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​Turkey has a long tradition in civil registration. The establishment of the civil registries dates back to the first population census conducted in 1904 during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Proclamation of the Republic of Turkish in 1923, however, brought significant changes to the way civil registries are maintained. In 1928, following the acceptance of the Latin alphabet, Arabic letters and numbers were abandoned in the maintenance of the registries. In 1934, last names were granted to each family and individual, abolishing the practice of appellations. It was not until 1972, however, when the introduction of Law No 1543 and its successor Law No 1587 paved the way for the modernisation of the civil registration system in Turkey. The amendments made to the abrogated Law No 1587 envisaged that "The Ministry of Interior shall be empowered to ensure the transfer of family registries to registries kept in electronic form and to facilitate carrying out civil registration acts using these registries, to provide measures ensuring the security and privacy of the registries kept in electronic form, to repel the civil registries kept in paper form, to determine the civil registration offices empowered with issuing, registration and safekeeping of reference documents, to decide on the use of electronic signature in all kinds of civil registration acts carried out in electronic form, and to meet the requests for information from the records kept centrally in electronic form by the public institutions and the work flow in the headquarters and the districts in the scope of the principles and procedures to be determined within the completeness of civil registration services.” The Law also dictated that the civil registries, comprised of family registries, special registries and microfilms maintained in paper or electronic form, are official documents maintained in paper or electronic form on a district and family basis which include information used to determine the rights and obligations of persons, their identity, family relations, nationality and civil status. Civil registries are official documents which have to be kept indefinitely. Currently, the main legislation covering all aspects of civil registration is the Civil Registration Services Law No 5490, dated 29.04.2006. 
The modernisation of civil registration system in Turkey culminated in 2000 with the introduction of the Central Civil Registration System or MERNIS, as is known by its abbreviations in Turkish, set up after long and arduous work. 
MERNIS is a centrally administered system where any changes in civil status are registered electronically in real time over a secure network by the 966 civil registration offices spread throughout the country. The information kept in the central database is shared with the public and private agencies for administrative purposes. 
The aim of the system is to ensure the up-to-datedness and secure sharing of personal information and therefore increase the speed and efficiency of the public services provided to the citizens. 
MERNIS has become the backbone of the e-Government infrastructure in Turkey. Currently, the MERNIS database houses more than 130 million personal data files and (as of January 2009) more than 2000 public bodies are using the up-to-date data from the MERNIS database. The services provided by MERNIS are as follows: 
  • Modernisation of civil registration services by transferring the civil registries into electronic form 
  • Assignment of an unique Turkish Republic Identity Number to every Turkish national 
  • Provision of on-line exchange of personal information using the identity numbers as identifiers 
  • Provision of better demographic statistics using information technologies 
  • Enabling easy, fast and secure delivery of public services to the users by sharing identity information with public sector institutions and agencies, thus reducing bureaucracy ​
​The works related to the assignment of TR Identity Numbers to civil records were completed on 28 October 2000. The ID number is comprised of 11 digits which do not contain personal information. The TR identity number was introduced in order to:
  • Resolve problems arising from identical names
  • Provide fast and efficient identification
  • Register all civil status events from the moment of birth
  • Provide fast and efficient services to the users of public services by ensuring efficient exchange of identity information among public institutions and agencies
With the introduction of the unique Turkish Republic Identity Number, the practices of different numbers issued by different institutions were abandoned.
The TR Identity Number can be enquired in the following ways:
  • Via the Internet on http://tckimlik.nvi.gov.tr
  • When changing an identity card or being issued with one for the first time, the TR Identity Number is being printed on the identity card.
  • The TR Identity Number can also be found on the copies of civil status issued by the civil registration offices.

​MERNIS contributes to social transformation from three different aspects:
Civil Registration Offices:
With the introduction of the on-line system, transactions related to civil status can be carried out at the civil registration office at the place of domicile instead of the office at the place of registration. In this way, postal and stationary costs were completely abolished.
With the establishment of the Central Database, population and vital statistics are produced and shared instantly.
 Legislative controls of civil registration operations are carried out automatically in electronic form and data inconsistencies are prevented. In addition, all operations are monitored instantly from the headquarters and districts are being warned in cases of incorrect operations.

The Citizen:
Since all civil registration operations are carried out electronically, waste of time is minimised and documents are issued without any informational errors.
Copies of civil status and identity cards can be obtained from the civil registration offices at the place of domicile. Identity cards, previously personalised manually, are now being personalised using computer technology preventing material errors.
With the introduction of the Identity Information Sharing System (KPS), agencies would be able to carry out their operations without requesting further documents from the citizen.

Public Agencies:
Agencies would be able to quickly and efficiently conclude transactions related to the citizen. Some of the benefits to be acquired by the public agencies accessing KPS are as follows:

  • Economic and Financial
    • Tax collections and controls would be carried out more easily and informal economy would be brought under control,
    • Fraudulent acts in notary, title deeds and banking operations would be prevented. Banks and notaries would be able to validate the accuracy of persons' records by accessing the KPS database. In this way, fraudulent and counterfeiting incidents would be prevented.
  • Planning and Investment
    • Investing agencies would be able to use data in MERNİS classified according to information such as age groups and number of population and therefore make accurate future planning and investments based on real data.
  • Security
    • Assistance in monitoring entries and exits from the country, monitoring and arresting convicted persons, outlaws and drivers who committed traffic offences endangering the life and property of others,
    • Security forces would be able to validate identity information of wanted persons by accessing records in MERNIS database using parameters such as the TR Identity Number or Name and Surname. Counterfeit identities would be determined.
    • ​Military Service
      • Assistance in drafting conscription lists by ASAL (Department of Military Conscription), since the lists of persons reaching the conscription age could be obtained from MERNIS on time. In addition, since data on male population classified by age groups can be obtained from MERNIS, military personnel needs for the next years can be determined and planned accordingly.
    • Health Services
      • Since patient files would be opened based on the identity number, health records of a person would be possible to maintain as a whole.
      • Health policies such as the hospital and health centre needs by region would be planned based on real data from MERNIS.
    • Education
      • Since all kinds of nationwide or regional education statistics would be available instantly, planning and policies related to education would be better determined.
      • Social Security
        • Since social security agencies will be also accessing the MERNIS database, copies of civil and family status previously requested form the civil registration offices will be provided in electronic form, thereby abolishing the intra-agency correspondence and increasing the speed and efficiency in the provision of services to the citizens.
        • In addition, memberships with multiple social security agencies by the same person or attempts to register with fake identities would be prevented to a great extend.
      • Electoral Registers
        • Assistance in the establishment of electoral registers, since the details of persons reaching the age of voting would be instantly available.
      • Justice
        • Identifications during court trials could be made by accessing MERNIS database from the court's computer terminal. In addition, copies of civil and family status requested during inheritance trials would be accessed in the same way, ensuring that the trials are concluded faster.​
      ​The TR Identity Number plays a key role enabling the exchange of information among public agencies.

      ​MERNIS is being implemented by the Department of Data Processing and there is also an executive committee chaired by the General Director. There are also technical units, operating under the coordination of the Department of Data Processing, responsible for the swift and healthy execution of the project.