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WORK & RESIDENCE IN TURKEY _ INTRODUCTION
Work & Residence Permits – General
Long over are the days you joined a queue of over ten people to only find out one hour later that you were in the wrong queue. The new agency responsible for processing foreigners in Turkey, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), which was established in 2013, has made it a priority to enable foreigners to handle online their applications for residence permits without the need for third parties, which can be costly and increase the risk of foreigners being hoodwinked. Indeed, at DGMM’s impressive and flashy new building on Vatan Boulevard, near Aksaray, Istanbul, every effort is made to provide visitors to the building with assistance and information regarding the purpose of their visit. The only queue you will now hopefully see is that to get into the building past ID control. Much information regarding residence applications can now also be obtained through DGMM’s website. A telephone help-line 157 has also been established.
The Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) was established by Law No. 6458 dated 04.04.2013 on Foreigners and International Protection. Article 103 of Law No. 6458 governs the establishment of the Directorate General, which stipulates that “The Directorate General for Migration Management has been established under the Ministry of Interior with a view to implement policies and strategies related to migration; ensure coordination between the related agencies and organizations in these matters; carry out the tasks and procedures related to foreigners’ entry into, stay in, exit and removal from Turkey, international protection, temporary protection and protection of victims of human trafficking.''
DGMM’s website www.goc.gov.tr is prepared in six languages, and its subsidiary website www.e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr for applying for residence permits is prepared in four languages. Obtaining an interview date for a residence permit application or extension through the new application website has greatly reduced queuing. The applicant knows in advance what documents to prepare, and if necessary he can obtain information easily by visiting his nearest DGMM office or calling on the help-line.
There have however been very many teething problems over the last 5 years as DGMM has been established from ground zero at a time when there has been an ever-increasing influx of immigrants. The problems created by the refugees from the Syrian conflict alone would have been an almost unsurpassable challenge to most organisations. The Turkish police establishment which had conducted all processes relating to migration beforehand, had to continue providing support as DGMM trained staff and set up facilities. The police had always viewed these responsibilities as an unwanted burden on its resources. It never came as a surprise that the police provided a poor and under-funded service to foreign visitors wishing to work or reside in Turkey. Though DGMM has come a long way over the last five years, bureaucratic problems continue to arise. The time between application and interview for a residence permit has at time reached over six months. There can also be delays in the provision of residence permit cards. DGMM’s all vital online application website has come down on occasions. Queues have started to appear at the Vatan building in Istanbul. Then, an order will be given and an extraordinary effort to clear outstanding issues will be made, and the queues will once again retract.
Tourists and visitors require a visa to enter Turkey unless they hold a residence permit. Tourist/visitor visas last for 180 days but holders are only allowed to stay in Turkey for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. Multiple visits are allowed provided the total number of days does not exceed 90. All calculations include the entry and exit dates. Visa requirements do however change from country to country. Each country’s status may be checked on the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa .
Only passports which are valid for at least six months will be accepted for visas. Such visas are issued for touristic and commercial purposes. Foreign nationals intending to work or study in Turkey are advised to apply at the Turkish Consulate in their country, and to go to the local police station to apply for a residence permit on their arrival in Turkey.
Overstaying the 90 in 180 days or remaining in Turkey after a visa expires will result in a fine and possible re-entry ban. Regular visitors should be careful when planning their dates as the 90 day in any 180 day period could span more than one visa. When you visit Turkey, they will count back 180 days and then calculate how many days you have resided in Turkey within that 180 days.
As from April 10th, 2014, visas are no longer to be issued at Turkish border entry points and will only be obtained online through the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ visa application website www.evisa.gov.tr .
On April 4th, 2013, Law No.6458 on Foreigners and International Protection was passed and came into effect on April 10th, 2014. This law replaced Law No.5683 on Residence and Travels of Foreigners and regulates Turkey’s policy on asylum. The new law redefines the regulations and procedures relating to the applications for visas and residence permits.
Important new aspects of this law relating to residence permits includes the allowance for the residence permit application to be made at the DGMM office in the province in which the foreign national resides, and for valid working permits to be accepted in lieu of residence permits. The law also specified the periods of absence from Turkey by the foreign national which would be accepted during the term of the residence permit. Residence permits were divided into six different categories being 1) short-term residence permit 2) family residence permit 3) student residence permit 4) long-term residence permit 5) humanitarian residence permit, and 6) residence permit for victims of human trafficking. An important amendment here was that foreign nationals, with certain exceptions and conditions, can now apply for long-term residence permits for an indefinite period of time if they have been residing in Turkey legally and without interruption for 8 years.
