Working in Turkey as a foreigner

Turkey maintains a restrictive policy towards foreign workers in its territory. However, the last reforms conducted by the national authorities have updated the legal structure that has ruled foreigners’ rights in Turkey for more than sixty years. This legal breakthrough has taken place in a moment in which strong inflows of foreign investments in the country has revealed the need to adapt the legislation to modern and dynamic migration movements.

On the one hand, this article will seek to briefly analyse the conditions that foreign workers and business men and women need to fulfil in order to develop their activities in Turkey. On the other hand, the advantages and simplifications introduced under the new legal changes will be discussed.


1. Working permit as the key to Turkish labour market

Law no. 4817 on Work permits of Foreigners (27th February 2003) strictly demands a work permit in order to develop any kind of professional activities in the country. Failing to get one entail serious consequences that may vary from large fines to an entry ban into the Turkish territory.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has been appointed as the legitimate authority to deliver these work permits.

Potential candidates living out of Turkey at the time of the application need to follow the necessary steps at the Turkish Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence. It is essential that they have a job offer and the sponsor of a Turkish company prior to their application, as both employer and employee need to complete the procedures simultaneously. In turn, foreigners with a valid residence permit in Turkey may contact directly with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.


2. Restrictions

Turkey maintains some tight restrictions to foreign work in the country in a move to protect national workforce interests. Some eligibility criteria needs to be observed in order to adjudicate work permits to foreigners:

            1. Possessing the adequate skills and qualifications

            2. Respecting a 5/1 ratio of Turkish workers: At least five Turkish workers employed full-time are needed for each new foreign worker hired at the company.

            3. Minimum wages: Foreign workers need to be paid an equal wage to Turkish nationals.

            4. Financial conditions: The company needs to amount a paid-in capital of at least 100.000 Turkish Lira, a gross sale amount of more than TRY 800.000, or an export amount of at least 250.000 dollars.

            5. Professions banned to foreigners: The performance of certain professions, such as lawyer or dentist, are restricted to Turkish citizens.

            6. Economic conjuncture changes: The authorities may deny the issue of work permits if business market conditions due to economic cycles are not adequate.


3. What different types of work permits are there?

The current regulation establishes four different types of work permits:

            1. Definite Work Permit: It is granted for a year, and may be further extended for two additional periods of three years.

            2. Indefinite Work Permit: It is issued for those individuals who have worked for six years in Turkey, or those who have lived legally and interruptedly in the country for at least eight years.

            3. Independent Work Permit: It is only available for those foreigners who have lived legally and interruptedly in Turkey for at least five years and who want to set up a business operation in the country. It is valid for a period of three months and the recipient needs to prove that the project will create job opportunities. 

            4. Work permits acquired under exceptional circumstances: Despite the general rules expressed so far, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security keeps a flexible approach towards specific groups of foreigners. These privileged regimes do not waive from the demand of a work permit, although it eases important limitations concerning time and deadlines.

Most likely, foreign investors may benefit from one of the following exceptional circumstances:

            4.a. Citizens of European Union Countries: The Decision 1/80 that establishes an association between the European Economic Community and Turkey designs a favourable visa regime for European Citizens that eases their work permit procedures.

            4.b. Key personnel

            4.c. Foreigners married to Turkish citizens

            4.d. Scientific, cultural or sportive purposes


4. Legal changes and opportunities opened in 2014

Although the requirement of a work permit remains unchanged, the new legal reforms have set up a more favourable scenario to foreign workers.

Law no. 6458 on Foreigners and International Protection has been passed the 4th April 2013 and has finally come into force the 11th April 2014. Conversely, Law no. 5683 on the Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey and most of Law no. 5682 on Passports, both from 1950, have been repealed with the new Law.

Among the different innovations, we shall point out the following:

            1. Work permits double as residence permits: According to the article 27 of the new law, work permits (or a Letter of Confirmation for Exemption from Work Permit) entail now the automatic acquisition of a residence permit in the Turkish territory. Foreigners will experience thus a great simplification of their first steps in Turkey, as they won’t need to follow anymore the complex procedure of applying for a Work Registered Residence Permit at the local police department upon their arrival. Substitutes.

            2. Work permit and visa waiver: According to article 12.b of Law 6458, the possession of a work permit exempts from the need of a separate visa to enter the Turkish territory. 

            3. Creation of the General Directorate of Migration Management: Organised under the competences of the Ministry of the Interior, the new General Directorate envisages to become the core for policy implementation and coordination relating to immigration and the entry, stay and exit of foreigners in Turkey. It is expected to substitute the functions of the Security General Directorate within one year. Issues bans on entry of foreigners.

            4. Creation of new residence permits categories.

            5. Reinforced protection of refugees.


5. Yilmaz & Ciner

The information displayed in this article is not legally binding. Should you have any further inquiry, we suggest you contacting us.  At Yilmaz & Ciner we take into account the latest legal reforms in order to offer the best possible advice.