersome and time-consuming. These visa application processes used all over the world couldn’t be a good reference, in respect of the determined motto of the system. Accordingly, the analysis team had to create totally a new system by calculating all details. The results of the analysis showed that the target audience possessed very different traditions of culture and informatics. While the citizens of some countries were in tendency to informatics and widely used internet, the citizens of the other countries were in the opposite point. In this respect, the solution wouldn’t be only simple but also easy-to-use. When the habits of internet use and demographic characteristics of the target audience were examined, due to the wide age range and education level differences the importance of the simple usage level became more significant. The solution draft, prepared over flow-charts and mock-ups generated in the result of the analysis, was submitted to the officials employed in various institutions and different fields. Finally, the said solution draft was finalized.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The main innovation of this initiative is to create a visa system which provides a simple, fast and secured application process for the visitors, in contrary with the other visa systems analyzed and found as cumbersome and time-consuming. Such a visa system is unique in the world, with its general architecture and with its features designed as uploading additional documents and resulting the application only in average 3 minutes, without requiring any manual review. Besides, the system is unique as a creative model in respect of responding to inquiries from users 24/7 by e-Visa Support Desk and the Foreign Ministry’s Call Centre, where the applicants can always find somebody who will answer their questions personally. The initiative is creative and innovative as it e-transforms a traditional visa application and develops a unique solution for the foreigners. Within this solution, it engages several government agencies and serves people from almost 100 countries. The system is also innovative as providing visa services without consuming the mankind’s energy and time while providing required visa services electronically and at a very fast and secure pace with nearly-zero costs.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
1) Conceptual & Strategic Planning: Officials in charge of strategic planning from two departments discussed the draft plan and various ideas on different approaches were articulated. A shared vision on how to proceed was shaped. 2) Analysis: The idea was discussed extensively by the respective personnel of the Foreign Ministry. The basic tenets of the application were laid down. Related government bodies such as Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Interior and National Airliner (Turkish Airlines) were consulted. Whole analysis has been completed within 4 months. 3) Design: After the completion of the preliminary drafts in accordance with the structure which was developed as a result of analysis, the drafts were reviewed as being user-friendly. Finally the design was completed in accordance with the input of the respective personnel working in the Foreign Ministry, totally with its own resources. (15 days for mockup, 1 month for final drafts) 4) Development: Processes of the project development have been completed accordingly. (it lasted 4 months) 5) Tests: Comprehensive tests were conducted both in Ankara headquarters and in overseas Missions. In light of the feedbacks received from the missions and the evaluations made at the capital, a roadmap was outlined to accommodate the debugging and further development phases and the system has been determined to be made operational in 15 days. 6) An online Support Desk and call center were established before the project was launched to reply questions of the users. 7) The application was launched at the 17th of April 2013. 8) Embassies in Ankara were briefed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the new application before the project was launched. 9) Further Development: The application was modified and improved in line with the feedback received from the users; in this context, the following changes were adapted to the project. 9-a) In the beginning the application was made available in English only. Then, Turkish, French, Spanish, German, and Polish have been added. In near future, more languages, (Dutch, Norwegian, Chinese and Arabic) will be added into the system. 9-b) Group and family applications have been made possible for tour operators and families. 9-c) Payment methods have been diversified. 9-d) Citizens of 101 countries can obtain their e-Visas over the system now. The number of countries will be increased. 9-e) E-Visa kiosks have been placed and free Wi-Fi areas have been created at major Turkish airports for foreigners arriving in Turkey without visas. 9-f) Turkish Foreign Ministry is trying to make protocols with various Airlines so that citizens of certain countries can get e-Visa with the condition that they travel to Turkey by these Airlines companies. To that end, web services have been implemented in order to make the Airline companies issue e-Visa. 9-g) The application can be made only for touristic and trade purposes at the moment. But, there are attempts to enable people to take also their work and study visas by the way of electronic visa application system in near future, therefore there will be saved more time and energy to the benefit of citizens of different countries. 9-h) The practice of visa upon arrival will be replaced by e-Visa soon. 9-i) The application was also introduced in the social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