Short-term residence permits are issued for a maximum of two years, exceptions being as indicated below. Foreign nationals who may apply for a short-term residence permit are those who own immovable property in Turkey, those who are in Turkey to establish a business or commercial connections, those who conduct scientific research, those who participate in on-the job training programmes, those who partake in student exchange programmes, those who wish to stay for tourism purposes, those who wish to receive medical treatment, those who have to stay in Turkey as required by the judiciary or administrative authorities, those who transfer from a family residence permit, those who will attend a Turkish language course, those who will attend an education programme (one year maximum), those who will apply within six months upon graduation from a higher education programme in Turkey (one year maximum), those who are Turkish Cypriot nationals (maximum five years), and those, with family members, who help promote investment in Turkey as approved by the Council of Ministers (maximum five years).
Family residence permits are regulated according to Articles 34-37 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No.6458, and in related regulations articles 30-34. Family residence permit maybe granted to either a foreign spouse, foreign children or foreign minor children of the spouse, or dependent foreign children or dependent foreign children of the spouse of Turkish citizens, persons within the scope of Article 28 of Law No 5901, foreigners holding one of the residence permits, or refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries. For family residence permits issued to children, the consent of the mother or the father who lives abroad and who shares custody shall be sought. Family residence permits shall entitle the holder right of education in primary and secondary educational institutions until the age of 18 without obtaining a student residence permit. A family residence permit is issued for a maximum duration of three years at a time and cannot exceed the duration of the sponsor’s residence permit under any circumstances. The sponsor is required to have a valid health insurance covering all family members, have a monthly income not less than the minimum wage and in total corresponding not less than one third of the minimum wage per each family member, submit proof of not having been convicted of any crime against the family during the five years preceding the application, and have been residing in Turkey for at least one year on a residence permit with a registered address.
Student residence permits are regulated in Articles 38-41 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No.6458, and in related regulations articles 35-39. Foreigners can study in Turkey without a residence permit until they are 18 years of age under a family residence permit. They may individually receive a one year student residence permit, subject to the consent of their parents or legal guardian, renewed throughout the course of their primary and secondary education in Turkey. Foreigners may receive residence permits to attend an associate, undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate programme. A student residence permit ensures the student to be only the supporter of his or her spouse and children, and not of any other members of his or her family. If the period of study is less than a year, the duration of the residence permit shall not exceed the period of study. Residence permit may be issued for the period of study to foreigners who receive education in Turkey at state institutions and organisations.
Long term residence permits are regulated in Articles 42-45 of the Law on Foreigners and International Protection No.6458, and in related regulations articles 40-43. Long-term residence permits may be issued to foreigners who have continually resided in Turkey for at least eight years, who have not received social assistance in the past three years, who have sufficient and stable income to maintain themselves and their family, who are covered with a valid medical insurance, and who do not pose a public order or public security threat. Long term residence permit will be issued indefinitely. Foreigners holding a long-term residence permit may benefit from the same rights as accorded to Turkish citizens with the exception of the provisions of special laws, of compulsory military service, of the right to vote and to be elected, of entering public services, and of exemption from customs duties when importing vehicles.
All applications for residence permits, whether first or extension, must be made online through DGMM’s website www.e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr. With regard first applications, these must be made before expiration of his or her touristic visa. Appointments will be allocated online and the foreigner must attend the appointment at the assigned provincial DGMM office with all the necessary documents. With regards extension applications, these must be made within 60 days prior to the expiration of the residence permit to the provincial DGMM office. Following online application through the DGMM’s website, all necessary documents will be sent to the relevant provincial DGMM office by post within 5 working days.
The Law No. 4817 on Work Permits for Foreigners is administered by the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security. A translation of this law may be found on www.imidb.iom.int and the Ministry’s rules of application are outlined on its website www.csgb.gov.tr. Other Turkish ministries are however authorised to issue work permits for certain categories of professions.
Article 4 of the above law states that “Unless otherwise specified in bilateral or multilateral contracts, to which Turkey is a party, foreigners have to obtain a permit prior to starting to work in Turkey dependently or independently”.
