Turkey is becoming an attractive immigration destination for people wishing to live and work in a new country. Statistically speaking, nearly 80.000 individuals from 165 countries applied for work permit in 2015, which is more than 8 times as much as it was in 2009.
The government introduced a complete new law in August 2016, bringing new concepts and procedures in terms of application phase and assessment criteria.
Work Permit Requirement
Foreign individuals must obtain a work permit before starting to work in Turkey(1), unless they are exempt from this requirement pursuant to specific regulations or international treaties.
Following individuals are required to apply for work permit;
♦ Self-employed entrepreneurs,
♦ Directors of Turkey-based Limited Liability Companies (LLC), who also hold shares in the same LLC, and
♦ Members of the Board of Directors in Turkey-based Joint Stock Companies (JSC), who also hold shares in the same JSC.
Following individuals are not required to apply for work permit;
♦ Members of the Board of Directors in Turkey-based JSCs who do not reside in Turkey,
♦ Shareholders of Turkey-based companies who do not officially hold a managerial post in the company, and
♦ Cross-border service providers(2) who stay in Turkey less than 90 days in a 180-day period.
Nevertheless, foreigners in this scope must obtain ‘exemption certificate’ before starting to work in Turkey.
Work Permit Types
I. Regular Work Permit
In principle, a work permit is issued for a limited period while extension of it is subject to certain other limits. A regular work permit is granted for a maximum term of 1 year at the first application.
Regular work permits may be extended for a maximum term of 2 years at the first extension application, and a maximum term of 3 years at subsequent applications. However, employees who have departed from their job and started to work for a different employer cannot enjoy the longer extension periods mentioned herein.
II. Unlimited Work Permit
Foreigners having been holding work permit for 8 years or holding long-term residence permit can be granted a work permit for unlimited duration.
Unlimited work permit grants foreigners the same rights and status as granted to Turkish citizens, except for;
• Right to vote and seek public office,
• Right to be employed as civil servant,
• Duty to serve for military,
• Other limitations stipulated in various laws and regulations, such as the restriction in connection with acquisition of real estate in certain areas.
III. Turquoise Card
Similar to the Green Card in USA and the Blue Card in the EU, Turquoise Card offers highly-qualified individuals a comprehensive opportunity to work and stay in Turkey.
Turquoise Card can be described as a special form of work permit of unlimited duration. Card holders are allowed to work in Turkey without time limit, while their spouse and children are automatically granted permanent residence permit.
Individuals deemed to have a solid educational, professional, or scientific background as well as investors who can make a significant contribution to Turkish economy have the eligibility to obtain Turquoise card.
Turquoise card is initially issued for a transitional period of 3 years. Prior to the expiry of this term, it is converted into a permanent turquoise card upon application of the card holder. Application for the permanent Turquoise Card must be filed within 180 days prior to the expiry date of the initial card. Otherwise, the application will be rejected and the card will be cancelled.
IV. Exceptional Work Permit
Exceptional work permit basically refers to the flexible approach of the Government in granting work permits to certain groups of people. Such individuals may be subjected to a less strict application procedure and evaluation criteria, and granted work permit with more favourable terms, particularly in terms of duration.
Foreigners having one of the following statuses may enjoy the exceptional work permit scheme;
♦ EU Citizens,
♦ Highly-qualified Professionals,
♦ Highly-qualified Investors,
♦ Cross-border Service Providers,
♦ Spouses of Turkish Citizens,
♦ Persons of Turkish descent,
♦ Employees of a project (e.g. construction, infrastructure etc.) to be carried out in Turkey,
♦ Refugees and Human Trafficking Victims,
♦ Officers of foreign states or international organizations without diplomatic immunity,
♦ Internationally-renowned Scientists, Artists, and Sportsmen, and
♦ Turkish Cypriots.
It is mandatory to obtain prior authorization by foreigners who will render services in healthcare or education sector. The competent authorities for the prior authorization are Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Education.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is the competent authority for granting work permits. The application procedure is often a multi-sided and multiple-phased process carried out both by the employing entity and the foreign individual.
Foreign individual can file the application either from abroad or when present in Turkey. In cases of overseas applications, the foreigner should apply to the Turkish Embassy or Consulate in the country where he/she is a citizen or a legal resident. In case of domestic applications however, foreigners can file the application directly to the Ministry, provided that they hold a valid residence permit with a remaining term of at least 6 months.
Following the initial application by the foreign individual, the employing entity shall access to the Ministry’s online application system, fill out the online forms and upload the soft copies of required documents to the web portal. The employer shall also transmit the hard copies of application documentation to the Ministry within 10 days following the overseas application of foreign individual. In case of a domestic application made by the foreigner, the online application and the submittal of the documentation to the Ministry must be made within 6 days.
Required documents vary depending upon the sector, job position and the profession of the foreigner.
In case there are missing documents or lack of information in the application, the assessment shall be postponed until such deficiencies are fixed. The deficiencies must be corrected within 30 days following the notification by the Ministry. Otherwise the application will be rejected.
The Ministry evaluates applications by consulting to, and taking into account the considerations of, the relevant governmental authorities. Furthermore, when assessing an application, the Ministry considers certain matters, such as the government’s international labour force policy, nature of the business and the market, developments in professional life, changes in sectoral, geographical and economic conjuncture, the applicant’s educational status, the contribution of the enterprise to the national economy, and the appropriate wage level in line with such qualifications and employment status.
More importantly, the ministry implements preliminary criteria to be met both by employing entity and the foreign individual. The common qualifications sought in the work permit applications are as follows:(3)
♦ At least 5 Turkish citizens must be employed by the employing entity.
In the event the foreigner is a shareholder of the Turkey-based company, the requirement to employ 5 Turkish nationals is sought only for the last six months of the work permit duration.
The requirement to employ 5 Turkish nationals applies individually for each foreigner.
♦ The paid-up capital of the company must be at least 100,000 TRY. Alternatively, its gross sales must be at least 800,000 TRY per annum, or its export sales for the previous year must be at least 250,000 USD.
♦ In cases where the foreigner is a shareholder of a company, he/she must have at least 20% of the shareholding and this percentage shall correspond to at least 40,000 TRY.
♦ The monthly salary payable to the foreign employee as declared by the employer should be commensurate with the position and competence of the foreign employee.
Based on the official minimum wage announced by the government, the Ministry set out salary thresholds for certain professions and job positions. For instance;
► Senior executives and pilots should be paid at least 6.5 times as much as the minimum wage, and
► Unit or branch managers, engineers and architects should be paid at least 4 times as much as the minimum wage.
Assessment of duly submitted applications should be concluded by the Ministry within 30 days.
Extension applications must be filed within 60 days before the expiry date of the existing work permit. The application procedure is quite similar with the first-time applications, albeit a lesser number of documents are prepared for extension.
In the event the file is submitted after the expiry of work permit, the Ministry ignores the extension applications. In such case, applicants wishing to renew their permits should prepare the documents as if it was a first-time application.
(1) Administrative fines are imposed on both the employer and the employee in cases where a foreigner without a work permit is employed.
(2) Cross border service providers are foreign persons who are present in Turkey to render a temporary service and receive a wage from a Turkish or International source in return for the services rendered in Turkey.
(3) Such qualifications may not be sought for individuals eligible to obtain the exceptional work permit.