During the design and implementation of the initiative, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the respective personnel from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Directorate General Of Migration Management, TÜRSAB (Association of Turkish Travel Agencies), Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines worked closely. The security clearances of the visa-applicants have been acquired on-the-fly by the web service, provided with the Ministry of Interior which is in charge of homeland security. Thus, the motto for having the system faster and safer has been succeeded. As a result of the work carried out by the Ministry of Finance, the visa application fees are being paid online. When the visitors arrive in the border, they don’t need to submit any additional print, as their visa information is being transmitted directly on the system to “Directorate General of Migration Management “as soon as their visa is issued. Therefore, there is no paper waste. TÜRSAB (Association of Turkish Travel Agencies) has provided information to the travel agencies and helped receiving feedback. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Turkish Embassies, Consulate Generals, Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines have contributed to advertising activities.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The sources have been mobilized by the Directorate for Information Technologies of the Foreign Ministry to achieve user friendly and technically sound e-Visa application. A work group has been formed in the Directorate for Information Technologies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group has been comprised of administrative personnel, analysts, designers, developers, testers and user assistants. Technical infrastructure of the Ministry has been made use of. No additional budget has been allocated to develop the application. Additionally, the personnel, who have already been employed under the UNDP project for the e-Consulate services of the Foreign Ministry, has contributed to e-visa system development. In this sense, UNDP has contributed to the initiative indirectly.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1) Since 17 April 2013 up to now 7.3 million foreigners have visited the web site and the system has issued 5.7 million e-Visas. They seem to be quite satisfied with it (For the comments posted on the website: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/comments/) 2) Approximately, more than 120 million USD has been collected as visa fee, which has been directly transferred to the Treasury as of the starting date. 3) Significant amount of time has been saved on the part of Turkish authorities. Approximately, each day avg. 10,500 people make visa applications by using e-visa application system. This figure increases to an average of 40-50 thousands during the summer season. If we think that each people spends 15 minutes while waiting in visa lines at the airports or consulates, this means that these 10,500 people saved roughly 105,000 minutes (72.9 days) by choosing e-visa application system. 4) Considerable amount of time has been saved by the foreigners who has visited Turkey with e-Visa. 5) We could reach out to thousands of people, who didn’t have a Turkish mission in their vicinity. The statistics show that the number of visitors from these countries have increased by 21,09 per cent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The application has been monitored over several different ways: The system features administration dashboard, which instantly displays the real time data such as, number of e-Visas issued, the amount of money collected, the number of the web site visitors. There is also a separate section which displays information regarding the applicants. The information provided can be used for various statistics studies. Besides, there is a section devoted to feedbacks, giving the comments and impressions about the whole process. There is an optional questionnaire on the e-Visa download page where applicants evaluate their overall satisfaction by giving votes (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars) and commenting. The questions and suggestions of the applicants could also be given over a “contact us” page. (https://www.evisa.gov.tr) Feedback received through both channels are collected in a single pool and replied by support desk staff. All these feedbacks are statistically examined and used to improve the system. The mentioned data as well as the visitors’ statistical data in different fields, who use the system, are collected in an analytical system and used regularly for various reports. In this way, the different characteristics of the people who visit the site, can be evaluated altogether. By using the assessments of the users, the improvements stated below have been carried out; When it has been observed that making single applications for large families and visiting groups, two new options have been added to the system. With the new “family application” option, any member of the family can add other applicants (up to 10 people) by simply uploading an Excel document, containing the information of the applicants. Hence, “group applications” option offers agencies a practical way to create for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 300 applicants in a very similar way. As the payments are made only once in these multiple application types, time cannot be disregarded. Although the system was originally in English, upon the demands and the results of statistical analysis of the languages the users use in their computers, it has been decided to add new languages. So that, French, Spanish, German, Polish languages have recently been added to the system, and Dutch, Norwegian, Chinese and Arabic languages will be added to the system in the near future.