There are different classifications of work permits. Work permits may be issued for a definite or an indefinite period. A definite work permit will be given for dependent services for a definite period of time with validity to work no more than one year in a certain workplace and in a certain job. If requested, a definite work permit may be extended for two years, then another three years. An indefinite or permanent work permit will be given to foreign nationals who have been residing in Turkey legally and without interruption for at least 8 years or have completed a total working period of 6 years in Turkey.
A foreign national may be issued with an independent work permit as a self-employed person, if he or she has legally and without interruption resided in Turkey for at least 5 years. Work permits may also be issued for exceptional reasons such as for foreign nationals married to Turkish citizens. There are also exemptions whereby work permits are not required. For example, foreign nationals working according to bilateral and multilateral treaties to which Turkey is a party, foreign nationals who are “settled” in Turkey (open to definition), foreign nationals who come to Turkey temporarily on cultural, scientific, sportive and artistic matters, foreign nationals who provide assembly work and training related to imported machinery, foreign football players and tour operator representatives, amongst others, are exempt and will be issued with work permit exemption certificates, which will also be used in lieu of residence permits.
In Article 11 of the above law, it specifies that, unless specified under a bilateral or multilateral contract to which Turkey is a party, foreign nationals may be restricted from receiving work permits for certain professions. Laws relating to certain sectors have stipulated that foreign nationals shall not work in these sectors. Restricted professions are as follows: attorney, pharmacist, security guard, public notary, customs broker, veterinarian, dentist, midwife, nurse, director of a private hospital, and those in the mining, fishing or maritime related sectors.
The foreign national intending to work in Turkey will first apply for a work visa from his nearest Turkish embassy or consulate office in his home country. The employer will make a simultaneous application in Turkey by submitting a file to the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security at the Department for Work Permits for Foreigners. There should not be more than 10 working days between the employee’s and the employer’s application. According to the website of the Consulate General of Turkey in London, “It usually takes 2 months for the application to be processed”. The officials will usually require to see the original work permit before stamping the work visa in the passport.
Should the prospective employee already be in Turkey, he will need to have a residence permit with a minimum validity of six months before applying for a work permit. The application will be made by the employer through the Turkish government website www.turkiye.gov.tr . Once this application has been made, the employer is required to apply directly to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The criteria to be met by the employer before a work permit application can be accepted are that it must employ at least 5 full-time Turkish citizen employees (that is 5 Turkish employees for each additional foreign national) within its workplace and that it must have a minimum paid-in capital of 100,000 Turkish Lira and at least gross sales of 800,000 Turkish Lira or exports for the previous year of USD 250,000.
At the beginning of 2017, the Turkish government introduced the incentive of Turkish citizenship for foreigners who have purchased at least one million US dollars worth of property in Turkey. There must however be confirmation that the property has not been sold for 3 years. The government has since exempted foreigners from paying 18% value-added tax (VAT) on property puchased in Turkey. This exemption applies only to foreigners' first property purchase in Turkey. Payment must be made in foreign currency and the property must not be sold within one year following the acquisition.
The Turkish government also offered Turkish citizenship to foreigners who found or purchase a company with a capital of USD 2 million, or deposit USD 3 million in state instruments or state banks operating in Turkey providing that they do not withdraw this amount for three years. An amendment has since been made whereby Turkish citizenship will also be offered to foreigners who invest in and hold for at least 3 years a share of real estate investment fund participation or a venture capital investment fund share of at least USD 1.5 million.
The above information has been prepared to give you a general briefing about the aspects of acquiring work and residence permits in Turkey. Each application may have its own peculiarities and may be subject to different interpretations of the laws concerned. If your application is not straightforward for any particular reason, it is advisable that you first ask the Turkish authorities concerned or seek professional advice before applying.
Useful Links are as follows :
www.evisa.gov.tr – on-line portal for visa application
www.e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr – on-line portal for residence permit application.
www.goc.gov.tr - website for Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM)
www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa – official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
www.turkishlaborlaw.com/work-permits-in-turkey/work-permit-law - Law No.4817 Law on the Work Permit for Foreigners
www.csgb.gov.tr – official website of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security
www.expatguideturkey.com – consultancy service for expats
www.turkishconsulate.org.uk – website of Turkish Consulate in London UK
www.yabangee.com – website for expats prepared by expats in Istanbul
www.admdlaw.com – ADMD Law Office
www.mymerhaba.com – website of general information for expats
www.yellali.com – website providing utility services and information to expats
www.facebook.com.ukinturkey - British Embassy Ankara facebook page
www.vuraldanismanlik.com.tr - professional consultancy (Turkish)