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The most frequently encountered challenge while developing the solution was to adapt for entries of the data with varying features. Since the applicants themselves entered the data, it was really difficult to collect the data and ensure that the data-entry fields are relevant-for-all. From the date formats to the rules of script, scores of problems had to be addressed and many features needed improvement. For instance, while rendering the surname field “optional” on online application for some countries where “surname” was not an established practice, the software team had to ensure that even 50-year-valid passport could be used in the system as well. On another specific note, the system was expected to accommodate the entries of dates and not to render applications with non-traditional date formats invalid. Despite the automatically opening calendar-check, it was witnessed through feedbacks that the applicants entered irrelevant date inputs. This particular challenge, which involved a vital piece of information on their visits was addressed without any need for applicants to change their usual practice and switch to one single date format and still enabling them to type-in the dates. A new feature was developed where the users entered (either typed or cursor-clicked) input on “date” fields, the detailed form of that specific date was displayed instantly. Consequently, it has been seen that the inconvenience was addressed. Another obstacle was to entertain all requests sent by the users. Local practices that bound us did not make much sense for the users in some cases. For example, some users did not want to enter their parents’ names in the related fields, as some of them claimed that they did not have this information. We had difficult time explaining this situation to our customs authorities. Yet we finally did and information about parents became optional to fill up.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
1) Applying for and getting a visa for traveling to a country has ceased to be a burdensome and time–consuming experience. Although visa-on-arrival had brought significant practical ease in the recent past, it also proved not to be the most convenient way vis-à-vis the rapid growth in the number of tourists. Therefore, the novel approach which brought about the Turkish electronic visa system delivered a uniquely expedient, safe and simple way of handling visa applications for both sides of the process, namely, the visitors and the issuing authorities. 2) By and large, public authorities tend to prioritize security over speed and ease of use when devising ways of delivering services through electronic means. As an exception to this rule, Turkey’s previous (visa-on-arrival) practice can be regarded as putting expedience before the security concerns. However; during the analysis, planning, and the development phases of the e-Visa system, the main target was to establish a practice which could be unprecedentedly secure, easy-to-use and fast. Therefore, e-Visa users are being offered the a quick and simple way of obtaining their visas, while at the same time, all necessary security controls are being carried out. 3) The number of visa applicants arriving from the 5 countries sending the largest number of visitors, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and the US, declined at the rates of 87; 66; 55, 50 and 42 percent, respectively, during six-month period of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. The drop rates of direct applications to the consular offices are 52 percent for the US and Belgium citizens, 20 for Austria, 12 for the UK and 10 percent for the Netherlands. 4) Although Turkey -with its 224 missions- has the seventh widely represented country in the world, there are still countries where Turkey does not yet have a diplomatic/consular office. Hence, there are countries with vast territories where the nearest Turkish mission could be as far as 500 or 1000 km away. However, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the World Wide Web, it is now possible and simple to apply for and obtain visas to Turkey, even for those living in the distant islands or in the far ends of large countries. Since the date when the system was launched, the number of people visiting Turkey from the countries where we do not have missions have significantly increased. For instance, while the number of people arriving from Granada increased by 2500 per cent, those coming from Mauritius increased by 80 per cent, from Lesotho by 57 per cent, from Bahamas by 56 per cent, from Jamaica by 28 per cent, Comoro by 26 per cent, and from Maldives by 21. 5) Whereas, prior to the initiative, an average visa application and issuance could take longer than 2 days, it is now only a matter of several minutes. Thus, the amount of time saved in the processes is tremendous. Since the system features a distinctive course for companies offering air, land and sea travel services to make the applications on travelers’ behalf. 6) Group and family applications were made possible for tour operators and families. People, including elderly, pregnant, kids and disabled are not to spend lengthy hours in rush times standing in visa lines after their travels. According to e-visa statistics, the rate of the elderly people and kids who used to wait in front of visa counters dropped by 30 percentage. So that the system promotes equity by extending service delivery to vulnerable group. 7) With the e-Visa kiosks placed and free Wi-Fi areas created at Turkey’s major airports for those foreign visitors arriving without visas, one more chance is being offered to get their visas by using ‘e-visa application system’ instead of waiting in lines. Thus, another timesaving option is available, enhancing the comfort of the travelers while increasing the bureaucratic efficiency. 8) Whereas more than 300 consular officers and 100 border police were employed for processing the visa applications throughout the year 2013, only 5 officers are actively working on the e-Visa application system whereby over 6 million visas have been issued. In addition, as the system was consolidated, the quality of service offered to applicants from all the countries has become standardized.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The nexus between the citizen and government has been profoundly altered by the recent development of information technology. Direct contacts between public bodies and individuals are gradually being replaced by digital practices. E-visa application system has been devised to adapt for this change, and it is aimed at delivering consular services to Turkey’s foreign visitors over the web. According to the data supplied by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the proportion of internet users to the total world population has at least been tripled during the last decade. Therefore, in an age when it is astonishingly imperative that any solution should be based on the state-of-art web technologies and the Internet has gradually been evolving towards being the unrivalled medium in our daily practices; outmoded, cumbersome and traditional practices of the previous age seem undoubtedly doomed to fail, or at least proved to be unsustainable. To the general line of foresight that brought about the e-Visa system initiative, a sensitive practice such as visa-issuance has not been an exception. There seem to be enough reasons to rest assured that the e-Visa practice would eventually be an essential tool in delivering services vis-à-vis the enormous growth in the access to the Internet. The need for replacing the old and conventional solutions with new ones will certainly make itself globally evident. Moreover, as tourism is among largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, with estimated annual increase in international tourist arrivals of 3.3%, reaching 1.8 billion by 2030, it is all the more obvious that traditional methods and tools will turn out to be insufficient for handling massive number of visa processes. Besides, the evidence and reliable forecasts suggest that the destination countries will not be able to remain indifferent in the face of the vigorous growth in touristic travels. This fact, in turn, will most probably require other governments to adopt similar systems. Within this context, Turkish e-Visa practice, with its multilingual interface and universally applicable architecture, offers a promising potential to serve as an example to other destination countries. All in all, given its globally conceivable software infrastructure, and as the system proved to have interested the Foreign Ministries of numerous other countries, Turkish e-Visa application system is believed to have a thoroughly transferable nature.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
With the e-Visa system, what was previously deemed to be impractical, unnecessary and even impossible has been accomplished. It has been made evident by this experience that the global character of the Internet span beyond any form of dividing lines. The endeavor demonstrated that it is worth investing in technologies whereby people from all over the world, coming from different walks of life, having diverse cultural, social, geographical backgrounds are ensured to have the same quality of public services and are treated on equal footings. Awareness of the fact that the global web, when it is utilized with the right appreciation, can help governments transcend all kinds of diversity has been raised significantly. This evaluation has been evinced by the feedbacks provided by the users of a wide range of nationalities and various social/cultural settings. The project has also been a source of inspiration for other strides that Turkey has been taking within the ambit of e-government practices. Being a country where different mother tongues and dialects are spoken and a home to over 74 million citizens with diverse social backgrounds, Turkey has a new exemplary practice to be inspired of when it comes to delivering public services in fast, secure and simple ways. It was encouraging to observe that we mostly received positive feedback from the users. Each and every line written as comments or requests has been addressed and feedbacks provided a strong guidance in improving the system. Providing services to people from different countries has been a refining experience. Efforts and dedication for making life easier always prove rewarding. We give the most precious present to these people: time. As for the recommendations for the future; e-transforming services and bringing more information technologies into peoples’ lives.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ilker Alansal
Title:   Second Secretary  
Telephone/ Fax:   +903122487341
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   ialansal@mfa.gov.tr  
Address:   Dr. Sadik Ahmet Cad. No:8 Balgat
Postal Code:   06100
City:   ANKARA
State/Province:  
Country:  

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